Based in Denver, CO, Agile Ideation collects the thoughts and experiences of Ed Schaefer. His posts explore agile and devops related topics as he works to maximize team effectiveness and minimize waste through continuous learning, coaching and empowering teams.

Forget Business-IT Alignment, Think Colaboration Instead

It is important for all aspects of a business to be in alignment with one another in order to be successful. Alignment with IT is the most important as technology is used at nearly every level of an organization as disalignment may lead to collapse for an organization that relies heavily on technology and there is a failure.

One of the biggest problems about the concept of business-IT alignment is this typically refers to IT understanding the objectives of the business and developing tools, systems, to help meet those objectives. This sounds fine from the business standpoint, but can cause significant problems for IT down the road. Requests for new systems, fast updates to existing systems, customized software solutions for a particular business need can lead to a fragmented system that becomes unweildy and difficult for IT to manage. Quick fixes may have bugs that need to be addressed, adding layers or skins to legacy software becomes increasingly complex and may cause unanticipated problems. Now IT is divided between fixing existing problems and developing new solutions, to maintain alignment, but with a divided workforce and large workload, resolutions for both aspects are delayed.

The business may view this as disalignment and attempt to address it, but the problem will only get worse if business leaders use traditional alignment strategies. If the complexity of the underlying systems, applications and architecture is causing or contributing to the issues then attempting to push IT to continue developing one off applications will exacerbate the problem. The business will be spending more money with less results, and IT may eventually be viewed as a maintenance expense and nothing more.

It is really collaboration, not alignment, that will allow an organization to meet its objectives most efficiently. It is important that IT understand the needs of the business to ensure applications do not fail to meet basic business needs. However, it is also important for the business to work with IT. If management feels like too much money is being spent on late projects, they likely won't be willing to sit down with IT to hear ideas about reducing a dozen legacy systems down to one if it is going to require even more time and money, especially if it would mean putting smaller projects on hold. Ironically, when a business pushes IT to produce customized solutions to make things easier for an individual department, in actuality the solution (1) increases complexity, (2) increases costs, (3) solves a minor need and (4) if solved ends up barely meeting the requirements. When collaboration occurs IT is able to suggest solutions that may not increase business results in the short term, but have huge benefits in the long term. The potential benefits could be anything from increased speed and efficiency, to a platform that is easier to develop for, to increased flexibility and a significant competitive advantage.

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