Question of the day: Are your IT initiatives following where your business strategies are taking you? Today, the ‘holy grail’ of business transformation is ensuring that your IT strategies align with your business strategies. Recently, I was talking to one of the executives of a mid-size company and when I asked him if his organization’s IT was aligned to its business strategies, he stated (somewhat emphatically): ‘Yes – my IT knows where my business is going and I’m proud of it.’ But when I asked him some tough follow-on questions, he was honest enough to admit there were some existing chink in their alignment armor.
So, where does one start to align IT strategies with business strategies? It boils down to your ‘Corporate Brand Identity.’ What does that mean? According to Stephen A Greyser and Mats Urde, in their HBR article entitled, ‘What Does Corporate Brand Stand For?’ they illustrate a framework for corporate brand identify definition. In their suggested framework, the brand core is at the center surrounded by eight elements, and each box asks a question (for a total of nine questions in all), as illustrated below:
As you can see, the brand core asks the most fundamental question: What do we promise to our customers and prospects? Your IT strategies must to be tied to this brand question because that should be where your organization is heading – moving from where the organization is today to where it wants to go tomorrow.
Now comes the test of alignment
This is the starting point for any organization wanting to discover how closely IT and the business teams are aligned. From the above chart, give the set of 9 questions to your IT and Business teams separately and ask them to answer each question. When you review their answers, I bet you will be surprised at the differences in them. Now score each answer on a scale from 1-5 with 1 for those answers that represent thinking that is far from where you think the business should be and 5 for answers you think are closest to the business. Then take the simple average; if you see a huge gap, don’t be surprised and don’t be alarmed. You’ve discovered the starting point for your business transformation.
In his article entitled, ‘Aligning IT and Business,’ published in August Digitalist, Alfredo Mancini, the Business Transformation Services (BTS) chief at SAP, came up with a cluster of four categories for the nine answers. Basically, he believes that you can group the nine answers in clusters as follows:
- Strategy: Is the mission (what you promise) consistent with where you want to be (vision)?
- Competition: Is what you offer (your value proposition) unique due to particularly distinctive skills?
- Interaction: Does the way you interact (your relationships) delight your customers thanks to uncommon behaviours rooted in a well-known culture?
- Communication: Is your communication style fostered by unique personality traits?
Now, here are my questions: Does your IT team know your brand definition, and do they understand your organization’s brand promise? What’s your alignment score? If there is a wide variance, what’s your plan for closing the gap?
Let me know what you think. I would like to share more insights and case studies with you that show how we helped companies align their IT strategies with their stated business objectives.
I look forward to hearing from you.
By: Venkat Nanduri