Do you think of IT as an expense to be managed, or as a way to achieve company goals? If the former, it’s time to adjust your thinking.
You may be familiar with the concept of strategic alignment, which means that all elements of an organization are arranged optimally to achieve company goals. Similarly, technology alignment means that your organization is actively using IT to achieve measurable company objectives like improved finances or competitiveness in the market – rather than upgrading IT only when you have no other choice.
The opposite of technology alignment is a situation in which a company has expensive IT solutions that not only don’t move the company forward, but actually hinder the company from reaching its goals. In its simplest form, this could be computers that constantly freeze up, or a network that’s down too often. But it can also include things like an organization buying a solution that’s too complicated and time-consuming for what its needs actually are.
Barriers to technology alignment:
What gets in the way of technology alignment? There are a variety of factors, internal and external. Here are some of the most common:
Failure to understand the technology. All too often, decisions are made with little true understanding of how the technology works. In that scenario, it can almost be impossible to come away with the best solution — you risk buying a solution that is too complex for your needs, or one you’ll quickly outgrow or in some other way is inadequate.
Budget. Sometimes companies fail to invest adequately in technology, either because they can’t afford it or don’t recognize the value of it. Other times, leadership feels that the company has invested so much in an old system that they’re reluctant to abandon it for something new.
Failure to include IT as part of strategic planning. As an organization’s strategic plan evolves, its technology needs change too. If those who are responsible for technology aren’t included in discussions about the company’s overall strategic direction, they will be unable to plan and adapt accordingly. It’s not fair to expect your IT department to have the right solution for the company if they don’t fully understand where the company is going.
Rapid evolution of technology. Technology changes fast, and it can be hard for organizations to keep up — especially for smaller businesses that don’t have a dedicated IT department or professional in-house. A related problem is that some businesses can be reluctant to invest in new technology for fear that it will quickly become outdated, won’t work, or will be incompatible with current systems.
The human factor. Value comes from the way IT is used in the business. So to realize the maximum benefit, it’s also important that everyone in the business uses available IT tools to their full potential. This may require an alteration in the way work is done, which means complete cooperation and buy-in from employees is necessary. Overcoming push back from employees and getting them to fully utilize a new technology is sometimes much more challenging than simply implementing it.
How to achieve technology alignment
Again, your company’s overall strategy should drive the IT strategic plans – sometimes business/technology alignment is even called “convergence,” indicating how closely the two should relate. Here are some steps you can take toward achieving technology alignment.
Involve IT in strategic planning. If your company has a Chief Information Officer or IT department, they should be involved in strategic planning – both to provide input relating to IT trends and future needs, and to be able to adapt the company’s IT plans as the company’s strategy changes.
Make sure that communication is clear. All too often company leadership and the IT department don’t understand each others’ needs and/or proposed solutions. The CIO can help by framing technology in terms of how it will solve problems or enable growth – that is, how it will help the organization meet its goals — rather than IT-centric terms.
Assess your current technology alignment, and re-assess regularly. Technology alignment should regularly be assessed and deficient areas identified, so that the company strategy can include a path to improvement.
Take the human factor into account. If an organizational change is required in order to realize the maximum benefit from a new technology, you will have to get buy-in and cooperation from your employees. Anticipate and think through this challenge, and create a formal training plan to help your employees get the most out of it as you implement the new technology.
Get expert advice. If your business isn’t large enough to have a CIO or dedicated IT department, you may be unsure what the future holds for IT and how you might need to prepare. Be sure your vendor is prepared to provide expert guidance in this area.
DQE Communications partners with organizations of all sizes to help ensure the greatest possible business/technology alignment that suites your organizations’ need now, and has the ability to grow with you in the future. Contact us today to start customizing your strategic network plans!