For better or worse, business and IT are inextricably linked and IT alignment and integration into the business and its marketplace is of critical importance. Middle market companies face numerous challenges such as mounting competition from global markets with cheap labor pools, a patchwork quilt of business systems and dealing with clients that expect companies to engage them when, where and how it suits them. Leveraging technology to meet these and many other business challenges requires that a business:
- Partner Business Services and Owners with their IT (Digital) Counterparts
Identify the business services and units (owners) that implement your business strategy and their relationships to the corresponding digital technology assets: organizations, services, and infrastructure (People, Processes, and Technology). Start the dialog between the Business and IT owners, if one does not already exist, and make sure it is maintained. We found a good way to seed the process was to implement the role of IT ombudsmen who engaged in the day to day activities of their ‘client’ business unit and championed their requirements within IT. This leads to a regular cadence of dialog between the business units and IT, at all levels of the organizations from the executive to the working team level. It will soon extend to include other key partners such as Finance, and HR.
- Speak a common language (and till you do, just keep speaking with each other)
Common refrains you hear in companies at an early stage of alignment are ‘IT just doesn’t understand that we are trying to run a business’ or ‘The business keeps us in the dark and throws unreasonable demands at us at the last minute’. Start sharing and synchronizing respective goals, objectives and service level agreements in the dialogs you have established. Fairly soon IT starts seeing business demands and what drives them at about the same time as the business owner does. With this insight, the business owner finds a responsive partner in IT, who is capable of articulating the financial effect of the solutions they propose. Count on some initial head butting and teeth gnashing, but persevere and you’ll see this play out just as we have in every such undertaking.
- Recognize the company culture
Companies and industries have their own culture and this will determine the path and speed to being able to speak a common language. A manufacturing company has ways of doing things that may be incomprehensible to a media and advertising business and vice versa.
- Account for the business environment
A number of business environmental factors direct the focus and tone of the dialog. Account for these when prioritizing and scheduling alignment activities. Examples of these factors include:
- State of your business (Business lifecycle: Startup, Growth, Maturity, Harvest, Redesign)
- Economy (This determines which products and services your clients are most likely to spend on)
- Industry (Industries like businesses can be in startup, growth or harvest mode)
- Regulatory agencies (Impending Government and industry regulations may have a strong effect on your business strategy and even on how your products and services are built and delivered )
- Suppliers and Partners
- Technology (new disruptive capabilities, replacing sun-setting technologies)
Getting IT and the Business in lock step lays the foundation for a Business Transformation where middle market companies take out costs, embrace change and thrive in today’s highly competitive market.
Our experience and knowledge of these four building blocks helps organizations optimize IT alignment and integration. With a track record of success in multiple industries, we can tune Group50’s Business – IT alignment and integration framework to your specific situation. Call a Group50 Digital Technology expert today at (703) 201-3936, request more information here, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Shirish Néné is the head of Group50’s Digital Technology Practice. Shirish and the Group50 team are a cadre of veteran executives with a track record of melding people, process and technology into game changing strategies and tactical advances across a wide range of industries, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. Our experience is reflected in field-tested methodologies and frameworks for establishing Digital Technology in its natural role of a strategic corporate asset. Our perspective from the trenches to the boardroom has instilled in us a respect for, and ability to fit into a variety of corporate cultures and business situations.
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