CIO Summit 2012: Getting past IT-business alignment

It’s no longer just about aligning with the business, it’s about merging with it, says Rob Livingstone.

It’s time for CIOs to move on from an IT-business alignment mentality and start merging with the business, Rob Livingstone, fellow at University of Technology, Sydney, said at the CIO Summit 2012 in Sydney.

“The key thing that CIOs and their teams should be focusing on in getting past the IT-business alignment metaphor is to merge more with the business, which means they really need to be thinking as a businessperson. And I use the word business not just for profit-making but it can be for non-for-profit, so it’s the organisation context. It’s important that they see themselves as part of the organisation,” he said.

Not only does IT need to change how it views itself within the organisation, Livingstone said, but “also the business needs to change how they treat IT”. He said executives need to not treat enterprise IT “essentially like adolescents” and allow IT to make the transition into providing more of a business strategic role within the organisation.

“The organisation needs to see the big asset that it is sitting on in its own organisation and not be rather dismissive of what IT can and can’t do.”

In order to merge more with the business, Livingstone said IT needs to engage in the activities of other departments/divisions to gain a better understanding of their business needs.

“One of the things they should be doing is maybe having a number of the key staff actually spend a day with a sales person in the field or spend a day in the warehouse in the manufacturing centre, for example, to try and get an understanding of some of the reality of what’s happening [in the organisation].

“Rather than seeing it through the lens of IT into the business, see it from the business lens into IT. That is sometimes a very powerful way of not having to spend hours explaining what the business wants when people can experience it first-hand, and also understand where they fit into that ecosystem and where they can make a contribution.”

CIOs also need to be having more open conversations with their executives if they are to have more influence and make the transition into becoming more strategic rather than functional, Livingstone said.

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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