A disconnect between business strategy and IT is a common problem in enterprises. IT is often the most siloed department in organizations and IT strategy is sometimes tacked on to business strategy, rather than being a coherent part of it. But why is this the case?
1. Lack of transparency & communication
If the business keeps the strategy a closely-guarded secret, or just doesn’t communicate it effectively to the rest of the organization, they end up dictating tasks to IT rather than working with them to achieve a common goal. This results in IT merely working to deliver new technology, as and when the business asks for it, because they don’t have a specific goal to aim for in the long term.
Lack of communication is one of key reasons IT projects exceed their budgets and timeframes or fail to adequately deliver value. If IT departments do not have a clear understanding of what is important to the business, how can they be expected to deliver it?
2. Perceived misalignment of goals
Because of the historical separation between IT and the business and the lack of good communication between them, there can be a perception that the two departments are at odds, with different priorities and goals. This can lead to a widening of the gap between the two, who end up competing when they should be working towards a common goal.
Unfortunately, IT is often only noticed when something breaks or fails. IT attempting to deliver change without cooperation from the business will not succeed - both sides need to start a transformative journey in order to meet and align their processes.
3. Tracking activities, not results
The success of IT is generally measured by whether or not they’ve delivered a piece of software or code, regardless of whether it met business requirements or added tangible value. Setting commercial objectives is typically a strategic function of the business, achieving the objectives is typically an IT function. However, for IT to be successful in delivering these objectives, they need to a) know in detail what they are and b) be able to track activities from the “idea” stage to completion - and completion means meeting business needs, not just delivering technology.
4. Business viewing IT as just a utility
If the business and IT are not working closely together to achieve common goals, the people in the business may see IT as merely a utility, rather than being key to meeting strategic goals and remaining competitive. This can increase resentment between the two sides, especially if the business only pays attention to IT when something goes wrong. It’s important for the business to include IT strategy as a vital part of core strategy, and not as a separate entity bolted on. Key business decisions need to be considered using both business and technology-centric approaches, allowing IT to contribute to the creation or improvement of business value and thus eliminating the separated “utility” perception.
5. Lack of alignment from the top down
Business and IT execs must lead by example. CIOs often find themselves isolated in their roles, which is surprising when business is predominantly driven by IT. Alignment comes from the top down and only through close collaboration can senior management from IT and other key business lines create a strong, integrated and cohesive approach. Implementing this balanced way of working at the very top drives the same collaborative approach across the business, strengthening the dialogue between IT and other key business areas. With alignment a priority, departmental goals remain connected and any strategic disconnects are able to be easily identified at an early stage by senior management.
It’s clear that forming a close, collaborative relationship between IT and the business throughout the organization is essential. Historically, IT has been isolated but it’s vital that IT is repositioned in order to break down those walls and begin a way of working that fosters alignment and the understanding of a shared vision.