Fostering Business/IT Alignment

Prior to her arrival, things at World Learning got so bad the employees — on their own — put together a grassroots IT steering committee so technology request at least had a sounding board. Before that, there was no direction from the former executive team (which has since been completely replaced). If there were competing requests the person who yelled loudest usually got their project through — basically, the “squeaky-wheel” approach to project management.

Since putting into place the two-tier structure, a lot has changed.

“So, what we’ve started to see is (past) decisions about IT investments were being made based on who barked the loudest or by what IT staff assumed or guessed were the priorities, she said.

“Another issue is there would be decisions made about technology investments like upgrading to a VoIP phone network … but senior people in the organization didn’t even know decisions were being made, so the communication issue.”

Fostering Communication

Which brings us to the next benefit of having an steering committee made up of strategic thinkers: Selling IT’s accomplishments to the most important buyers — senior management.

According to a recent Forrester study of CEO’s perception of IT, most respondents were happiest with IT’s accomplishments if there was good communication between the CIO and senior staff (it also helped if the CEO hired the CIO, but that’s another article).

“The steering committee really serves two purposes,” said Tatum’s Gingras. “It’s primary purpose is to reconcile cross functional priorities, but almost a more important function for the CIO and that’s really an extended marketing arm for the (IT) organization.”

And this can go along way to making a hard job easier because perception, right or wrong, is reality. If you’re IT department’s perceived as a cost center this may be the way to change things — or not. Maybe it is just a sink hole. But if you’ve got a good story to tell make sure you tell to the people who need to hear it most.

“And there’s where the communication can make a serious contribution to the organization; by forcing people to think about business benefits and quantifying business benefits,” said Gingras. “And that’s the way business people think.”