A Hard Look at IT-Business Alignment: Why the Challenge Persists
By Jeff Welsh, President - STAR BASE Consulting

IT professionals and their colleagues across the business have consistently recognized the value of aligning strategies—and have just as consistently failed to achieve it. Of course, this isn't news. It's a standard topic of debate at technology conferences of the past decade. However, we wondered if the right questions were really being asked? Why is it that both sides have so much to gain from better alignment and easier collaboration, yet continue to fall short of the mark?

Evidence shows that most companies have significant work to do before they reach the point where IT and business strategies, goals and priorities are soundly aligned. While strides have undeniably been made to improve IT-business alignment, a sizeable chasm remains. The divisions that have traditionally kept IT distanced from other business departments―such as accounting or HR―are still firmly in place.

To better understand this phenomenon, STAR BASE Consulting surveyed a range of IT leaders on the issue. The response was remarkable: In addition to a 400% increase in response rate over the survey we conducted in 2009, this year's survey saw equitable participation between business and IT professionals.

The response rate was matched in vigor by the survey participants' answers. For example, every single respondent felt that IT-business alignment had some degree of impact on their company. This finding suggests that business-IT alignment is universally considered critical to the success of technology-enabled solutions.

Also telling among the findings was a consistent theme of distrust. Survey respondents often referred to a lack of information sharing that not only challenges organizations in the quest for IT-business alignment, but slows and derails projects altogether. Respondents also indicated issues related to communication, both sides indicating that they felt key information was being withheld by their business or technology colleagues.

The survey also found a split opinion of where business analysts should report. Fifty-two percent of respondents said business analysts report into the business side of the house, with the remaining 48% saying IT is in charge. Budget numbers line up very similarly. A slightly larger 54% of respondents say that business analysts are the budgetary responsibility of the business group(s) while a smaller 46% place it under the IT organization's budget.

As ambassadors of information and ideas, and vital experts into technology and business needs and challenges, business analysts often hold the key to true IT-business integration. Better agreement on reporting structure may be one of the first places businesses can look to begin resolving this longstanding issue. These are just a few of the insights produced by the survey that, when viewed as a whole, illuminate why IT-business alignment and its benefits remain so stubbornly elusive to so many organizations.

To download your copy of the full survey report, click here.




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