What’s the Real Problem Behind Business IT (Mis) Alignment?

Sep 7, 2016
6 Min Read
What’s the Real Problem Behind Business IT (Mis) Alignment?

Ask different people in any organization if IT is aligned with the business side and often the answer is no. But what’s not asked is why they feel that way. There could be a variety of reasons across an organization that cause people to feel business and IT are out of alignment. The solution lies in asking the right questions before making changes that could make the problem worse.

But first, it’s important to remember that most of the people in the company aren’t spending their time questioning business-IT alignment. They may not be using the word alignment at all. You’ll hear comments about how IT just “doesn’t get it” when it comes to the way business units need to do business or how IT “holds everyone back” when trying to get work accomplished.

It’s not enough to ensure that business and IT are strategically aligned at the top of the company if it doesn’t translate to how things really work on the front line. That’s why it’s so important to check in with stakeholders across the company before checking business-IT alignment off your to do list.

And you can’t just ask one person or one business unit.

Different Departments May Have Different Experience

It’s likely that Finance has a different experience interacting with IT than HR, Operations, or Sales. It’s also possible that people within those groups have different perceptions about IT.

Is it really that important to understand all those opinions?

To that question, I’ll answer a resounding – YES! Remember it’s people that make things work in any company. If they feel things are disconnected – whether they’re right or wrong – it could cause real problems.

It’s incumbent upon IT to make every effort to bridge the gap between business and IT.

The only way to do that is to understand what is happening and why it happens. The best way to get that done is through communication with stakeholder groups. This can be accomplished in a focus group format or through one-on-one discussions. The objective is to create an open dialogue so the truth behind the alignment issue is revealed. That means digging deeply into issues will be important.

How To Find Out The Real Truth

The key to discovering the root cause is to ask open ended questions – what, why, how, when – during the course of the discussion.

Whether you use a group format or decide to talk to one person at a time, you can follow the same format for uncovering how people feel about IT.

First you need to make people feel safe about revealing their opinions. That means the person conducting the discussions must have credibility with the people they’ll be talking with. It also means people have to know that sharing their true thoughts won’t set them up for retribution. Before beginning any discussion, it’s important to make that perfectly clear and to ensure that it happens after the discussion.

What questions should you ask?

Open the discussion by explaining that you want to ensure IT is meeting the needs of everyone in the company. Ask them what their general opinion is of how IT works with them.

As the discussion continues, ask clarifying questions to get to the real reasons behind the issue. For example:

  • When you say, “IT doesn’t seem to care about how easy it is for you to get work done, what exactly does that look like? What happens that makes you feel they don’t care?”
  • When you say, “IT policies make my job harder, how does that happen? What specifically makes your job harder?”
  • When you say, “IT is just this isolated department that does whatever it wants, what are the things they do that gives you that impression?”

Once you’ve completed your discussions, compile the information and analyze the results. Then take those results and implement changes to get true business-IT alignment throughout the entire company.

Want to learn how the CIO of the USTA got IT aligned with the business? Check out the onDemand Webinar, Making IT the Fabric of Your Business.

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