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07.08.2023

Business IT Alignment: IT as the driver of digital success

Business IT alignment is central to the success of a business. When goals and alignment of the IT organization are in line with the business goals, a collaborative connection grows that can push the business in several ways. An active role for IT as a consultant and enabler allows optimal use of the opportunities of digitization and an increase in competitiveness. But how can this alignment be achieved?

Requirements for business IT alignment

First, the IT strategy must be formulated in line with the business strategy. It provides the framework for decisions, actions and priorities for the next three to five years. From the IT strategy, the IT roadmap is developed, as well as a concrete plan with the most important initiatives, projects, programs, investments and action areas for the next one to three years. This ensures that the IT organization and the business organization follow the same guiding principles to enable smooth collaboration.

A key aspect in this context is the IT service catalogue, that plays an important role. It comprehensively defines the output of IT in the company, including the scope, type, and conditions of the services provided. It is agreed in close collaboration with the business partners and serves as an important control and management tool. The IT service catalogue forms the basis for projects, requirements, and decisions in operations, as well as for coordination with external partners and control of internal processes. Active management of the catalogue by IT is of great importance to ensure that the agreed quality, speed and commitment standards are met. In addition, the service level serves as an important source of information all the way to the operational area. The service desk for instance – being responsible for processing tickets and incident reports – is a suitable channel for evaluating the IT offering (e.g. through regular or event-based customer satisfaction surveys).

Successful alignment of business and IT requires coordination and alignment of the service catalogue with the expectations and goals of the business. Many companies are already using versions of this catalogue and can thus take the first steps toward business IT alignment.

In addition, certain key positions play an important role in the Business IT Alignment process. These include those responsible for the service desk, who measure customer and user satisfaction operationally and can gain valuable insights. Equally important is the role of the service owner / manager, who is responsible for IT services towards customers. Furthermore, the Business Relationship Manager has an important function in his interface function as well as the CIO and CDO.

Overcoming stumbling blocks and hurdles

There are some common hurdles to overcome in the area of business IT alignment. For example, there is often a lack of an overarching framework for action and a clear formulation of corporate strategy. In addition, the positioning of IT is often unclear, and there are no strategic alignments or documents. In addition, many IT organizations do not have a complete and up-to-date service catalogue that has been aligned with the needs of the business. This creates differences in priorities. If the service catalogue is too technical and focuses only on CPU, storage and servers, it does not deliver value because the content and language is not understandable to the business units. It is important to focus on how IT can support the business rather than getting lost in technical details.

Another challenge is the skillset at the interface between IT and business. Service level managers and service / product owners must be willing to dive beyond the IT perspective into the business processes. In doing so, they gain insights into how IT can improve the business or enable new lines of business through digital solutions. This requires employees with vision who know both IT and the business side and have a good feel for the market. It is crucial to build these skills and find the right people.

The reputation of IT in the company plays a central role as well. If IT is perceived as being too slow or reactive, IT decisions may be pre-empted and proof of concepts or pilot services coordinated directly between the business units and external service providers without involving IT. To be accepted and perceived as a consultant, IT must demonstrate competence and put its expertise into action to build trust. When trust is created through commitment, the company follows IT's advice and accepts impetus and inspiration. IT must earn this status by mastering its own processes, defining and managing its services, and demonstrating that it can deliver. Unfortunately, many IT departments fail to complete their tickets within the agreed time and are therefore not taken seriously as consultants. However, when trust is built through commitment, IT can become an enabler. It gains insight into the needs of the business, evaluates them, and is no longer presented with a fait accompli. This is the result of successful business IT alignment.

By overcoming the aforementioned hurdles and building the right capabilities at the interface between IT and business, business IT alignment can be successfully implemented. A reputation for IT as a reliable partner and advisor as well as the creation of trust through commitment are important success factors. If IT assumes its role as an enabler and acts in close cooperation with the business side, it can develop its full impact and support the company on the path to digital success.

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