Five years ago, I identified a growing business trend affecting the way technology professionals engage with their business counterparts. This shift in expectations and attitudes involved a variety of interactions at the strategic, tactical and operational level. It was clear, however, that business culture was undergoing a change and that this change would have a ripple effect on IT roles within organizations as well as IT and business consultants working with clients. To address this new environment and provide the structure to respond with business services, we formed a new professional practice area within our business consulting services: Business/IT Alignment (BITA). Over the past five years, we have defined approaches, best practices and potential deliverables that contribute to the delivery of BITA services. These have been used successfully with ‘early adopter’ clients struggling with the changing culture.
It hasn’t been easy, however. Although the reality of the evolving business/IT relationships now seems apparent (and has been recognized early by a small number of organizations), it has taken longer for others to identify the trends. Helping clients to understand the purpose and the value of a BITA engagement has been an educational activity that for the most part has been well received; getting clients to back that understanding with specific budget and resources has been a longer struggle. Even within our own IT consulting industry, there have been some high profile sceptics arguing that this concept of the ‘alignment’ of business and IT isn’t real, or isn’t valid, or isn’t an issue – because they hadn’t encountered it. That’s the same type of narrow thinking and limited experience that would have considered the ‘internet’ to be a fad or that the ‘world wide web’ had no business value! It’s hard to keep something moving forward when only a few individuals seem to ‘get it’, but we have persisted because we have been convinced this was the right direction.
Just as we’re at the point of concluding that perhaps we’ve been too far ahead of the trend on this and need to focus on more traditional and operationally visible services, we see a break in the clouds. Forrester research analyst, Jeff Scott, in this article from CIO.com, clearly outlines a strategy and approach specifically targeting Business/IT Alignment. Although emerging from an Enterprise Architecture perspective, the essential points are sound, and reflect the same approach and structure that we have developed and been applying in our Business/IT Alignment practice for the past five years. I don’t expect that there will be any dramatic change in the industry or our clients’ budget allocations for BITA services, but it is very reassuring to know that we were not off-track in our thinking, planning and direction. This article indicates that BITA is now being recognized not just as a topic for debate, but as a needed service that is entering the industry main stream.
Please take some time to read this excellent article by Jeff Scott, and if you decide, as we have, that Business/IT Alignment is real, necessary and a core element in your business strategy, let’s talk!