Countless IT organizations are not aligned with their company’s vision and strategy. The only way for IT to earn the opportunity to strategically align is by proving the value that IT creates.
I’ve spoken with thousands of CIOs, and hundreds of CEOs, in the past few years. I continue to be shocked by the chronic misalignment of IT and business strategy. In today’s world of technology led disruption, it is disappointing to see so many companies that don’t embed technology in their enterprise strategy.
Why the disconnect?
More than 20 years ago, I recognized the signs of misalignment and, more importantly, came to understand the root causes. Since then, we’ve not only aligned IT with the rest of the businesses but actually embedded technology in the companies’ strategic plans.
We’ve consistently leveraged technology to create a differentiated customer experience that resulted in a sustainable competitive advantage for several companies.
Signs of Misalignment
Three obvious signs of misalignment between IT and the rest of the business are:
- The IT leaders are not at the head table. They are not part of the senior executive team and are not involved in the most strategic meetings and decisions. Worse, decisions are made that necessitate IT support, and IT learns about these much too late.
- IT is strictly keeping the lights on. IT runs a help desk and keeps the network and servers running. There is little time or budget for software enhancements, server upgrades, or new laptops.
- Under-investment. The company does not consider technology or data as assets worthy of investment.
The root causes of misalignment are simple and probably not what you’re expecting. No, it’s not that IT folks speak a different language, although that may be a contributor. It’s not that business leaders don’t like the IT people. In fact, the executives generally love the IT group in most organizations where I see gross misalignment. They love you because you consistently deliver on their requests. It’s just that those requests tend to be very tactical, like break/fix issues, not major strategic initiatives.
So, what are the two root causes of most IT-Business misalignment?
- Leadership does not understand, or perceive, the value of technology
- IT is not proving the value of technology
IT earns the opportunity to strategically align by proving its value.
When IT measures and demonstrates the value created by its technology and services, we earn trust, credibility, and respect. And that opens the door to operate at a more strategic level. The more value we demonstrate, the bigger role we get to play.
Think about it. The enterprise must be profitable to sustain. IT is viewed as a cost. But when we show the return on IT investment, we are no longer viewed as a black hole that consumes cash.
When we prove the value created by IT, and verifiably improve the bottom line, we’re asked to do more. We’re invited to align.
Proving the Value of IT
Every IT organization is on an IT Value Journey TM that takes us from a state of Maintenance (i.e., keep the lights on) to Enhancement (keep up with necessary system enhancements to support the business) to Transformation (leverage technology to create a competitive advantage).
We’ll discuss the IT Value Journey next week and then we’ll move into the IT Value Creation Process TM, showing eight steps to prove the value created by IT, including specific measures of IT. Then, once we’ve shown how IT proves its value, we’ll move to embedding technology in the enterprise strategy.
Our goal is to set business leadership and IT on a path to leverage technology in a way that creates a differentiated customer experience and sustainable competitive advantage for the company.
We purposefully keep these brief – rarely more than three pages – and aim to provide high level guidance and trigger ideas. As always, if you want more information or don’t want to wait for the upcoming articles, email Emily Ford at Emily@WolffStrategy.com and she’ll set up a complimentary 30-minute consultation with me.
Larry Wolff is the founder & CEO of Wolff Strategy Partners, a boutique consulting firm specializing in Enterprise Strategy Management, Digital Transformation, IT Leadership, and Executive Coaching. Larry has served as CEO, COO, CIO, Chief Digital Officer, and management consultant for public, private, international, and emerging growth companies. His specialties include corporate and IT strategic planning, technology led business transformation, business and IT turnarounds, merger integration and large-scale project rescues. His methodologies span industries and scale to companies of all sizes.
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