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Alignment between IT and the business

The challenge of aligning IT with the rest of the organisation is a persistent puzzle that has been around for some time now. Most organisations agree that business and IT are not working as closely as they need to to optimise their service and product delivery. The problem however is that IT:Business alignment is not easy to achieve.

Over the next two years, 50% of organisations will experience increased collaboration between their business and IT teams, according to Gartner, Inc. The dispute between business and IT teams over the control of technology will lessen as both sides learn that joint participation is critical to the success of innovation in a digital workplace.

“Business units and IT teams can no longer function in silos, as distant teams can cause chaos,” said Keith Mann, senior research director at Gartner. “Traditionally, each business unit has had its own technology personnel, which has made businesses reluctant to follow the directive of central IT teams. Increasingly, however, organisations now understand that a unified objective is essential to ensure the integrity and stability of core business. As a result, individuals stay aligned with a common goal, work more collaboratively and implement new technologies effectively across the business.” Misalignment between IT and business units can hurt a company in many ways different ways including:

• Under-performance and/or limited success
• Expensive investments with poor ROI
• Bottlenecks that hinder service delivery, perhaps via slow or buggy deployments
• Stumbling blocks (perhaps outright fighting) between processes and solutions
• Confused or lackluster customer service
• Poor communication and support for end users and potential customers​

The concept of aligning IT and business is the understanding that when IT and the business work together, they can share their knowledge and skills and achieve more than they will on their own. By bringing together IT, sales, marketing and product development and fostering a stronger relationship between all teams, sharing skillset and philosophy, it is possible to drive business outcomes in powerful new ways including:

• Reduce IT expenses (at least 10% of IT spending does not benefit business goals)
• Increase collaboration
• Gain visibility into problem areas
• Improve ROI by fine-tuning investments
• Speed up time-to-market
• Synchronise all units to become agile
• Upskill your industry and employee knowledge

But talking about alignment and achieving it are two very separate things. It requires a change of mindset, one where IT is viewed as an instrument for business transformation. The first step towards alignment is to recognise and embrace the fact that we operate in the age of digital business and that business agility is imperative in the age of digital disruption. By recognising this, IT leaders and their teams can evolve to become strategic partners and advisors to their colleagues in other business units. IT can play a proactive role in shaping decisions and business outcomes, rather than responding (slowly) in reactive fashion.

NWT understands what our new world clients seek through their solutions as they want results with reduced risk and the highest gain in respect of business value. The new world is about having an approach that solves challenges but a playbook mentality to avoid reinventing the wheel every time. It is about ensuring an emergent approach that seeks to locate the solutions properly in context of the operation.​

It is necessary for projects to deliver business value or business outcomes, but how many of them are actually delivering what the end business requires or needs, in the timeframe that they require? In NWT, we talk about how our Services help to deliver Business Outcomes and Results, and most companies in our field make that claim. However, we ensure through our engagements that we understand the business drivers and that we can tie our Services back to the business issues that are being resolved. Without this work, how do our customers at a business level understand the value that NWT brings and how do we know that we are doing the right things to make our customers successful?

Our Services include:

Service Approach >

CTO as a Service >

Digital Transformation Consultancy >

Real World Example

In 2019, The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 303 senior executives and administrators across the globe. Nearly three out of four survey respondents (73 percent) reported that they’ve had DX initiatives in place for two years or longer. Those long-term initiatives are already bearing fruit in many organisations, with 58 percent of them saying that they’re achieving all of their goals.

A full two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents in the EIU report say they never or seldom involve IT when buying technology systems and solutions to enable their organisations’ digital transformation initiatives. The top reasons are that “the procurement process takes too long” (37 percent) and “IT decisions are not flexible enough” (30 percent).​

As Emer Coleman, former adviser to the government of Ireland on its open-data initiative and technology engagement director for Co-op Digital, tells The Economist Intelligence Unit, “Why would you go through all the pain of procurement? Digital makes it possible for departments to say, ‘We’ll just pay for it.’” Yet IT is still apparently on the hook for the success of IT systems and solutions, even if they weren’t responsible for procuring or implementing them: 43 percent of respondents say they blame IT when failures occur.

In respect of IT Alignment with Digital Transformation Goals, a critical factor is that siloed IT departments have priorities and incentives that are misaligned with other business units. When the EIU split IT and non-IT respondents in its data, it revealed just how out of sync departmental priorities can become: 31 percent of non-IT respondents said IT decisions weren’t aligned with their DX goals. Moreover, though both groups acknowledge greater efficiency as a key outcome, the priorities quickly diverge. IT respondents value integration with legacy systems and system resilience over revenue growth and cost reductions, while the latter two are top priorities for non-IT participants. These priorities aren’t necessarily more or less valuable than the other. The problems arise when IT is perceived as a bottleneck, slowing down the organization’s pursuit of its most important goals.