Four tips to strengthen the IT and business alliance

By | 3 minute read | May 20, 2020

Every year for the past 20 years, IBM has conducted a Global C-suite Study to better understand what’s on the minds of business leaders. This succession of studies has shown IT evolving into a key provider of competitive differentiation for most organizations. The specific challenges and opportunities may change year to year, but the need to link IT projects tightly with business projects has only grown in importance over time.

Some of the challenges named in the 2020 Global C-suite Study highlight the importance of technology across the business. For example:

  • Serving customers in the trust economy: Leading organizations are challenged to prove transparency on data usage, to establish reciprocity with customers who share information in exchange for personalized service, to demonstrate data accountability, and to do this all while adjusting rapidly to market dynamics. This challenge carries data, infrastructure and governance implications.
  • Leveraging the human-technology partnership: Leaders want to use AI for “augmented” rather than “artificial” intelligence so as to provide a humanized, not just a personalized, experience. This challenge carries implications on data governance and trust in addition to innovation and infrastructure.
  • Implementing a platform business model: Many businesses are becoming disruptors or being disrupted by companies with platform business models, facilitating exchanges of goods and services between large interdependent groups. This challenge carries infrastructure as well as data sharing and governance implications.

In the same 20-year period, we’ve seen the relationship between businesses and their IT organizations evolve from IT providing low-cost utility services to IT being an essential partner with the business. IT went from being a necessary cost businesses tried to minimize to being an asset in which they invest to enable competitive differentiation. You can see that technology weaves the fabric of each of the business challenges described above. A stronger reliance on IT dictates having a stronger alliance with IT.

Four tips to strengthen the IT and business alliance

So how can CIOs foster and accelerate strengthening this alliance between the business and IT? To begin with, CIOs and IT leaders need to be involved early in the business planning process, and more resources should be dedicated to IT enablement.

Here are four tips for CIOs:

1. Understand your organization’s business model, objectives and strategy.

Business objectives almost always carry IT implications, and IT needs tend to stem from business objectives. A few examples might be providing humanized customer experiences; reducing business risk; and gathering, protecting and sharing data. Getting onboard early in the business strategy and planning process to understand your company’s business objectives is the starting point for strengthening the IT and business alliance.

2. Ideate on high-impact projects that deliver a human-centered “wow” factor.

Hosting human-centered rapid problem-solving sessions involving both business and IT people is one way to not only have IT involved early but ensure it is seen as directly partnering with business. You can use a structured methodology like Design Thinking to facilitate these sessions. The outcome will be a series of snack-sized, high-impact projects.

3. Know your existing IT environment; assess its capabilities and ideate on solutions.

Conduct a pin-pointed assessment of your IT environment based upon the highest priority high-impact projects you identified. Assess only the IT capabilities and business processes relevant to those projects rather than an exhaustive gap analysis. This speeds the analysis step and keeps the team from being overwhelmed by an expansive set of recommendations that are too complex to implement. It also links your project and subsequent resource requests directly to the anticipated high-impact business outcome.

4. Use a structured approach to develop an IT strategy that aligns investment and focuses on business priorities.

Component business modeling is a framework that can help businesses understand areas of potential differentiation and balance resources. A component business model can be created for the business overall but also for IT, to ensure key strategic business areas offering competitive differentiation have proper IT support.

This approach strengthens the alliance between IT and the business on both near-term tactical projects and the overall business strategy.

If you’re looking for guidance in this process, IBM Systems Lab Services can help. We offer consultations on Design Thinking, gap analysis, and IT strategy and planning to help you build the foundation of a smart enterprise with IBM IT infrastructure. Contact us today to learn how we can help your company achieve its goals.