Aligning IS and Business Strategy

As will be a tradition this week, I present an introductory rant about the topic at hand, and since today is Tuesday it’s IT Strategy day it’s time to talk about strategy.Â

It’s a given that IT strategy ‘must align with business strategy’.  Yet it is quite difficult to get this right – not least because it is hard to align an IT strategy with a business strategy when there isn’t a business strategy.  There is another article on this site (‘Getting IT Right!‘) that talked about those things that need to be done to ‘Get IT Right!’.  There was a follow-up presentation to that, which I will post in due course, that used the COBIT framework to identify 20 core business goals, prioritise those goals, the best  accounting tools for business and then map those goals to fundamental IT activities – which of course should provide direction to IT strategy that is aligned with the business.

These business goals, as outlined by COBIT, are:

Financial Perspective
1. Expand market share
2. Increase revenue
3. Return on investment
4. Optimise asset utilisation
5. Manage business risks
Customer Perspective
6. Improve customer orientation and service
7. Offer competitive products and services
8. Service availability
9. Agility in responding to changing business requirements (time to market)
10. Cost optimisation of service delivery
Internal Perspective
11. Automate & integrate the enterprise value chain
12. Improve & maintain business process functionality
13. Lower process costs
14. Compliance with external laws/regulations
15. Transparency
16. Compliance with internal policies
17. Improve & maintain operational & staff productivity
Learning and Growth
18. Product/business innovation
19. Obtain reliable and useful information for strategic decision making
20. Acquire and maintain skilled and motivated personnel

COBIT is a very useful approach to use in IT consulting, and although it was originally developed as an IT Audit tool, it makes a lot of sense to adapt COBIT to a ‘doing’ framework as opposed to an ‘assurance’ framework.  BDO Kendalls uses COBIT as its framework in all consulting services to our SME clients, and it is a very valuable tool for that purpose.Â

Those in the know will recognise these business goals as driven by a balanced scorecard philosophy.  Using COBIT, it is possible to rank these goals, and then identify the IT activities and focus that align with the business goals.  I will be posting more around this approach in this area of strategy, but essentially if a business cannot identify its business strategy in a cohesive form – which, alas and alack, is often the realpolitik IS professionals must deal with – a process to rank these business goals can be very useful in identifying what IT activities are needed to align IT with the business.

Next week:  how to go about ranking the business goals.Â

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