IT Manager’s Guide to Business Strategy
144 Pages; Metal Bound
Why IT business alignment veers off track and how you can keep it on course
Among the layers of organizations, there is clearly a deviation in the focus and priorities of each layer due to lack of clarity about how they can and should specifically contribute to the goals and objectives of the layer above. Information moves from the “aligned” CIO, to a slightly less-aligned VP, to the less-aligned director, to the even less-aligned managers and supervisors who are guiding the purchase of resources and the actions of the staff—which at this point is 60 to 90 percent off the original objective.
How do we as CIOs avoid this deviation of purpose and direction in our teams? We do it by putting in place a mechanism that enables team members, at every layer of the team, to see and focus on how they contribute to the goals and objectives of the company.
Here are three simple steps you can take.
1: Use and communicate a portfolio management vehicle as a means of categorizing IT investments
An IT investment portfolio model teaches IT executives to look at IT dollars as part of an investment fund and to regard themselves as fund and portfolio managers. Their goal is to allocate investments in a manner that supports the company's overall business strategy.
The model is an excellent tool that enables the IT function to link and drive technology investment decisions to conform to the company's business strategy. It also provides a means of communicating through the layers of the organization what their basic objectives are in the simple language of investment strategy.
If, for example, a manager is heading up a wireless research and development team that is classified as an IT venture capital fund, he has a basic understanding that his role is to make wise, moderately risky investments and keep his finger on the pulse of the key technologies so that he can adjust investments and focus according to developments.
On the other hand, another manager may be heading up an IT team classified as part of the investments made to profitably grow the current business. He or she will constantly seek to bring the best ROI in technologies that improve the company’s ability to run its current operation as profitably as possible.
Communicating the IT portfolio investment model to the entire IT management team provides a standard language for communicating investment objectives and the general rules governing the decisions around each type of investment.
2: Have every layer of the management team create and maintain an alignment chart
In its most basic form, an alignment chart can consist of a one-page document that outlines the objectives of the company, the IT alignment objectives that support the company objectives, the objectives of a team that support the IT alignment objectives, what actions the team must take to meet the objectives, and what the manager of the team must do to support the team’s success.
See Figure A for a general example of an alignment chart built around a first line help desk manager.
3: Teach every layer of your management team to focus on objectives
Teach your team to make good judgment calls and to adjust a task in order to meet the objectives rather than being “playbook” slaves, who are task-focused.
By effectively communicating how alignment objectives cascade through each layer of your team, you’ll fully engage your entire team in the process of alignment and greatly increase the overall production of business-impacting value. By paying attention, incorporating strong communication approaches, and remaining diligent about the process, you can ensure that IT aligns itself, and ultimately advances, with the company’s business goals.
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