Global competition is growing while operating environments are getting more and more complex. IT leaders – CIOs and CTOs are now responsible for ensuring that all their IT and business operations align with the company’s vision and strategy.
IT today has to focus on strategy. That’s because of the complexity of IT projects, depending on IT when it comes to delivering business goals and the fast development and variability of the IT environment.
It’s preferable for IT companies to start accepting this reality and thinking strategically. If a company manage to align IT projects with a business strategy the results will be more prominent, and the investment of time and resources will pay off.
Below, you’ll find some tips on how to align IT projects with a business strategy and you’ll learn why achieving alignment is so important.
#1 Create a “project-driven” company
When you align IT projects with a business strategy, you’ll be able to understand the whole context of those operations. During a project, you’ll spot opportunities, potential dangers and see the value within the company. What’s more, by understanding and executing goals, your IT company will have greater support in operating and achieving goals.
Look how projects are aligned with strategy in a project-driven firm:
To implement and hold this path from above, you have to do 3 things:
- Analyze all your strategic goals,
- Invent (and continuously improve) a systematic way of executing and prioritizing projects so that they align with your strategy,
- Evaluate projects regularly and repeat what worked best.
Learn more about different aspects of adding value through strategic alignment from a great study made by Jennifer Bridges.
#2 Early engagement
You probably know that without commitment and motivation the work doesn’t all go smoothly. Well, the same is with aligning IT with business. The leader, no matter if it’s a CIO or an IT project manager, has to get involved in the crucial phase of aligning – the planning! It’s vital that a team’s projects go together with your business.
While the strategy has to be delivered by IT activities, the company leaders or project managers have to lead and keep everything under control from the start. One of the biggest mistakes in IT/business alignment is that the senior officers/leaders make plans and then call on IT teams for implementation.
In fact, the earlier team members begin to cooperate and are engaged in the whole process, the easier it is to shape the strategy.
#3 Translating business into tech
And now, perhaps you’re trying, but the early engagement is a bit difficult. In this situation, problems arise when business is translated into tech strategy. This is because the train of thought and the order of activities vary between managers and developers.
Executive officers tend to be more visionary and plan more, whereas IT guys are pragmatic but don’t always see the big picture or look within the strategy.
IT teams should also be engaged in the IT project and ask questions. Many questions. By doing this, they can rest assured that they are going in the right direction and delivering a desirable product.
#4 Thinking interdependently
Experts say that the success of aligning IT projects and business strategies lies in interdependence. These are companies where each team and department support each other to work efficiently.
Inspirations may flow from different parts of your company. Everybody’s experience is valuable in projecting and teamwork. No matter if it’s a business idea or an IT trend – it’s always worth hearing and analyzing. As a person whose responsibility is to lead an IT team, try to encourage your people to share thoughts during the first phase of a project.
Here’s a great comparison of the two worlds – business and IT:
#5 Let each person have a strategic role
Don’t let the situations described above happen where the business and IT don’t understand each other and get lost. Executives should learn to communicate and work on projects with IT guys. When everyone is motivated towards reaching the same goal – the atmosphere is perfect for achieving strategic goals.
Remember to describe every member of your team their specific role and influence on a project. Show them where their place is in your common vision and what their contribution and delivery means to you and the company.
Don’t be focused just on business goals but go farther than that. Focus on cultural, moral and global aspects and/or benefits. Such awareness will help everyone to focus on the overall meaning of their current project. Neglecting a business case is one of the IT management mistakes that will make it harder for your team to achieve goals.
Be clear about your business goals and their description. It’ll be easier to align IT projects with a business strategy that way when trying to improve rates and achieve success.
Remember that having a purpose and a vision leads to efficient and more detailed work. Think of aligning as a journey, not a struggle and treat your companions right.
This article is a part of Handbook:Leading a Software Development Team: Guidebook for CTOs and Team Leaders
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