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Stop 'Aligning IT With The Business'; Connect With Customers

You've heard "align IT with the business" millions of times and wondered, 'Wait a minute -- aren't we already a *part* of the business?' That old alignment path leads to being reactive and tactical and branded as a cost center, whereas the customer connection points to business value, strategic value, and growth. I make my case for the new road in this week's Global CIO column.
You've heard "align IT with the business" millions of times and wondered, 'Wait a minute -- aren't we already a *part* of the business?' That old alignment path leads to being reactive and tactical and branded as a cost center, whereas the customer connection points to business value, strategic value, and growth. I make my case for the new road in this week's Global CIO column.In the past, when industries were predictable and methodical, and customers had a limited set of choices and were resistant to change, and when global supply chains and competition were unheard of, and before the Web gave customers a huge array of easy alternatives, businesses could reflect that static model and go along year after year without anything changing too much. In such an environment, IT leaders and systems could get by with providing periodic snapshots of that steady-state world, and accordingly those IT leaders and systems were internally focused.

But those days are gone, and they're not coming back. Business today is driven by rapidly changing customer needs and demands, dynamic global supply networks, highly collaborative supply/demand interactions, and an unprecedented level of customer engagement. Consumers want unique and customized experiences rather than mass-produced stuff, and global markets are attracting new competitors, large and small, from every corner of the world. On top of that, the pace and intensity of those trends are increasing, and will continue to do so.

In such an environment, IT systems that are internally focused, and whose priority is to reflect the status quo rather than understand the unfolding state of where business is headed, simply will not suffice. And so the marching orders of "align IT with the business" need to be relegated to the storage bin with such concepts as MIS, batch processing, IS, punch cards, and command-and-control. In this week's Global CIO column, I explain why CIOs who stick with the old alignment theory are branding themselves and their teams as tactical cost centers.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer