Assignment: please discuss your own experiences regarding how well IT fits in and aligns with the rest of the organization. Provide an example you are familiar with and can share (change any names as necessary). What seems to work in your organization with business and IT – what does not? Include any recommendations you have for improving what is not working and why.
I think it is ill advised to think of IT needing to "fit in" and "be aligned" with the rest of an organization, because in many cases even individual areas on the business side of an organization fail to be aligned with one another. From my perspective the idea of "being aligned" means that concessions must be made in order for other areas (in this case IT) to fall in line with top level business decisions, which in many cases has the potential to hinder the long term success of an organization. Organizations should look at various areas working together more from a perspective of collaboration, than alignment.
I work at a large financial organization, and depending how you look at it one could argue IT is either very well aligned with business objectives, based on tasks accomplished, or it could be viewed as weak/poor alignment based on core IT issues that will likely never be resolved. For the financial industry, the highest priority task is always to comply with new regulations - these are constantly changing, becoming more stringent or more closely monitored, which means many planned projects have to be put on the back burner and budgets shifted around to meet deadlines and ensure requirements are met. Given that regulatory requirements impact all areas of the business, and require different actions for different groups, in this case alignment simply means when IT is responsible for making changes or updates to meet a requirement - they do so. Where there is a disconnect in alignment comes from objectives the business side of the organization has or wants to meet, and requires IT to make changes, develop software, or find "quick fixes" to meet the businesses target objectives - IT does what is required to meet the needs of the business (seemingly strong alignment) but at the expense of fluidity, ease for future modifications, or overall updates to the system. Dozens of pieces of legacy software are in place that would be virtually impossible to replace or upgrade due to the complicated web of macros, one-off software tools, and MacGyvered connectedness that IT has had to develop over the last 20+ years to 'stay aligned' with business 'needs' that had to be done as quickly as possible. This not only means that in certain areas the business will fall behind because the technology will eventually not be able to keep up with future requirements, but it also means that when something needs to be changed or modified it either (a) takes a long time because no one knows how it was originally developed (b) breaks something else or (c) simply can't be done because the tools aren't up to the task. This leads to tremendous expenses both in time and dollars for maintenance alone.
At this point, I'm not sure if there is any way to resolve this without essentially starting fresh. This would require any 'urgent' business needs to be put on hold while the entire back end of the system is overhauled and updated using modern technology. I highly doubt this will ever happen. It seems that IT attempts to make progress by updating back end systems as they can, one at a time, trying to integrate it into the old systems (which often times breaks or eliminates functionality of something else), but so it is. Personally I feel that if the business side of the organization had looked to collaborate with IT to determine the most effective ways to implement requested changes over time, things would be substantially better than what has occurred with this idea of IT aligning with the needs of the business. Today I still recieve certain reports about things that simply no longer exist, but the spiderweb of systems built on top of one another means there is no easy way to eliminate one thing, or even have certain reports delivered electronically instead of printing out.
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 or even a significant competitive advantage.