Business-IT alignment, a bad term (part two)

In part one I discussed the first reason why I do not like the term ’business-IT alignment’. The term suggests that business is one homogenous entity with clear and consistent requirements for the IT domain, which in my experience...

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In part one I discussed the first reason why I do not like the term ’business-IT alignment’.


The term suggests that business is one homogenous entity with clear and consistent requirements for the IT domain, which in my experience it is not. The second reason I dislike the term is that it suggests an “us against them” mentality between business and IT that is common and (even worse) found acceptable in many organisations.


Too often I read articles or hear conversations where it is suggested that IT should have an extraordinary position within an organisation. In my opinion IT is just another member of the corporate family.


In any family the members are unique in their specifications, issues and relations with other family members. However when a family member is no longer considered part of the family structure but tarnished with the ’special position other than the other family members‘ brush you know you have a problem.


To me that is what business - IT alignment suggests. We have all these departments who cooperate together as ‘the business’ and then there is IT; the unloved, unwanted, misunderstood corporate member, not part of the business ‘in crowd’. If this sounds familiar and the accepted situation in your organisation then consider the following.


For those in the IT domain: when the business is given the choice of IT service supplier the most important advantage the internal department has over an external third party provider is its intimate knowledge of the corporate business.


If the IT domain places itself outside the corporate family this differentiator is diminished. If this is the (accepted) situation, then consider outsourcing the IT department. In which case IT can at least offer the corporation economies of scale by joining another IT focussed family were it does feel at home.


For those outside the IT domain, it can be compared to living as a family. Since you live so close together, you get to know all the issues, problems and specialties of the other family members. You also learn about aspects and habits you do not like. Small irritations that get blown up over time because of the intimate relationship are often the cause of these fights.


So you might decide to break up the relationship in favour of a new one at arm’s length; like getting a third party provider for your IT services. But do you honestly believe that since your partner is now so far away you do not see ‘the wrinkles and flaws’ they do not exist? As the Counting Crows (or Joni Mitchell for the older generation) say: “you don't know what you got 'til it's gone”.


So what is the message of this article? First of all stop fighting and blaming, accept that perfection does not exist. Secondly start on the path of continuous improvement to try and achieve a harmonious relationship between the different corporate family members.


This way the business - IT alignment is an intermediate goal at best and corporate integration of IT is the ultimate target.


By Arno Kapteyn


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