Aligning Technology and Small Business
Business and technology alignment. Big businesses talk about it all the time. Now, here are some key lessons in alignment — or misalignment — that apply to big business CIOs and small business consultants alike.
Wikipedia states “…alignment can be defined as a state where technology supports, enables, and does not constrain the company’s current and evolving business strategies. It means that the IT function is in tune with the business thinking about competition, emerging threats and opportunities, and the business technology implications of each.” Therefore, for your business to achieve alignment means that your technology budgets must be spent to promote your overall business strategy.
Historically, the IT department has been isolated from business planning. Too often, technology budgets are spent on new hardware or on perceived solutions to problems. But without the “big picture” understanding of long-term corporate goals, the IT department was unable to develop real lasting solutions to address not just the problems of today but the real business needs of tomorrow.
The Language Barrier
But how do tech nerds talk to executive suits, and vice versa? How does a business owner communicate effectively with someone who speaks in tech-babble?
Well, the corporate giants solved this problem by inventing the position of the CIO. He or she has to constantly translate between Business-Speak and Tech-Babble.
A good CIO should learn and understand every facet of the business. He needs to know how orders are entered into the computer system and how they are fulfilled. He needs to anticipate the likely points of failure. He needs to know the daily flow of work in order to properly perform his job. But, most are just glorified computer techs that don’t mind wearing suits.
Most CIOs solve every problem by throwing buckets of company money at every perceived problem. But the perceived problem may have deeper roots. Without a complete examination of the company and the day-to-day operations of the business, there is no way of knowing the full extent of any problem. So, while the CIO is happily throwing money at a superficial problem, the deep rooted cause of the problem remains unresolved. Then, after all the money is spent and the “solution” is implemented, the problems don’t go away, they simply change symptoms.
Isolating the Root Cause
A real CIO does not just treat the symptoms but researches every level of the company and finds the real cause of the problem. Once the problem is identified, then an appropriate solution can be designed that will cure the real problem. That is business / technology alignment. It’s using computers and other information technology tools to resolve your real business problems and, at the same time, giving you the tools you need to run your business properly.
I realize that most small businesses can’t hire a full time CIO. In these cases, you might call him The Computer Guy, or your Business Technology Consultant (dare I say, “The VAR Guy”?).
Your Business Technology Consultant should be able to help you achieve alignment, but first she must take the time to understand your business and how you work. Alignment is about giving you the answers and information you need to make the right decisions to guide your company into the future. You set the strategy and your CIO or VAR decides the tactics. Alignment is all about teamwork and communication between you and your computer guy.
Contributing Blogger Louis Rosas-Guyon is a business technology expert with R-Squared Computing, Inc. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of The VAR Guy.