Monday, March 8, 2010

The IT Business Gap

Probably the most common phrase heard nowadays is “IT / Business Alignment”. There is also a great deal of information, techniques, methodologies and consultants (myself included) that offer ways and means of making such alignment possible. However, how does one go about it at a basic high level?
One model that comes to mind (and there are various models that exist) is the IT-Business Alignment Cycle which basically consists of 4 stages:

  • Plan: The requisite first step in any model, the planning of what IT must provide to the business must be performed first. This involves understanding Business’s needs and the plan for designing and delivering IT solutions that satisfy these needs. A high level of communication should be formulated and maintained between Business and IT for this to be successful on an ongoing basis. The ITIL processes within the domain of Service Strategy are effective in meeting the needs of the planning stage.

  • Model: This involves the execution of the Plan conceived earlier to the extent that the required IT services are designed and released to the Business’s live environment successfully. The ability to track CI’s via a well defined Configuration Management is crucial. Moreover, the ability to provide for the IT service’s Availability, Capacity, Security and Continuity should also be handled utilizing the corresponding processes.

  • Manage: This involves the successful operation of the IT service being provided to the Business on a day-to-day basis. For this to be successfully accomplished, the IT department must have effective Incident and Problem Management processes in place with a capable Help Desk function in place at the minimum. Effective Change and Release Management processes are also very important. The ability to track and monitor promised service levels is also a necessity in this stage.

  • Measure: If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. This stage actually applies all across the organization and incorporates itself with the previous three stages. The basic premise here is to verify via metrics that the promised services were delivered and managed successfully. This can and should incorporate measuring at levels that are not visible to business at the component level. Measuring IT performance at a functional silo level is also beneficial in order to measure and improve IT functional capability. Continual improvements are a key goal of accumulating and analyzing the metrics in any organization.

A constant iteration of these stages should provide a basic framework for keeping IT and Business successfully aligned. Of course far more information is available on this topic and the reader is encouraged to springboard off of this post and delve deeper into this extremely crucial and significant topic.

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