Can the Alignment Gap Be Spanned?

You can’t make any sensible business plans until you know the strategy. But leadership is not always up to the challenge of defining and communicating strategy. If leaders were, we wouldn’t still be discussing how to align strategy, process and technology. The goal of this special issue is to present and analyze the state of the art in aligning business and technology strategy. The results are mixed. Our research shows that many companies still have a long way to go, while some experts believe alignment may be the wrong goal in the first place.

We have organized the issue into three parts, each of which includes pertinent research, a case study and the view of an expert in the field:

STRATEGY. Our research suggests that an alarming number of companies don’t have a corporate strategy, don’t communicate it clearly to employees, and don’t clearly link their technology efforts to what strategy they have. Insurer Safeco Corp. is trying to solve that problem by folding the jobs of CIO and chief strategist into one position. And Gartner Inc.’s Marianne Broadbent believes that true strategy means creating an organization that is synchronized to market information.

MANAGEMENT. Judging by our research, organizations need to be better at getting everyone headed toward the same goal. Expert Jim Collins sees it as a people problem: Find the right people, and alignment will come naturally. For Kraft Foods North America, that person is Steve Finnerty, who insists that his organization helps educate the business side in what technology can contribute to strategy.

PRACTICES. Few companies assign people to help guide the relationship between IT and each business unit. These so-called “relationship managers” appear to be working for healthcare provider HCA Inc., yet Professor Jerry Luftman remains wary of them; he believes they can contribute to the “us-versus-them” mentality in many IT departments.

We would like to thank the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative and its president, David P. Norton, for their involvement in this issue. Together we will present the “Strategic Alignment Summit 2002” in September as part of our ongoing commitment to provide the best insight to be had on aligning technology with strategy.

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