This is a pivotal question that too many companies are afraid to ask, or are not savvy enough to know they must ask in order to compete successfully.  Allowing a Professional Virtual CIO/CTO Company to consult you helps with developing an overall IT Strategy. Knowing why the alignment of an IT strategy with overall organizational vision matters is the beginning of understanding. Companies that disregard the need for IT + strategic alignment risk the following:

  • Stunted growth and development short of potential
  • Lost business opportunities
  • Higher operating costs
  • Inability to compete in a vigorous marketplace
  • Misallocation of crucial (i.e. expensive) resources
  • Loss of high quality managers and employeesVirtual CIO/CTO
  • Negative impact on stakeholder value

These are more than just temporary frustrations: misalignment leads to chronic, systemic problems that not only cripple growth, but can launch an organization on a downward spiral that is extremely difficult to correct.

So now that the crucial need for IT + strategic alignment is understood, how can companies better organize themselves to achieve it?

 

Understanding alignment of IT strategy with long term corporate vision

Alignment is neither intuitive, nor is it undertaken without devoting appropriate resources to the task: anything less than a full and considered effort is bound to be incomplete, perhaps dangerously so. A typical framework for the alignment process may look something like this:

  • Thorough audit of business needs
  • Development of a complementary IT strategy, along with achievable objectives
  • Resource assignment
  • Demand management
  • Ongoing executive and inter-departmental outreach

These are broad strokes and this outline is necessarily short on details, but it provides an effective framework to host a discussion of an actual IT strategy and the resources it might require.

 

Alignment tools I: board integration

Board members and senior management staff may view senior IT management as operational assets, only called upon in time of need when a current technology issue has somehow gone awry. This is a mistake. The CIO-CTO can make valuable – in some cases singular – contributions to achieving long term goals, and in fact technology can create incredible leverage for strategic moves, leverage that creates a competitive advantage otherwise unavailable to the company.

To effectively access that leverage, the CIO-CTO needs to be brought into the board room. At the heart of executive decision making, the CIO-CTO can contribute IT resources toward achieving the organizational vision. This is alignment that place IT strategy completely in the service of long range goals.

 

Virtual CIO CompanyAlignment tools II: Project Management Office (PMO)

The business-as-usual corporate governance structure includes an executive board in charge of strategic vision and a steering committee tasked with implementation. Various resources are deployed via technical and investment management committees for support.

Effective alignment requires a more aggressive approach. A relatively new development is the Project Management Office, an IT committee devoted to directly supporting implementation of strategic programs. For all projects, the PMO provides review, evaluation and guidance from an IT perspective, with special attention paid to those ways in which technology can make a substantive difference. Included are functions like resource performance, risk management and cost transparency analysis.

The PMO always maintains close communication with the board to eliminate potential for surprises and unforeseen complications.

 

Alignment tools III: performance measures and the IT governance balanced scorecard

The balanced scorecard concept can be applied to IT function and provides an appropriate means of measuring performance, in language and according to metrics that are familiar to non-IT executives. Traditional balanced scorecards track performance from the perspectives of finance, internal efficiency, stakeholder views, and more. Some modification of basic concepts results in an IT version of the same.

An IT balanced scorecard allows a variety of performance metrics to be tracked and provides a window for senior management in other departments to better perform IT governance and align IT strategy with the larger company vision. An effective IT balanced scorecard allows anyone to gauge the positive impact of IT initiatives on overall goals, from which alignment naturally results. The need for IT alignment is only becoming more important, not less, as businesses that traditionally have not required strenuous IT management now must rely on technology solutions to develop and grow.

Now, is your company ready to ask, “Does our IT strategy align with our vision?”  Make sure you get a second opinion from a professional Virtual CIO/CTO company.  It’s never a bad idea to have IT professionals at your disposal who can give you insight to your overall strategy.