Business & IT Alignment (Groan!)

Published on Monday 15 September 2014 by in Blog with 1 comment

This is my latest rant….er blog. It is about Business & IT alignment. (Groan. Here we go again?!).
I must say it is very difficult to find the energy to write this article, it is like banging my head against a brick-wall, furthermore it’s nothing new. In this age of new, shiny, sexy topics such as cloud, BYOD, Big data, Social media, Shadow IT, DEVOps – BITA sounds pretty boring. The sort of thing you expect to come across in an IT museum – like punch cards, paper tape and floppy discs…..I remember them all!

I can already hear many of you indignantly spluttering ‘Alignment! that is old nonsense! it is Business and IT ‘Integration’, ‘Fusion’,  ‘Assimilation’ or simply ‘Technology Business Management’’ . I use the word consciously and deliberately.

In this rant I want to show you the Top 10 ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) worst practices relating to Business and IT alignment taken from surveys with literally thousands of IT organizations World-wide.

It is more or less the same top 10 as 15 years  ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago and indeed just about every itSMF event I have attended this year! Including a recent session in Ecuador in which 20% of delegates were BUSINESS managers, and a session with the Danish Computer society.

Many IT organizations it would appear are a LONG way from ‘Integration’ .

Whilst writing this blog I also came across, an Informationweek article  on twitter ‘CIO Worries: Security, Talent and (Sadly) Alignment’ . This article reviewed the latest IT Trends findings from the Society for Information management . Number 3 in the list of CIO  priorities was “Aligning” IT with the “the business”!!!  Why is this article difficult to write? I have the feeling of ‘Groundhog day!’  every day I wake up and show these worst practices and every day they are totally ignored and then I keep getting invited back to present them again and people are surprised!

Some readers point out quite vociforously ‘they are ignoring you because you are wrong!’ or ‘they have more important and relevant things to worry about like managing IT services’! You could be right. Even worse I find is the fact that when I submit this as a presentation theme at conferences some organizations respond ‘We have been there, done that, haven’t you got something more topical and relevant?’ THUNK!! What was that? That was me banging my head against the wall again!

itSM conference: “haven’t you got something more topical….more relevant?……THUNK!

Take a look at the top ABC issues below and if they are irrelevant and unimportant then you are right and I bow to your insight. If however you recognize these then perhaps you may admit we spend too much time on managing technology, managing processes, managing services…..and not managing relationships and outcomes!

Here is the Top 10:


The number 1 World-wide ABC  worst practice (chosen by both IT AND Business people) is ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’. You can see how old the cartoon on the left is. The IT person is holding a floppy disk!

Another article that I saw on twitter (via  CFO) whilst writing this blog is highly relevant and applicable to this card and indeed many of the other cards in this top 10.  ‘IT Talent problem’– the need for business savvy It people.

70% said they would like to ‘give business skills to their technology people’.











I can well understand and imagine this behavior. If I was a business manager  and IT demonstrated too little understanding of business impact and priority then  I would start insisting that everything is urgent.

In terms of IT support and Risk mitigation, we MUST demonstrate we understand the business criticality and impact of outages and have effective priority and escalation mechanisms end-to-end.

Another recent article on ITBusinessedge  ‘Downtime report: Top 10 outages in 2013’ talks about the impact of downtime.

An Aberdeen study found that the average cost of downtime per hour was a staggering $ 163,674…Do you know what this is in YOUR business?

There is another trend influencing this behavior. Increasingly tech savvy users who know more about IT, more about emerging technology and the fact that they want it! If IT won’t give it to them then they’ll go somewhere else, and so we see the rapid growth in Shadow IT.   With the massive increase in business demand and use and the increasing scarcity of resources it is vital that IT understand the business and what is REALLY important, and that IT helps the business also understand this and govern this effectively.












IT and Business are like and old married couple. They moan about each other and put up with each other’s foibles. Only now the pain and the consequences of this situation is becoming unacceptable. They NEED a marriage counselor. There is however one significant difference than with a real marriage. In the business and IT relationship only ONE party can outsource the other! If IT recognizes these cards then it is up to IT to step up to the plate before it is too late.

