The proper alignment of functional features of an ICT-infrastructure to business processes is a major challenge in many organisations, and yet alignment between business and ICT has a positive effect on business performance and effectiveness.
“Business and ICT alignment can be the basis of a sustainable competitive advantage for organisations,” says Hubert Wentzel, divisional director, EOH Consulting. “An organisational structure not only shapes the ICT-infrastructure, and the inverse also holds. Integration and alignment are therefore key in order for a business to better realise the benefits from ICT investments.”
Wentzel points out that many IT organisations have been pursuing incremental improvement and planning with simplification of existing elements as a primary goal. One problem with this approach is that the number of elements (e.g. application, infrastructures, technologies) increases at a faster rate than the ability to simplify. “Hence, complexity grows as does the list of constraints that hobble complexity reduction,” he says. “Another problem is that the connection between business outcomes and the entirety of the IT portfolio becomes obscured. The business relevance of some IT projects and services is mystical.”
Alignment means an end to the business and IT divide by enabling co-operation and integrated movement. When alignment exists, there is a clear connection between business outcomes, architecture, projects, infrastructure and the services IT provides. “The language used by the business is the language of IT,” says Wentzel. “Technology is not the center of our universe. Instead, our focus is on driving business value. Without this alignment, IT cannot be as agile as business expects it to be in order to be relevant as strategic enabler.”
An IT organisation that pursues alignment uses both simplification and business optimisation to conduct planning. Business-driven goals such as the sharing and reuse of business processes, or to drive information stewardship, require the business to take the lead and for IT to partner in the collaboration to make it happen. “Business optimisation is not led by IT, but IT plays a key role in its realisation,” adds Wentzel. “Businesses should challenge themselves to look at how they can reconnect and fully integrate their current IT strategy process into the creation and active management of business outcomes.”
To solve the alignment problem, relevant features of the ICT-infrastructure should be derived from the organisational structure and the influence of this envisaged ICT to the work practices should be pointed out. “Strategic ICT and business alignment will enable you to transform your IT function into a strategic asset. Through strategic analysis that focuses on the ICT architecture, and through the adoption of IT Service Management (ITSM) best practice frameworks, alignment can help build a solid foundation for future business growth,” Wentzel concludes.