Bad Idea

How NOT to Align IT With The Business

Bad IdeaThe trade press and industry analysts are often quick to point out that IT organizations need to align the IT function with the company’s business units.  It would be difficult to find someone to argue against that advice.  However, the mantra of aligning IT with business is vague, and as a result it’s often hard to identify exactly what that means and what steps IT organizations should take to achieve that goal.  In this blog I won’t tackle the overarching question of how IT organizations can better align themselves with their company’s business units.  I will use this blog, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, to discuss what IT organizations can do to ensure that they don’t align the IT function with the company’s business units.

Over the last decade or so, an extremely wide variety of business processes have been automated and are now supported by multiple applications, which are accessed and run on a large and growing number of devices, which are in turn connected by a variety of types of networks.  When I look at that automation, I draw what I believe to be an obvious conclusion: if the applications and networks that support an organization’s business processes are not running well, neither are those business processes.

The problem with obvious conclusions or conventional wisdom is that sometimes they are wrong.  As part of a survey I administered earlier this year to a couple of hundred IT professionals, I decided to test my conclusion about the impact of poor performance on business processes.   In one of the questions on the survey, the survey respondents were given a set of outcomes that could result from poor application performance.  They were asked to indicate the types of impact that typically occur if one or more of their company’s business critical applications are performing badly, and they were allowed to indicate multiple impacts.

The most common outcome, which was mentioned by almost two thirds of the survey respondents, was that their company loses revenue.  Just under half of the respondents indicated that when one or more of their company’s business critical applications are performing badly, their company loses customers.  It would be difficult to think of how the IT organization could inflict more harm to their company’s business than by causing the business to lose revenues and customers.  Hence, my tongue-in-cheek advice is that if you want to make sure that you don’t align your IT organization with your company’s business units, then you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on ensuring acceptable performance for your company’s business-critical applications.

Of course, no sane IT organization would take that advice.  The challenge is that ensuring acceptable application performance has never been easy, and the growing adoption of mobility, virtualization, and cloud computing is making it notably more difficult.  On top of that, ensuring acceptable application performance involves multiple tasks, including taking performance into account when developing applications, adopting effective network and application performance management, and implementing network and application optimization.

In the end, my honest, non-tongue-in-cheek advice is for IT organizations to increase the emphasis that they place on ensuring acceptable application performance.  In addition, similar to the advice I gave in my previous entry on the evolution of the WAN, in order to better ensure acceptable application performance, IT organizations need to develop a plan and that plan has to cut across the various organizational domains that comprise the typical IT organization.

Image credit: sergieiev (123RF Stock Photo)

About the author
Jim Metzler

Jim has a broad background in the IT industry. This includes serving as a software engineer, an engineering manager for high-speed data services for a major network service provider, a product manager for network hardware, a network manager at two Fortune 500 companies, and the principal of a consulting organization. In addition, Jim has created software tools for designing customer networks for a major network service provider and directed and performed market research at a major industry analyst firm. Jim’s current interests include both cloud networking and application and service delivery. Jim has a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Boston University.