It’s a New Age for Management and IT Alignment: Working Together Toward Business Goals

The divide between corporate Information Technology departments (IT) and senior management is so well known to have become the stuff of memes poking fun at the dysfunction. Fortunately, those comical disconnects and miscommunications may soon become relics of the past as the world has woken up to the need for strong corporate technology.  For that change we can thank the most unlikely (and unwelcome) of champions: COVID-19 and its related mad dash to set up remote workers and virtual communications. 

Companies around the world have been frantically trying to maintain their business interests during the recent pandemic. Many have had no choice but to rely upon technology for nearly every aspect of their business. In fact, Gartner predicted that 50% of organizations will experience increased collaboration between their IT and overall business by 2022.

Although largely unrecognized, technology has always played a critical role in businesses by tying together people and processes. The importance of IT has just become more apparent during the pandemic. Telecommuting, distance learning, online ordering are just a few examples of how people have become more reliant on these capabilities. This need will only accelerate in the future.

However, knowing that technology is imperative for most businesses to even function let alone succeed, doesn’t mean that management always has clear ideas about what IT should deliver. With this in mind, how will management’s concerns and operational needs get communicated to the IT department?  It depends on the corporation’s structure. For example, if IT has been placed in an incorrect role and has little understanding of the business drivers, there is an increased risk of wasting time and money on priorities that aren’t aligned with business goals. This misalignment creates bottlenecks when IT requests resources or approval for projects because the top stakeholders aren’t confident that IT is working in the right direction.

“Business units and IT teams can no longer function in silos, as distant teams can cause chaos,” said Keith Mann, senior research director at Gartner. 

One of the top 5 challenges that IT will face over the next several years is aligning with the organization’s strategy. Transformation and the adoption of new technologies cannot take place in a vacuum. To successfully maximize the impact of new initiatives, the organization’s technology direction must be aligned with its strategy.

To achieve this, corporations need to begin at the top. A corporate IT-Business Alignment process (with a corresponding CEO-CIO alignment) identifies and helps close the gaps between the CIO’s vision for IT and the main boss’s vision for IT. Technology departments must collaborate with the executive team to make technology choices and design processes in a way that supports the creation of the intended organization strategy. Ideally, organizations will have an IT-Business Alignment process that is iterative and builds consensus between IT, all other groups, and importantly the organization’s Executive Leaders. This is a proven path to ensure that IT goals and budgetary expectations are aligned with company goals and objectives. Having such an alignment in place is productive and fosters confidence that IT is heading in the right direction. 

While a global pandemic has been a disaster for us as a people, the resulting collaboration between IT and management has been a boon for the corporate world. The bottom line is when IT is fully integrated into the business strategy they will perform better and so will the organization.