by Alexander Peters, Ph.D.

Alex-Peters  I haven’t heard much about alignment recently and I wonder if the subject is loosing its appeal. In 2008 SIM spotted IT-business alignment as the No.1 management concern. But during the six major CIO networking events that I attended this year, I haven’t heard much about IT alignment. Scholars and practitioners used the term to describe the strategy process for adjusting technology resources to match business objectives. And year after year CIOs placed it at the top of their list of unsolved issues.

A major challenge related to alignment is its practicality. Even in the relatively stable days of mainframe computing, few organizations, if any, have experienced alignment nirvana — the perfect state of IT-business relationship, free from animosity, anger and other afflictive perceptions. The waves of tech innovation, which followed the mainframe, increased the complexity of the issue. They came fast, required more changes than most organizations could absorb, and created a state of continuous ailment rather than alignment in the IT-business relationship. See June 17, 2007, “Debunking Alignment Nirvana” report.

Do you think that alignment will top the list of CIOs concerns this year again? I am not sure. Based on data collected during hundreds of inquiries, interviews, presentations networking and advisory sessions, I believe that CIOs’ strategic focus is shifting from IT-business alignment to business agility.  The economic turbulence accelerates this trend.  With business objectives and technologies getting more complex and dynamically interlinked, CIOs can no longer afford to build IT and business strategies and try to align them — a process that rarely worked. Instead they must build agility directly into business processes.

Forrester recently completed research on “Driving Business Value With Process Improvement” illustrates this shift. The core message of the participating CIOs is “IT exists to deploy business processes not technology”. This value proposition is different from the traditional model of adjusting resources by “running IT like a business”.  If what I am saying sounds too abstract or high-level, please have a look at 30 April, 2008, “The Road Map To BT Maturity” report, illustrating a strategist’s strategy and model for moving from IT-business alignment to business agility. Stay tuned for a more in depth BT Maturity Assessment, which we’re planning to publish later this summer

Please let me know your opinion about the future of alignment and agility. Thanks!