Seven Habits of Highly Successful Business/IT Aligners

Dr. Tushar Hazra, a senior consultant with analyst group Cutter Consortium, contends there are at least seven best practices organizations pursuing alignment initiatives should follow. Because these practices are interrelated, Hazra says, skimping on any one of them might doom the best-laid IT plans.

1. Establish Effective Communication

IT leaders and business sponsors need to have a way to effectively communicate with one another. This practice assumes IT leaders develop an understanding of the (often) vastly different concerns of the business domain. To the extent that business stakeholders feel the IT side of the fence understands their concerns, IT leaders should have an easier time obtaining executive support (i.e., buy-in) for their own concerns, according to Hazra.

2. Assess Costs and Benefits

This leads to Hazra’s second alignment best practice: identifying the true—not derived—cost benefits of a proposed alignment. An organization can’t well anticipate the benefits of such activity if it doesn’t have a clear understanding of its own structure—particularly, as Hazra notes, if there’s redundancy or overlap in its business units.

3. Determine Business Value

Organizations need to determine how business value will be measured, managed, and monitored. This is trickier than it sounds, Hazra points out.

“The problem I find most companies have is how do you come up with a [business value] matrix? If we don’t have a matrix that allows you to collect all of the data that will help you measure, it’s not going to work. It’s just simply not going to provide you with the benefits that you’re looking for.”

4. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Companies need to define roles and responsibilities for each member of the organization’s alignment teams. This is especially important in larger organizations, Hazra says, because it makes it easier to attribute the appropriate accountability, responsibility, and ownership while optimizing the level of resource utilization across the enterprise.

5. Capture Compliance Requirements

Companies must capture requirements for compliance with industry and government regulations, policies, and procedures. Many companies are already doing this, Hazra says, because they realize it can make them more agile in dealing with always changing mandates and legal restrictions.

6. Conduct Milestone Reviews

Another practice that’s well established in most large companies is that of periodic milestone reviews, particularly with respect to project deliverables. “The best practice for the mid-size or large companies is … setting up the project management or roadmap management office, and giving somebody a specific responsibility to maintain some of these reviews and inspections, and keeping track of them as you grow,” he notes.

“This is something I find is a lot more well-established than the first four or five elements. The reason behind that is that project management is something that really hasn’t changed a whole lot. It doesn’t matter if we’re doing outsourcing or not, somebody has to look at it and assess how it impacts the overall enterprise.”

7. Establish, Update Ground Rules

Finally, says Hazra, companies need to establish ground rules and update them with incremental improvements from alignment lessons that they’ve learned. Common ground rules include not trying to identify all business stakeholders, business processes, and etc. before a company starts its alignment planning. It sounds simple, Hazra concedes, but in larger companies, it’s surprisingly difficult.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor. He can be reached at [email protected].