A funny thing often happens when CIOs and CEOs share their strategic plans for the upcoming year. Despite commanding C-level positions that underpin the vision and performance of the company, these two roles often don’t confer on their strategies as they are developing them. To marry IT strategy with business strategy, organisations require complete buy-in from everyone within the business, from the top down, to provide a clear understanding of how technology can solve key business pain points and further organisational goals. Below are a few tips for aligning IT and business strategy so C-levels can come to a common agreement on how to steer the organisation in the next 12 months and beyond.
1. Make lights-on go away
Naturally, these daily tasks are necessary to keep the business running but they shouldn’t be the focus of IT. However, all too often they are. A recent survey of CIOs in 24 countries including the Asia-Pacific region reported on TheCioLeader.com found more than half of CIOs spend 70 per cent or more of their time on daily technology management. Eighty per cent reportedly devote half their time or more to non-strategic tasks.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Better alignment of technology strategy with the business begins with prioritising revenue-generating projects, tracking the right performance metrics and talking to business units and customers to find out what they need. IT can also consider outsourcing non-critical functions that could free up internal staff time and reduce expenditures, in addition to engaging with third-party project management experts who can ensure you meet deadlines for top-priorities endeavours.
2. Show them the money
Top management cares most about either saving money or making money. If technology plans don’t demonstrate how the business can accomplish one or both of these goals, they will fall on deaf ears. Automating and speeding up business processes and reducing downtime are ways IT can demonstrate financial ROI. Anything that will boost productivity and business performance is worth considering. Think about drafting a business case template for IT initiatives that includes a business analysis of each technology investment, defining how it supports organisational goals, life-cycle costs, benefits, risks and expected ROI.
3. Balance commitment and flexibility
This tenet is presented in a 2011 article by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company called “Have you tested your strategy lately?” It applies to overall business strategy but also points to a place where IT needs to play. Technology in particular often necessitates an open, out-of-the-box approach to be applied successfully. And since technology can be a rapidly changing force, it’s important to leave wiggle room for trying out new trends and piloting new technologies as they emerge. IT departments that can show dedication to the overall business vision while getting things done will increasingly be given more leeway to pursue alternative technology approaches.
How has your business aligned technology and business strategy?