Aligning IT with Business Strategy

Aligning IT capabilities with “the business” is an ever prominent goal for organisations. Something that is talked about a great deal, but not necessarily understood fully, or followed.

At a high level, it’s about realising that the business has its core go-to-market products/services, and the most important goal is to ensure that the business does this as efficiently and profitably as possible. From this, an organisation should derive a high level strategy about how to achieve that goal. And then it should come a mandate of what the IT capabilities must be to allow this. No longer can IT be a sexy functional thing that provides features which are of little or no value – it would be like having a car salesman that sold an Aston Martin to a family with 2.4 children – yes it goes like stink and looks sexy, but it doesn’t have easy rear access and the ride is not very comfy for mum and baby.

The value in aligning IT with the business should be that the business can adhere to it’s high level strategy, and in doing so can drive the best possible efficiencies, profitability and quality in the goods/service it sells. If changing your IT capabilities does not improve/increase one of those things and/or does not allow the organisations strategy to be adhered to, arguably, you’re not changing your IT in the right way.

There are however, many other, arguably less important, improvements which can be gained from aligning IT with the business strategy. If your IT is aligned with the business and its day-to-day needs, you have a much more productive workforce, and a happier workforce when issues can be resolved more quickly and efficiently. You also have a workforce that believes that the organisation can reach its strategic goals – this is great for morale, and creates an organisation that is more truly motivated to reaching a common end goal, because they can see they have the tools and capabilities at their disposal to do so.

Finally, let’s play devil’s advocate for a second – one might argue that because technology advances so quickly, the associated increase in efficiencies and profits over your rivals is negated very quickly when a competitor decides to invest in the “next step” in technology which you cannot afford because you invested in new technology 9 months ago. Now your rival has invested in newer technology and they are taking a larger market share than you and eating into your potential profits. So what is the point in spending the money in the first place – are you really financially better off? It is about more than just profits – great quality products/services and customer service levels are of course very important too.