aligning the IT mystery

To many of us Information Technology continues to be a mystery. I guess that in the meantime most of the big C's have found a way to deal with their laptop to the extent where they could, if they really wanted to, type up a letter. Some of them may even be able to read their email. Yes, there are visionairy C's that can dream up possibilities for their company to exploit IT, but for now I will take it from the pessimistic view. IT is a very expensive way to reduce cost, or to push production without hiring more staff, or it is just something every one has, so why not us. What if it turns out to not perform as expected. You start and hire a management consultant. You probably figured out the expert to best originate from the school for strategy managers, change managers, quality managers or even be an expert in all those area's. Maybe the one that you will hire will give you the alignment story.

I am not so interested in repeating a story that has been told a thousand times already, so I did a little research on the internet. After querying on "IT Alignment"+change I got to read quite a list of articles. Articles on alignment seem to be popular in magazines that aim at being read by the CEO and CIO. Hence the big C's I mentioned before. I found two lines of thought in those articles. The by far dominant one came from the experts that I guess used to be bookkeepers. In their eyes IT Alignment comes down to making the IT department adhere to the same rules that are applied to the whole company: reduce cost and produce more. One writer was a bit smarter and actually figured out that a better formula is to improve the effect/effort factor. The idea is simple: if you make the IT department follow the same -economic- rule as applied to the rest of them, then IT is aligned. An other writer apparently went to school with the change managers. His idea was that aligning IT means that changes are going to take effect, and that therefore the problem should be viewed as a problem of change and how to best manage that.

We are talking November 2004. I need to state this because before we know it something else is popular. The capacity to quickly change is a key to the future, and this also applies to these magazines. What will not change is the need to change. And working in the industry I fear that IT is perceived as a complicating factor. Suddenly IT no longer is an enabler. It looks as if IT penetration is so wide that it now is on the critical path to change.

If your company's mission is to generate an ever increasing amount of profit, you need not read any further. My IT solution for you is simple: buy an accounting package. That's all you need. If you think that making a profit is a second order effect or a consequence of something else then stay with me, read, and let me have your feedback.

Theo van Eijndhoven, 2004