“Start with some early wins and build the momentum that ultimately takes over the company”
Jack Welch CEO GE
By its very nature, the task of aligning Business and IT thinking and action, whilst bringing about radical change which is constantly moving the goal posts, has to start at the top of the organisation. Board leadership in the management of essential business change needs to be seen as intelligent, far sighted and well informed, rather than simply following where the ‘experts’ are leading.
An effective initial response to this need is for the CEO to set up a sub-committee of the board to focus on this particularly important element of the board’s strategic responsibilities.
The members of such a board sub-committee do not of course need to be experts in all things IT. Far from it. They do however need to become familiar with the business opportunities and risks in their own rapidly changing new e-business world, so that the board as a whole can draw on the best combination of business and IT intelligence that is available, to deal with new challenges and to plan for the future.
For this board sub-committee to be really on top of its remit, it needs special support and guidance through a carefully structured framework of information sources within their own organisation, as well as from the familiar external experts.
The setting up of this internal briefing framework is a core ingredient of the change that is needed. It routinely feeds information to board members to better fulfil their strategic and tactical role in matching the dynamics of business need and technology effectiveness for maximum advantage. An example of such a framework of internal information sources, and its wider ramifications, is described at length in The DILIGENT DIRECTOR in a Digital Business World. It is called the Unity framework.
Whilst there are many pitfalls to avoid, the vast improvements in IT exploitation effectiveness lead to enormous business benefits. And do not forget that this first step is just the start of an IT/business alignment process that is based on a new agenda for delivering e-business change, which must eventually permeate throughout the organisation if it is to achieve a step function change in business performance.
GUIDANCE: There are now a number of Business IT Governance guidelines available, such as ISO 38500. However, the most pressing single need is the alignment of business and IT decision making in the business planning and development process. More effective Business & IT alignment will maximise business IT exploitation effectiveness and minimise continuing avoidable waste in failed and sub-standard IT projects.
My book The DILIGENT DIRECTOR in a Digital Business World discusses many pitfalls to avoid, and proposes productive paths to follow in order to achieve this aim.
BOARD LEVEL LEADERSHIP AND DIRECTION OF IT ENABLED BUSINESS CHANGE
- Focus on Business Process effectiveness and efficiency, rather than overly on IT issues.
- Raise top level awareness of IT Critical Success Issues through closer participation.
- Produce better informed and more perceptive board leadership through closer involvement.
- Create cultural cohesion from the top which permeates down throughout the organisation.
- Effectively balance business priorities with technological constraints and opportunities.
- Improve management performance through clearer business accountability.
- Exploit lessons-learned more effectively.
- Improve business preparedness in your new e-business, through more perceptive awareness.
More on this can be found in The DILIGENT DIRECTOR in a Digital Business World – Chapter 14