10 January 2009

How to keep IT aligned with the business

1. Stay in close mental alignment with your CEO and other key strategy and opinion leaders in the business (they are "the business"!). Written strategies and project plans are too cumbersome at this level (they are useful for some across and most down management into the organization). Talk frequently with them - where is their head at today and is IT supporting them as best as possible at that moment?

2. Keep those same opinion leaders engaged in IT priorities and deliverables. The IT leader should be able to prioritize with 95+% accuracy because of (1), but you still need their help and support. Keep discussions in their terms, not technical ones. Talk primarily about costs, benefits, and really material risks. For bigger projects, keep reminding them of commitments made between IT and the business in terms of upcoming benefits.

3. Strike a balance of short and long term investment with your opinion leaders. Some IT work only indirectly support the business over the longer term (typically "wiring and plumbing" infrastructure type projects). Visibly balance these with projects that help you "make the sale" or get short term revenue in the door.

4. Align speed of IT delivery with speed of the rest of your business and the market you play in. Speed costs - align views of time-to-market with budget, quality, risks, and aspirations. Kill projects that have missed the market - don't fiddle while Rome burns. If you can't deliver to market requirements or beat the competition, you and your business are in trouble.

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