How do you set the stage for strategic alignment?
The CIO has to set expectations around the capacity for strategic alignment that could be created. One of the things I tell the IT organization is that we cant say yes to everything; IT will always have more demand than ability to meet that demand. So the expectation has to be set up front that we must do more strategically for the business.
A CIO has to have the guts to say that we have too many people in this area or are spending too much time on an application that doesnt provide a lot of return for the business. Then other areas might be reduce telecom costs, renegotiate contracts with software vendors to create those dollar capacities. But the big expenses are around people and reducing the amount of people-effort that goes into day-to-day support for the business.
How should CIOs expect the business to take that?
The metric is productivity for the business. If you make a change to moving from misalignment to tactical alignment, you actually do less for the business, so productivity goes down .But as you retool the IT organization and position people in different areas, your productivity will overshoot where you started.
Youve got to give the business the reason why youll do less. Business leaders love it when its explained to them in business terms. In practice it gets tough because you are delivering less in the short run.
What are a couple of the practical steps to take to drive alignment?
We need business leadership within IT and IT leadership within the business. We also need effective IT steering committeesthey need to be called by the CEO, because if the CIO calls them, most heads of business units will show up only if they have time. If its called by the CEO, they show up. The whole point of an IT steering committee needs to be that this is the business leaders opportunity to be a leader of IT.
Our model is to hire IT strategists whose job is to live within IT but who are assigned full time to be business partners. They cant be pulled off into other projectsthey live with and help the business become aligned by helping the business prioritize tactical and strategic needs. Their model is ongoing education, communication, and collaboration. Thats their full job.