The Goal of IT/Business Alignment: Why so Elusive?
There is no shortage of research, advice, tools and recommendations concerning IT/business
alignment. A Google search will surface more than 12 million results. Yet, CIO Magazine's "The
STATE of the CIO '07" revealed that alignment remains the most common top-five priority of IT
leaders. So why does alignment continue to elude IT organizations? One reason may be, despite
all the self-examination, most organizations do not completely grasp what IT/business alignment
IT/Business Alignment Defined
Alignment has become an overused buzzword. Companies tout business and IT alignment as key
to success in managing IT effectively. Failing to achieve strong alignment has been blamed for
the demise of many IT leaders.
But what is IT/business alignment? Simply put, when a company arranges, coordinates and
organizes its capabilities around an agreed vision and set of priorities, it has successfully
achieved alignment. Specifically for the IT organization, successful alignment means that IT is
actively and directly enabling business objectives; following the same game plan as the other
business functions. Ideal IT/business alignment results in a complete lack of distinction between
business and IT investments and initiatives. They are the same.
At its heart, IT/business alignment is about expectations management. When a company sets
business objectives, the expectation is that all functions, including IT, focus sufficient attention
and resources on achieving them. In that sense, alignment applies to all business leaders. For
the IT leader, it is particularly relevant due to IT's prevalence throughout all enterprise business
Why is IT/business alignment important? Alignment is a highly powerful concept. When a
company rallies all of its resources to work together towards a common goal, it functions as a
seamless unit, of one mind, optimizing its ability to perform in the marketplace. For the IT
organization, alignment with the business means that the IT organization is deploying its
resources and capabilities to best meet top business priorities.
The importance of IT/business alignment is easiest to see when it is missing; when IT resources
appear focused on