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Aligning business and the IT department

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When meeting with Chief Information and Chief Technology Officers, I am surprised at how many are being told ‘no’ on a day-to-day basis by others within their business. I am consistently hearing reports of ‘the business’ not perceiving the IT department as having the same objectives, and accordingly negating suggestions for moving forward. This separation of IT and business into two halves of an organisation is worrisome, and I’d like to give my thoughts on such a mentality within this blog.

Eveline Oehrlich, Vice President at Forrester Research, in discussion of the alignment issue, suggested that the IT department and the rest of the organisation do not share the same priorities, stating that a marrying of objectives would only be achieved with open communication between the two sides. And while communication is always a good thing, I find it very difficult to understand how anyone within an organisation, department or individual, could be operating to anything other than the business’ objectives. Talk to the average CFO and they will be interested in cost-efficiency; getting more for their money, investing in what will give them the biggest ROI. Move to the dark and dusty corner of the office where the IT department resides and strike up the same conversation: what are you trying to do? I would be surprised if the main objectives discussed were not cost-efficiency, agility and resilience, duly echoing the needs of the CFO.

Nobody within a business is taking an action for taking an action’s sake. The IT department is not looking to move to Cloud infrastructure because they are thrilled by the architecture, they’re doing it for the business benefits: cost-efficiency, resilience, scalability, availability. Having an infrastructure that can offer these things means that the business has more money to direct towards front-end activities, more time to devote to front-end activities, and the ability to grow and have this growth supported by its servers; the business is the true beneficiary. Eveline’s acknowledgement of the role of communication, however, is an important one. When CIOs are pitching their plans, it is important that they keep their patter audience-friendly, highlighting the business benefits above the underlying architecture. In this way, ‘the business’ will be in no doubt that the motives are in line with its own, and progression and innovation are much more likely to be accepted.

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