The hard truth about business-IT alignment (CIO)

IT, CIOs are frequently advised, needs to be aligned with the business, and alignment, we’re told, is mostly a matter of effective IT governance.

Alignment is better than misalignment, I suppose, but in the end it’s weak tea. Add overreliance on IT governance as the means for achieving it and you turn IT into a stifling, choking bureaucracy, not a more effective organization.

What’s the superior alternative? Focusing your efforts on integrating IT into the business, not just aligning IT with it. That’s integration, as in taking all the steps necessary for IT to be, and to be perceived as being, integral to every aspect of the enterprise.

That’s the subject of this first article in a series I’ll be rolling out over the next few months called “Building effective IT 101.”

Alignment is no longer enough

The term “digital” has been used and abused enough over the past few years to make a person cynical, but it does have a few shreds of meaning left. “Digital” becomes more than just a management buzzword when executives recognize a tectonic shift in the business world that snuck up on most: that there is no work of any kind that gets done without the use of information technology anymore.


Information technology is no longer a case-by-case choice requiring a careful cost/benefit analysis for each implementation. Nothing your business does happens without it. That’s the essence of digital-ness, which is one reason IT/business “alignment” is such a limp CIO goal.

Business applications are built into the organization’s business processes. Often that’s saying it backward: The organization’s business processes are designed around its business applications.

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1 June 2021

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