neither 100% quality does.
CIOs’ quest for alignment will increasingly be frustrated by a revolution in technology management.
Most CIOs still place IT-business alignment at the top of their wish list. Reasonably, they recognize the growing interdependency between business success and technology use. And they worry about the mismatch between what IT does and what business wants.
But achieving a state of 100% alignment will no longer be possible — if it ever was — as firms evolve towards business technology (BT), the pervasive technology use that drives business results.
IT-business alignment will be replaced with BT Synchronization — a continuous balance of an enterprise level of focus, a networked balance of supply, and a change agent role in the enterprise business strategy and processes.
Today’s CIOs should calibrate their current status and work, closer than ever, with their CEOs to achieve BT Synchronization.
Today’s IT Organizations Confront Growing Tensions Across Three Dimensions
To be a CIO is to be perpetually insecure about the degree of alignment because of tensions across three dimensions :
Demand. Weighed down by growing “new generation, vendor enabled legacy” maintenance, only 30%max of IT spending is reserved for new investments. So IT refines and revises prioritization criteria and IT governance to please some of the people at least some of the time.
Focus. Not so aligned IT shops, spins its wheels re-educating its staff, deciding what to re-architect, and debating whether to build or outsource.
CIOs confront a mind-splitting dilemma about where they should direct their attention.
Should it be on operations, maintenance requests, or driving business process change? Should they outsource infrastructure and help desk? Upgrade project skills? And all of these questions are made worse as perplexing new developments in technology expose architectural gaps that can turn leaders into laggards.
New complexities — like open source, SOA, or Web 2.0 — confound IT’s ability to create or implement business change.
Change. The pace of change outside of IT continues to accelerate — whether in business models, organizational structures, or marketplaces. Top technology organizations know they must balance current task load with a continuous eye to their firm’s marketplace or risk being too inflexible and slow, inviting their business organizations to propel forward without IT.
And at the same time, these CIOs must persuade their business executives of the importance of new technologies in time to deploy them effectively. Rob Carter, Fedex CIO, (for me, one of the best IT shops) says that out of all IT measurements — including cost effectiveness, speed, innovation, service levels, and business relevancy — he prefers to receive a high grade on speed at creating new value.
Forrester defines BT as “pervasive technology use that boosts business results”.
Technology adoption under BT occurs with or without IT’s involvement.
BT exacerbates the three tensions CIOs face, making alignment “nirvana” even more elusive, as BT makes: (see figure)
Demand is more complex. Because the pervasive technology use will occur with or without IT — beyond IT’s direct control — identifying and addressing that demand won’t come neatly boxed in organizations, budgets, and strategies.
Focus is more difficult. Because meeting technology demand will not come just from IT resources. BT managers must expand their field of influence to include sources outside the technology management organization — and outside the firm — to ensure that technologies drive results without increasing risk.
Change is more rapid. New and networked business models, exercised on a global scale, increase the ease with which functions and firms can combine, separate, and then recombine to increase the performance of their assets. And this change will result in the swift adoption of new business models, new products and services, and new operating models.