Leading Alignment

Last March, this magazine held an Alignment Summit in New York City to discuss and analyze, from a variety of angles, the causes and cures for the age-old gap at too many companies between business strategy and IT.

The usual suspects were lined up and examined: poorly communicated strategy, poorly designed IT financing and compensation procedures, poorly planned enterprise architectures. All in all, a rewarding day.

At the same time, however, the magazine’s editors and writers, embedded strategically in the audience of CIOs and other IT executives, noticed a distinct undercurrent that something was missing from the discussion. Repeatedly, we heard it expressed that what really mattered was “the people” and “culture.”

During the networking hour following the event, we took an informal poll of the attendees as to the relative importance of culture in the effort to align IT with the business. The results were conclusive: Virtually everyone ranked “people and culture” high on the list of issues affecting alignment.

That poll was the genesis of CIO Insight’s third annual special issue on IT alignment, which we’re calling “Culture Clash.” Our goal here: to analyze the relationship between alignment and corporate culture and to investigate how companies create successful cultures of alignment.

To that end, the issue includes three case studies, each of which looks at how an IT department is helping change its company’s culture in response to a particular business strategy.

Tyco International Ltd.’s new corporate-level CIO, Dana Deasy, is working to transform the $38 billion company from a holding company, forged from literally hundreds of acquisitions over the past decade, into an operating company capable of taking advantage of its global scale to increase revenue and pay down debt.

Similarly, MetLife Inc. is pushing to overcome opposition to the creation of a single customer file for its millions of customers in hopes of transforming its culture from a collection of mom-and-pop insurance agencies into a modern, data-driven financial services organization.

Finally, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the winner of last year’s CIO Insight Partners in Alignment Award, is on the verge of using its smooth-running culture of acquisition to capture its biggest prize ever: Caesars Entertainment Inc.

The issue also includes two Expert Voices. The first is with management guru John Kotter, whose work has helped define the critical link between leadership and corporate culture.

The second is with Marianne Broadbent and Ellen Kitzis, co-authors of The New CIO Leader (to be published in December), an analysis of what’s required of CIOs if they hope to participate fully at the top levels of their organization’s strategic planning process, rather than being relegated to the status of “glorified plumbers.”

And as always, the issue contains in-depth research, based on surveys of more than 1,100 IT and business executives, that investigates the current state of IT alignment and how and why a company’s effort to become aligned is so fundamentally affected by its overarching culture.

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