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The implication that the past failures of IT to achieve business goals are because of poor alignment of the business is a skewed view that fails to account for parallel activities and sometimes-faulty decisions by the rest of the business. This skewed view also fails to take into account the significance of business influence on technology spending. For maximum strategic effectiveness, building the business should be viewed as a shared responsibility in which all elements of the enterprise view technology and technologists as integrated parts of the business. Executives both in and outside of IT should alter their perspectives to this more holistic view of the business to best achieve successes.

It is almost impossible today to pick up an IT trade magazine without seeing an article about the need for IT to align with the business. It has been popular of late to tag the CIO and other IT executives as technology-focused geeks who need to focus more on business issues, but do not have the skills to do so. However, there is little evidence that this is widely true anymore. Instead, what is surfacing is another picture — a new type of IT executive has emerged that is business focused and is trying to work with his or her counterparts, but in many companies this is a struggle. The primary reason is that executive management was making decisions based on gut feel, individual greed, as well as the desire to drive the bottom line each quarter regardless of the soundness of the decision. Perhaps ironically, perhaps tellingly, these senior management levels are typically devoid of the top IT executives.

The reaction to these developments, of course, is a retrenching into corporate governance. Public companies must now properly account for and accurately report their business activities. In the U.S., companies face criminal penalties and fines for non-compliance with specific governance legislation. It is interesting to consider how this newfound corporate accountability meshes with the stale assertions of IT's non-alignment with the business. Marriage counselors tell spouses they cannot change each other, only themselves. Likewise, it is up to the IT and business executive to focus on their respective roles in serving the business, while helping their peers make the changes necessary.

The prevailing view is that IT is a cost center for most enterprises, while CEOs, CFOs, and LOB executives are charged with making profits for the company. For that reason, IT has to align with those executives and their initiatives, not the other way around. This creates a situation in which IT is not in the driver's seat on key decisions and spending; however, IT provides a service and in general should let the LOBs make the spending decisions. IT then plays the important role of stewardship because it has or has access to the necessary skills and infrastructure common to most projects. For that reason, technology projects require management and resources independent of any particular LOB initiative.


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