Business Relationship management (BRM) is an ideal capability to help realize this marriage counselor role. See more links on this below by the 2 of spades card.











IT is too internally focused, we are so busy with the technology, with the processes, with the Service and service levels that we miss the real goal – business value and business outcomes.

We produce a vast amount of metrics and KPI’s that are predominantly internally focused not externally focused. We may meet the internal KPI’s but we end up scoring an own goal. This card can be coupled with the Queen of clubs. This card is one of the reasons we have too little understanding of the business.

One again in the article the ‘IT Talent problem

…so narrowly focused on the technology’.











Business managers are far too busy managing the business to be involved in requirements specification….plus it is too hard!…and IT keeps asking questions the business doesn’t know the answer to! The business is also too busy to test continually during development…..they’d rather wait until it is ready then test it….in live use.  An article in the Washington post said GAO figures revealed $10 billion worth of federal IT contracts could fail!…..No, no, let’s not properly govern IT, let’s just wait until the sticky brown stuff hits the fan.

The business and IT alignment issue is a two way street, it isn’t simply aligning IT to the business, it is also a question of effective Governance of IT.












Our KPIs and metrics and measures have too little relationship to business needs. This card is also coupled to the Internal focus and the lack of business understanding.  Often we think we are aligned at strategic level and make many strategic plans and initiatives. However using the subsequently  implemented processes and working practices and reports to demonstrate strategic achievement  is something we are weak at.

Indeed the Information week article I mentioned earlier Lead researcher Leon Kappelman in the SIM survey noted  that ‘CIOs are now being measured mainly on business criteria’, such as ‘value of IT to the business’, ‘IT’s contribution to strategy’, ‘internal and external customer satisfaction’, and ‘innovative new ideas’, and not just the typical internal controls. Once again this requires business understanding.











Without gaining trust and credibility; demonstrating a better business understanding and demonstrating we can achieve business related goals we will continually be seen as the IT provider, not the IT added value partner.

The massive amount of wasted money due to downtime, outages and all too often human failure (see Computerweekly article)  is a barrier to us achieving the partner status and for becoming the innovation driver for businesses.












This is becoming increasingly important since it was first selected 10 years ago as a top card. With the explosion in emerging technologies, cloud, big data, BYOD – IT needs to be able to help the business shape their real NEEDS for exploiting them and suggesting in business terms the possible value of exploiting these technologies. However it comes back to the queen of clubs and 4 of spades as barriers to our understanding, and the 2 of spades and the 4 of clubs as to whether we will be listened to or taken seriously. We are poor at making business cases and using business context, business language and business value language in our communication to the business.











Business managers OWN IT. IT works for THEM. The Business DEMANDS what it WANTS, not necessarily needs, and IT MUST deliver on this or else. In a time of explosive ‘demands’, rapid advancements of emerging technologies and the dependency upon data that often lies outside the organization there is a downside. The hidden risk. The fact that not ALL demands can and should be met. Maybe Cloud and shadow IT offer immediate demand satisfaction, but there is a balance between (benefits realization (demands) and risk optimization and resource optimization).  IT needs to be able to demonstrate the consequences of this behavior and help the business mitigate the risks, and the business must accept its responsibility in Governing IT. It isn’t a question of IT saying ‘NO’, rather ‘YES,but then…’. See the CIO.COM article ‘CIO’s must learn the politics of NO











Lack of Trust & Credibility. A Broken relationship.

This card, as well as the 5 Clubs could explain the global interest and growth in Business Relationship Management (BRM).  APMG has adopted the BRMI IP and certification and is offering this type of training. This helps bridge the talent gap and start developing business skills and better business understanding within IT. To me I also see COBIT as a powerful instrument that IT can use, perhaps through the BRM function to engage with and help align business & IT towards better governance.



Alignment: A position of agreement or alliance (Oxford dictionary)

Alignment: An arrangement of groups or forces in relation to one another (Merriam-Webster)

Alignment: Change something so that it has a correct relationship to something else

Alignment: how well an organization is able to use Information Technology to achieve objectives  (Wikipedia)

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