Vodafone Qatar CIO Adrian Dilworth believes that the business should be putting more effort into aligning with IT, rather than the other way round. In recent years CIOs have been putting considerable effort into ensuring the IT division is well aligned with the business. But now many applications are more than software for the business, they are best practice for operating the business.
Leading members of the business and technology community have responded to the views of Dilworth, Ian Dobb and Rorie Devine.
Software no change agent
It is an interesting perspective but appears to me to be the antithesis of IT to business alignment. It has been my experience that when software is used as the change agent in organisations the project or IT organisation fails.
The business gains a sense of using a tool will solve the issues at the business level and when it fails to deliver, IT's value diminishes due to the failure. Software and systems should automate and enhance execution of the business while reducing the cost of the transactions. If the business has not optimised the process, the software will only automate a poor process.
Proper IT to business alignment can "leverage" existing assets in the portfolio but should be evaluated against the current business needs. As with all things over time requirements of the business change and evolve, the systems should as well. There are times when systems become obsolete and need complete replacement. Some modern software vendors have moved from selling commercial off the shelf (COTS) to selling complete solutions that include "best practices" and business workflows which can be used as a baseline for discussion. In either instance the best way to align IT to Business is through the proper organisational alignment (BA's, PM's and IT leadership) and governance models to ensure sustainability of the solution.
Cameron Chehreh, CTO at OAO Technology Solutions
CIOs and CEOs must compromise
The IT-business alignment discussion should always be one along the lines of compromise. It's looking for the best deal for the organisation in terms of technology and business needs, but within the realms of affordability. Those are mantras which have never changed.
One concern about modifying organisations to fit the application is that the IT budget may stay low but is the organisation containing the processes and destroying business value elsewhere? I always work with all organisation leaders to ensure what the technology group delivers represents the best value for the organisation at the top level, and remove any lower level bickering about budgets. If you can demonstrate a reduction in overall budget, but still provide the technology which assist process rather than constraining then surely it's a win all around. Which CEO wouldn't want that!
Theresa Clarke, Head of IT at Human Tissue Authority
Aligning with IT could be a short term move
The issue of alignment needs is undisputed. What seems to be the issue discussed is whether business should pass control of business functions to an organisation that evolved from servicing it. Worse yet, techology by its very nature, is always out of date. This is not a criticism - just fact.
The business has control of the funds. The business has future state plans and tactical approached to achieve its goals. IT cannot have these with any focus other that efficiency.
To me, IT is a service organisation, and for a business to bend its objectives to save some money very short term, is quite counterproductive.
I suggest that a steering committee be formed, headed by the business but including IT as well as Finance, Compliance, Goverance, and Marketing / Sales, to collectively decide on tactics. That is alignment in the best sense of that word.
David Hirsch, Executive Consultant at EMC Consulting
The CIO Debate: Business must align with IT
About this article
This Debate article draws in part on a round-table discussion between UK-based analyst firm MWD Advisors and members of the CIO UK community. If you'd like to participate in the research for our next article, please contact register with CIO UK or join our LinkedIn community.