Moving IT Up the Value Chain

When you sit back and think about it, IT/business alignment is a ridiculous statement. Not that it isn’t true, it’s that it is so obvious. Who could ever disagree? Why have we been obsessed with this topic for over a decade?!?

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Allen Bernard, Managing Editor.

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Over the last two years we’ve interviewed over 300 CIOs, their direct reports and their customers (both internal and external). We’ve found the problem isn’t lack of alignment, it is a lack of relationships.

“We’re totally aligned … in PowerPoint,” said the CMO of a pharmaceutical company.

“It’s not a disconnect between business objectives,” shared an SVP of emerging markets for a financial services company, “it’s a lack of connection between people.”

When we shared these comments with the CIOs, their sigh was deafening. “I have to be honest, comments like that make me feel like it will never be enough. I am only one man.”

Therein lies the problem. In our research we found almost 60% of CIOs feel the role of aligning IT and business objectives sits squarely, and solely, in their lap. A full 68% of IT directors and managers felt isolated from the rest of the business.

On the flip side, over 70% of non-IT executives felt they had little to no insight into the workings of IT and 65% felt that while IT was marching to the same strategic order, the cadence was a completely different pace.

“Honestly? We can check the IT aligned with business strategy box. But alignment does not always equal supportive. I know the lack of integration of my people into the business is a problem. We may be aligned, but we aren’t necessarily making life easy,” said a Fortune 100 CIO of a petroleum refining company.

“Let’s just put it on the table. IT is the pariah of the organization at the worker level,” vented another IT manager. “At the C-level everyone is great friends. Down here, where the work gets done, we are in the midst of a Cold War.”

Fortunately, a state of détente has been achieved by several of the companies we interviewed. For them, peace lay in changing the perception of IT. These CIOs set out to move their entire organization up the value chain. Evolving it from a roadblock to a facilitator.

These CIOs stressed, there is no magic bullet. The personalities, available resources, and overall savviness of the functional groups greatly impact success.

Looking across about 70 companies who have managed to not only align IT and business objectives, but IT and business people, several leading practices emerge:

Holistic Skill Building of IT Staff – These CIOs looked hard at the skill sets of their team beyond the requirements of IT.

They actively worked to lower the “geek factor” by adding generalists to their staffs. They spent time explaining the non-IT aspects of the corporate strategy. They connect the dots between tactical IT initiatives and strategic competitive differentiation. They invested in developing communication skills.