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Daniel Tan, CIO, Acer Sales & Services
Despite the increasing awareness of the necessity of business- IT alignment, the success of corporation in this area continues to vary widely. Conceptually, this issue is not difficult to under stand and while some senior corporate executives are loath to admit that problems persist they do indeed, and seemingly, with alarming regularity. Stated simply and ideally, business strategy would drive IT strategy, and all that is needed is perhaps better and closer communication. With all the training and emphasis on this subject, this should be a matter that is easily resolved. Alas, while disconnect between IT and business is usually visible and tangible, the solution is often not easily derived. There are three reasons why this is so:
1.Business goals do not translate easily into IT goals.
2.IT priorities do not necessarily coincide with business priorities.
3.Investment in IT may be insufficient to foster better alignment
"The challenge is for CIOs to get support from organizations to invest sufficiently for business-IT alignment"
Business goals do not translate easily into IT goals. The scene is typical. The business executive excitedly shares the new business plan to the entire team and now the last bit of the puzzle needed to launch the initiative is the support from the IT team. With bated breath the rest of the team awaits the input from the IT representative. When the reply finally comes – the business team is perplexed. What should have been straight forward now has several unforeseen technical challenges. At this 11th hour, this is really not the time to begin reconstruction of the envisioned program – but here we are at this familiar scene – sitting down at the drawing board to re-map the entire process and technology necessary to support the planned business program. Is there a better way forward?
IT priorities do not necessarily coincide with business priorities. More often than not, the time needed from IT to deliver the necessary solution needed by the business team far exceeds their expectation. This is because the time needed to engineer a complete solution also depends on the existing schedule of the IT team, the actual effort in developing the new platform as well as the reconfiguration (where necessary) of other supporting systems. At the same time, information infrastructures are organic in nature and typically require both planned and unplanned interventions just to keep them running – a truth and reality that seldom permeates outside the IT division’s doors. This then leads to a perceived (and often very real) lag between when IT can deliver and what business requires.
Investment in IT may be insufficient to foster better alignment. If IT budgets are typically based on the premise of “keeping the lights on” – then that is pretty much all that can be expected from the IT team. The act of alignment implies and requires agility which also implies budgets and resources that are either flexible or accommodating. The challenge is for CIOs to get support from organizations to invest sufficiently for business-IT alignment. Toward that end, some evidence of sound IT governance can be useful, if not mandatory. But the question is how to begin and where to start?