Bob Evans, senior VP and director of InformationWeek’s Global CIO unit, recently published his thoughts and findings on why CIOs should no longer be focusing on aligning IT with business, but instead focusing on aligning with the customer. In this piece, Bob goes onto illustrate how some businesses have done some innovative things to increase revenues and drive brand with the help of their IT staff. The overall piece focuses on negative CIO stereotypes and goes so far as to indicate that attempting to align IT and the business is a red-herring that is not seen as strategic by the business and is unattainable.
To this, I say “Hooey!” IT/Business alignment can be as much as bunch of malarkey as it can be a powerful transformative force within the business. How successful an alignment effort is will be based on how well supported it is by the other executive managers. This piece just fosters more of that grotesque American desire for immediate gratification that has gotten us into the economic calamity we’re now in. It mirrors that borrow-and-consume mentality over save and spend conservatively.
Good IT/Business alignment is an INVESTMENT in the businesses future. However, with CEO’s only focused on their next quarter’s report to shareholders and how much they’re walking away with in bonuses, it’s no wonder that they would have no grasp or desire to spend on what might be (and should be) considered a long-term investment strategy. The software and systems that support the business need care and maintenance. If you create one of those newfangled, throw-it-up-in-a-week systems and your customers love it, you will need the appropriate design and infrastructure to scale it and keep it running. If you fail in this, your customers will sting you quickly and painfully, because they too are hooked on that immediate gratification buzz and have no stomach for your temperamental application that is limited by the 10 year old legacy application that is feeding it.
If your business is truly focused on its customers and interested in long-term strategies and quality, then you will select a CIO that has forethought into what customers need, but will ensure that the applications and infrastructure necessary to support those customers are there and have the proper levels of investments.
I would be remiss if I did not note that the businesses attitude toward IT from the start and awful selections for CIOs is a leading cause for negative CIO stereotypes and not their failed approaches to align IT with the business. A good CIO is actually a person that has good business subject matter expertise and a solid grasp of technologies and how to apply them to meet the needs of the business. Years of selecting the head of accounting is still plaguing the industry and will continue to until the business learns that the CIO needs to be more IT Consultant than a CFO.