Your information technology (IT) systems should effortlessly support your overall business goals and objectives. This alignment, however, is not always easy to achieve.
Many businesses find that their IT systems are either too expensive to maintain, too cumbersome to use efficiently, or simply do not provide added business value.
What is business-IT alignment?
Business-IT alignment simply describes a state where a business is able to use IT to achieve its objectives. In this state, IT is a valuable asset rather than a utility or an expense. The system functions across the business with optimal efficiency and is more likely to achieve a positive return on your IT investment.
How to align IT with business objectives?
Three key things will help you improve your business-IT alignment. These are:
- knowing your business objectives and strategy - see key elements of strategic planning
- knowing your current IT capabilities and gaps - see carry out an IT needs assessment
- considering both priorities and investment within your IT strategy
If you are not sure where to start, focus on a few areas that may provide the greatest benefit. For example, you may want to:
- identify the key processes that matter most to your business
- look for areas of underperformance
- engage with customers and suppliers to identify pain points
- benchmark to see how your business compares to others
Depending on your industry, key processes in your business may include:
- sales, marketing and customer service
- forecasting and ordering
- back-office systems
- manufacturing systems
The next step is to decide what type of IT could make these systems work better. For example:
- Could a customer relationship management system help you identify new opportunities?
- Could enterprise resource planning help you control stock, cut waste, manage automated ordering and accounting?
- Could your e-commerce website link to your back-office systems?
- Could IT integration (eg of design and production systems) improve your manufacturing efficiency?
After you determine how IT can fit with your business priorities, you should develop an IT strategy. This is a long-term plan that defines how and why the business will use IT to achieve its business objectives.