In the Society for Information Management’s latest survey of Chief Information Officers, alignment to IT was the number one issue for CIOs in 2016. It’s a perennial favorite in just about every IT study and has been for years. Perhaps that should come as no surprise. When IT isn’t aligned to the needs of the business, negative things can happen:
• Business opportunities are missed
• IT can lose funding mid-project
• Millions are spent on projects that are never rolled out
• Successful projects are deemed failures by the business
• IT is not seen as a strategic contributor to the organization
Misalignment in the Cloud
It’s easy to see this misalignment in cloud projects, especially those that involve migrating on-premises applications and databases to the cloud. That’s because many businesses see the project as an “IT project” instead of an initiative that the entire organization needs to get involved in and support.
“Make sure your vision of the cloud and management’s vision of the cloud are at least close”
Take, for example, a company that is offered “cloud credits” by a vendor. Executive management already knows it wants the organization to eventually move to the cloud, and these credits—and the prospect of making it cheaper—are the catalyst that gets them to pull the trigger. Suddenly, the head of IT gets a memo with the mandate to move to the cloud before the credits expire.
Five Ways to Align IT and the Business
As much as we love customers that are eager to move to the cloud, there are a few things you should do to make sure your vision of the cloud and management’s vision of the cloud are at least close. Here are five top suggestions to align IT and the Business.
#1 Hold a kick-off meeting with executive management. In this meeting, make sure you also discuss the organization’s overall goals, e.g., move more capital expenses to operating expenses. There may be ways that the cloud can help achieve management’s goals that they have yet to discover.
#2 Enlist an executive sponsor to be your liaison to the business side of the organization, especially executive management. It will be far easier for you to discuss project timelines and progress with one person than explaining it to a boardroom full of managers who have a limited understanding of IT. The goal is to get executive management from outside IT to assume some ownership.
#3 Create a project plan that outline milestones, objectives and any additional support you may need from the business. Most of you will have a project plan already, but all-too-often, these plans never make it outside of the IT department. The plan needs to be jointly agreed upon and owned by IT and the business.
#4 Learn to focus on the “what” not the “how” when explaining the plan. As much as you may love knowing how things work, not everyone is wired that way. A lot of business-oriented people only care about the bottom line, so keep the details limited when presenting the big picture to anyone outside of IT.
#5 Toot your own horn when the project is complete. If you’ve aligned the project to the needs of the business up front, this should be easy to do. However, you should never assume the success of the project is obvious to everyone involved. When the inevitable challenges crop up, people need to be reminded of the goals of the project and how far they have come.