Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Business IT Alignment

Should IT investment be tightly coupled with business strategy? Yes of course, says the business executive. IT should be focused on delivering value according to the demands of the business.

Should business strategy be tightly coupled with IT investment? No of course not, says the business executive. That would be putting the cart before the horse. That would mean that the business strategy would have to be focused on extracting value from IT capability. That would mean we couldn't change business direction faster than the IT planning cycle. No way.

There is undoubtedly a problem in the relationship between business and IT. Many people are convinced that the solution to this problem is something called "business IT alignment". Challenged by a reader who suggests that this alignment is just more waffle, Neil Ward Dutton insists that alignment has three elements
  • aligning IT investment with business strategy
  • aligning IT delivery with business priorities
  • aligning IT change with business change.
But the difficulty with this solution is that alignment connotes synchronization and inhibits innovation. Business and IT simply don't work to the same timetable. Alignment is symmetric - if you align A to B, this means B has to be aligned to A. That's okay if you don't ever want to change your business strategy (which many old-fashioned IT strategy planning methods assumed) or experiment with new forms of IT in advance of any business requirement. But it's hardly appropriate for the dynamic volatile world that IT vendors and consultants claim to support.

Perhaps we should be talking instead about business IT liberation - freeing business from the constraints of IT investment by decoupling the business from IT. In other words, the opposite of alignment. Isn't this what SOA is all about?

Discussion continues at Business IT Alignment 2 (July 2006)
See also my Architecture posts on BPM and SOA.


  1. Richard, seeing as you don't support trackbacks I'll point to a "reply" I've posted on the MWD blog. In brief: I should have provided more detail. Specifically: alignment is a continuous process, not a journey with a fixed destination. See here.

  2. Your observation that IT alignment results is a static situation is well taken. However, there is no reason that it must be static if IT aligns with business goals. Goals are dynamic -- if IT and business managers working together develop a process whereby the IT projects are reviewed against business goals on a continuing basis, IT alignment becomes dynamic rather than static.

    See more on this on my blog at: http://www.cognitechblog.blogspot.com Click for CogBlog: