Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aligning Tech with Mission (Part 1 of 11 on Managing Tech 2 Meet Mission)

Meeting the mission is why we are here right? Then why not let everyone within your organization work toward meeting the mission, rather than just making things work?

That may be over simplifying things, but hey I am writing this blog post so if you don’t like it write your own or leave a comment.

Over the next 11 weeks I am doing a themed series of blog posts. Each week I will write about a chapter of the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. This week is on the 1st chapter about IT alignment (which I was the ring leader for). But rather than rehash what is in the chapter, I am adding a few things to it that compliment it very well. I want to talk about the role of the CEO and technology strategy. NTEN is also running an AWESOME 2 day online conference!

Lets start with Technology Strategy and how it gets created at a YMCA (you can adapt this to your org if you aren’t a YMCA). But rather than bore you with more words, flip through this presentation.

Key Thought:

Is your IT department there to just fill orders or is it a part of your mission team?

But this is not a new thought, much of my thinking around this topic is summed up in this diagram that dates back to 1993.

Here is the quoted text that explains it (click here for full text):

Venkatraman ea argue in 1993 that the difficulty to realize value from IT investments is firstly due to the lack of alignment between the business and IT strategy of the organizations that are making investments, and secondly due to the lack of a dynamic administrative process to ensure continuous alignment between the business and IT domains.

They describe Four Dominant Alignment Perspectives towards the analytic alignment of Business and IT:

  1. Strategy Execution: this perspective views the business strategy as the driver of both organization design choices and the logic of IS infrastructure (the classic, hierarchical view of strategic management). Top Management is strategy formulator, IS Management is strategy implementer. [Arrow 1]

  2. Technology Potential: this perspective also views the business strategy as the driver, however involves the articulation of an IT strategy to support the chosen business strategy and the corresponding specification of the required IS infrastructure and processes. The top management should provide the technology vision to articulate the logic and choices pertaining to IT strategy that would best support the chosen business strategy, while the role of the IS manager should be that of the technology architect - who efficiently and effectively designs and implements the required IS infrastructure that is consistent with the external component of IT strategy (scope, competences and governance). [Arrow 2]

  3. Competitive Potential: this alignment perspective is concerned with the exploitation of emerging IT capabilities to impact new products and services (i.e., business scope), influence the key attributes of strategy (distinctive competences), as well as develop new forms of relationships (i.e. business governance). Unlike the two previous perspectives that considered business strategy as given (or a constraint for organizational transformation), this perspective allows the modification of business strategy via emerging IT capabilities. The specific role of the top management to make this perspective succeed is that of the business visionary, who articulates how the emerging IT competences and functionality as well as changing governance patterns in the IT marketplace would impact the business strategy. The role of the IS manager, in contrast, is one of the catalyst, who identifies and interprets the trends in the IT environment to assist the business managers to understand the potential opportunities and threats from an IT perspective. [Arrow 3]

  4. Service Level: This alignment perspective focuses on how to build world class IT/IS organization within an organization. In this perspective, the role of business strategy is indirect. This perspective is often viewed as necessary (but not sufficient) to ensure the effective use of IT resources and be responsive to the growing and fast-changing demands of the end-user population. The specific role of the top management to make this perspective succeed is that of the prioritizer, who articulates how best to allocate the scarce resources both within the organization as well as in the IT marketplace (in terms of joint ventures, licensing, minority equity investments, etc.). The role of the IS manager, in contrast, is one of business leadership, with the specific tasks of making the internai business succeed within the operating guidelines from the top management. [Arrow 4]

The idea is to think through where a technology strategy or project starts to how it is implemented. Does it start with a tool, then you look how to leverage it? Does it start with a business or technology need? Or is it tied to the overall strategy? I think each of these has there place, there are times where technology should drive the strategy or where technology should be asked to solve a single problem. BUT that should be balanced by allowing technology to participate in the mission strategy as well.

I blame the CEO. Oops did I say that outloud? If technology is not integrated into your mission and mission team, I blame the CEO. The CEO does not have to be involved in, completely understand or even totally support technology. But the CEO is ultimately responsible for three things: appointing correct IT leadership, giving needed authority to IT staff and providing a reasonable budget. Notice I didn’t say they have to love technology, nor do they need to have cutting edge tools or whatever…

Before I continue my rampage, watch this slideshow about the role of CEO and CIO. This slideshow was the end result of years of work of the IT Director and CEO building a relationship.

I hope the positive approach in that slideshow was better than my short attack paragraph on CEOs, which really wasn’t meant as an attack at all. I have met many CEOs that I like.

The point here is that the IT department can do everything in their power to help meet the mission but until they are aligned within the organization it wont be as effective.

If you enjoyed this, good, because there are 10 more posts coming about the remaining chapters in the book called Managing Technology to meet your Mission. NTEN is also running an AWESOME 2 day online conference! Sign up today.

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