For quite some time now, technology has been a big part of the business. Now, more than ever before, the advancements in technology have been influencing how we perform different business activities. For that reason, it is of the utmost importance that your IT department and your business goals align. Despite the IT sector being the primary driving force of a business, many companies still have trouble achieving the alignment. Moreover, only about a tenth of IT leaders have reported genuinely feeling like a part of the business. Given that business and IT working in harmony is a prerequisite for success, it is vital to understand the causes behind companies’ difficulties in achieving it. This article will delve into these causes and provide five tips to improve Business and IT alignment.
1. Establish mutual goals.
Disagreements between the business and IT departments regarding the strategic goals are at the core of a company’s ability to achieve alignment. While they have different approaches, they should be reminded that they are all working for the same team. Also, company leaders should do their best to make sure everyone understands that they are working towards one mutual objective, which is the success of the business. Once both sides agree on the common goal, the entire alignment process will become more straightforward.
Although it might seem obvious that those working in a single company have its best interest in mind and are functioning with the aim to achieve shared outcomes, surprisingly often, the parties involved don’t agree on what those outcomes are. Even more surprising is how commonly this issue is ignored. Therefore, it is crucial to define priorities and objectives well. Moreover, both sides should participate in decision-making as it will lead to fewer discrepancies between business professionals’ expectations and what the IT department delivers.
2. Set management straight.
Inadequate management is the greatest challenge for the IT sector. Two situations are usually the case. Either the IT manager has no understanding of technology but is an expert in leadership and business, or they are excellent at the technical aspects of their job but unskilled at leadership, management, and communication. Neither is the right option for the IT department. Companies should strive to find a person who is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Such a person, alas, is a scarcity. However, for and alignment to happen, a leader must understand both sides.
For the gap between the two departments to close, a company has to employ a Business Relationship Manager (BRM). A BRM has a deep understanding of business operations and possesses technical vocabulary to communicate with both sides effectively. BRMs function as interpreters between business and IT departments, facilitating alignment.
3. Aim for convergence.
For a company to successfully head towards a bright future, the business and IT departments must be humble and recognize that both sides are necessary to achieve objectives. CFOs will have to acknowledge the vital role technology has, while CIOs must understand that technology is a means to achieving business goals. Convergence is like the next level alignment, very much prevalent today. It implies that these two sides don’t only work together side by side, achieving common goals. Instead, they become a single, integrated entity that strives for better communication and execution.
4. Strive for mutual understanding.
Business professionals should attend IT seminars, while IT technicians should visit business conferences. The newly-acquired knowledge will allow them to understand each other better. Consequently, this will lead to more effective communication that can lower the barriers and bring them to the same page.
Understanding that something could be a top priority for one group but at the end of the list for the other means being able to put yourself in another person’s (department’s) shoes. It will allow for perceiving situations from a different perspective. Such mutual intelligibility will eventually lead to more trust and more efficient problem-solving.
Furthermore, an opportunity to improve business and IT alignment lies in the possibility for members of different teams to swap roles. Companies can rotate their employees to a certain extent, sending them to different departments and putting them to various job functions. It will help the two sides better understand each other as they learn more about the opposite side’s job.
Effective communication means that both parties know not only what is necessary but why as well. For example, if you need someone to evaluate your marketing performance, make sure you have explained the reason behind the request. Otherwise, the task may appear futile to the side performing it.
5. Involve IT in business strategy development.
It is impossible to strive for alignment if one side is continuously excluded from planning processes. It will find out about the plans and goals but only after everything has been set. Their involvement in the planning process is non-existent. To capitalize on all the new technology trends to the fullest, the inclusion of the IT department in the strategy development phase is necessary.
It is evident that bad communication and the prevailing lack of understanding are the central obstacles to achieving a harmonious relationship between the two constituting departments of an organization. However, by taking steps to improve business and IT alignment, companies can benefit tremendously. Enhanced communication will lead to success in achieving the company’s primary strategic objectives. As technology is assuming a growing role in organizational planning, cross-departmental teamwork is imperative. In the end, confusion and inefficiencies will be rooted out and give way to well-oiled machinery that functions as a unity.
Gregory Wang is a digital marketing consultant at digitaldot.us. He has always enjoyed working in a team and cooperating with professionals from different fields. For that reason, he enjoys learning about management styles that promote teamwork and encourage open communication among team members. He spends his free time reading and hiking with his two rescued dogs.