IT/Business alignment: more achievable than ever
For as long as I’ve been working in the tech sector the Holy Grail has been about aligning the IT function with the business to increase strategic effectiveness. All too often it’s a conversation that doesn’t go anywhere, either because the two sides are entrenched in silos and can’t see each other’s point of view, or simply because they don’t know how to create a shared vision.
There’s also a perception problem: the business sees IT as an unavoidable cost base, a beast that constantly needs feeding, while IT believes the business is constantly scoring own goals, missing the potential of technology to dramatically improve processes and increase efficiencies.
So much has happened in the last few years that an alignment that has proved elusive for most organisations is becoming much more attainable. I spoke about this at our “Journey To The Agile Edge” event where the topic was framed in a wider discussion about what organisations need to do to manage disruptive forces that are coming at them from all sides.
Perhaps the main reason why IT and business leaders have struggled to align is because they can’t agree about technology. Some board members still regard it as a necessary evil, rather than something that can strategically advance the business, despite the best efforts of the CIO to persuade them otherwise.
I believe there are four factors that have come together to convince old school executives that technology has a more important role to play, all fuelled by the rapid pace of change.
- Cloud delivery
The IT landscape has shifted dramatically in the last ten years, particularly around cloud which introduced the concept of consuming IT services as an operational expenditure rather than a capital cost. This has certainly grabbed the attention of financial controllers and those business leaders that see IT as little more than a money pit. To have it delivered as service, almost like other utilities, makes it easier for the business to grasp.
- Greater mobility
Advances in technology have broken down traditional office walls and empowered remote workers, whether it’s on-the-road sales teams, field staff visiting customer sites, or globetrotting executives who need to stay in touch. Giving employees access to applications and services from anywhere, on any device, drives productivity and opens the door to new ways of working and greater collaboration. Business leaders get this and are increasingly open to technology that will make it happen.
- Better security and governance
The downside of the internet-based technology revolution is cybercrime and an increasingly onerous regulatory environment. It’s forcing organisations to embed security and data protection into everything they do. Pressure will be ramped up further with GDPR in 2018, when the threat of paying hefty fines for a data breach will encourage businesses to spend more on technology that can keep them compliant. It’s a topic we will explore further at our event.
- Turning data into insights
Every organisation is feeling the effects of the data explosion, not just from a compliance perspective but also as a way of putting the business on the front foot. Mining data and turning it into actionable insights is now recognised as the best way to get closer to customers. And the closer you are, the better able you will be to understand them, improve their experience, and grow their business with you.
I know first-hand that all of these factors have elevated the role of the CIO in the boardroom. Increasingly, they bring me in to talk to the CEO about what Ergo can do for their business. We’ve always believed that understanding our client’s business is the only way to start a technology discussion. It’s good to see that the reverse is also becoming true – business leaders increasingly recognise that technology is inseparable from business strategy.