Information Technology challenges the way businesses operate, deliver services, and communicate with clients and potential leads. While there is no one strategy to restructure organizations, technology has always been a disrupting force in organizational culture and innovation.
Companies that lean towards decentralizing IT, adapt to technological changes, and embed technology to their business strategies are generally the most successful. Business and IT alignment play a crucial role in the success of businesses.
Business IT-alignment is the use of IT in proximity to the business, specifically decision-making. Technology-led decision-making allows businesses to gain financial returns and excel in fiercely competitive markets.
That said, many companies fail to make most of the innovative technologies due to the gap between business and IT executives. This gap endangers business-IT alignment, causing companies to lag behind their competitors. In this article, we will discuss key techniques to ace business-IT alignment for business growth.
6 Ways to Ace Business IT-Alignment
Begin by Addressing Your Business Processes
In business environments, the most common problems are often invisible to decision-makers. Many times, businesses try to implement IT solutions to automate internal workflows even when the existing process is broken from the start. The management then turns to IT and expects them to tune somehow and customize the broken processes and automate them.
However, since most of these processes are ineffective to begin with, automating them makes matters worse. Also, there is no way for IT to properly customize a solution if they are not aware of the business’s strategic goals and what the company expects from the solution itself.
This is why business managers need to assess existing business processes first before turning to IT. They must determine whether a particular process is optimal for the company, or they should change the existing process to optimize the workflow.
For this, you must conduct a gap analysis that helps you uncover problems not just within the processes, but also in the IT solutions and staff responsible for these processes. After conducting the gap analysis, you can leverage IT expertise to help business leaders better understand these problems.
Communicate to Create a Plan
As a business leader or IT manager, gap analysis is the foundation of a firm and realistic IT strategy. Gap analysis makes it easier for executives in the company to understand the fault lines in existing business processes and devise a realistic strategy to resolve them.
Communication between business and IT can be difficult. IT managers and personnel often use tech jargon, which makes it difficult for them to convey their ideas effectively. Similarly, many business leaders rely too much on business lingo, making it difficult for IT managers to comprehend what business executives want fully.
Every person may have a different perception of the same thing. For one person, an apple may represent a green fruit with a leaf and stem, whereas the other person imagines it as a red fruit lacking stem and leaves; the same concept applies in IT solutions.
If IT managers don’t communicate their findings and insights to business executives, it’s difficult to coordinate a plan for achieving business goals. The planning stage is crucial for clearing the gap in understanding business managers have about available IT solutions.
One way to avoid communication barriers is to give additional resources to business and IT executives. You can do so with the help of a visual presentation, or provide links to articles or case studies that outline a similar goal or outcome for your business.
During all these procedures, you should maintain dialogue to clarify your reservations. As an IT manager, you should be willing to use business terms. At the same time, the IT team needs to understand exactly what business leaders expect from their tools. Similarly, if business executives need don’t understand which solutions are feasible, it’s hard to reach a practical solution.
Devise a Strategy That Meets Business Goals
After achieving a shared understanding of business goals, it’s time to devise a feasible IT strategy. In this step, we identify the IT capabilities, process, strategy, infrastructure, and organization needed to meet business priorities.
IT managers should keep in mind just because business executives have devised a strategy for the IT department doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be a good plan. You have to give considerable input about the requirements of a given IT solution, as well as the infrastructure and investment required to maintain it.
A number of companies have found great success by converging both IT and business. Since the advent of data analysis and other advanced techniques rooted in data science, IT teams have become an essential part of decision-making.
Data-driven solutions do more than present numbers and figures to management. IT executives such as data analysts and data scientists dissect existing business processes with the help of data and presenting their findings in an easy-to-understand format.
By leveraging data analysis, your company can monitor and compare the performance of two given IT solutions and choose the one that returns the most value. Converging business and IT can help business managers better understand the efficiency and optimization of business processes, leading them to make informed decisions and drive the company forward.
Prioritize Solutions Based on Their Effectiveness and Feasibility
Many times, IT managers hit a wall when they come across an IT solution that is seemingly perfect, but it’s impossible to implement given a company’s current infrastructure. In these cases, it’s never advisable to overhaul entire existing infrastructures. Instead, it’s best to consider the practical implications of adopting a change.
Effectiveness of a solution is mostly the primary goal of an IT solution, but what if that solution is not feasible with the existing IT infrastructure and skill-level of the staff? In such situations, you should balance the effectiveness and feasibility of a solution and prioritize it based on the most urgent need.
That said, if an IT solution is currently infeasible for the organization’s infrastructure, but is critical for the company’s long term initiatives; you should consider implementing it gradually. By planning an IT solution is stages, you can lay the foundation for the solution without stretching the company’s resources thin.
Simultaneously, managers should also remember that a prioritized list of IT solutions is the foundation of implementation planning. Therefore, the most urgent business needs to have the greatest priority since that is critical for ensuring the success of a devised strategy.
Implementation and Training
After agreeing on a particular solution, it’s necessary to train the IT staff so they can make the most of the given tool. Proper training can be the difference between the success and failure of a given solution.
To understand this point further, consider software tools in the context of sewing kits. A sewing kit is only useful for someone who knows how to use it. A person who has been trained with sewing kits can use it in several scenarios, but to an untrained individual, it is as useful as a paperweight. Similarly, unless you train the executives and front line employees on IT solutions, you can never expect them to use it optimally.
Modern IT solutions are driven from cutting edge technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Under the right leadership facilitated by the guidance of IT executives, business-IT alignment can reap optimum returns for your company.