Business and IT Alignment

A common theme in any IT Service Management framework is to enable and demonstrate business and IT alignment. When staff members of an IT organization have only an internal focus on the technology being delivered and supported, they lose sight of the actual purpose and benefit that their efforts deliver to the business and customers. A way in which to communicate how IT supports the business is using the figure below demonstrating business and IT alignment.

It divides an organization into a number of supporting layers that work towards meeting a number of organizational goals. These layers are communicated by the following:

Organization: What are the key strategic goals and objectives for the organization? These objectives define who we are as an organization and where we want to be in the future.

CORE Business Processes: These are represented by the repeatable business activities that produce desirable results for the business. Without these results, the organizational objectives defined above would not be supported or achieved.

IT Service Organization: Defines the IT Services and supporting infrastructure that is required to enable the effective and efficient execution of the business processes above. IT Services are used by the business to facilitate and enhance outcomes, including improved efficiency of operations or ensuring accuracy in the records and information being managed.

IT Service Management: Made up by the repeatable, managed and controlled processes used by the IT department that enables quality and efficiency in the delivery and support of the IT Services above.

IT Technical Activities: The actual technical activities required as part of the execution of the ITSM processes above. ITSM is utilized to ensure that any resources and effort spent performing the technical activities are optimized according to the greatest business need or reward.

Each layer within this structure is utilized to support the layer(s) above. At the same time, each layer will in some way influence the layer below them. For example, a business process that is required to be executed at all times without disruptions (e.g. emergency health services) would result in  highly resilient IT services being implemented, supported by ITSM processes that reduce the risk and impact of disruptions occurring.

Our Business: A fashion store

Figure 1.B – Business and IT Alignment What are some of our organization’s objectives or strategic goals?

  • We want to increase profits by 15% each year
  • We want to have a good image and reputation, with a loyal customer base.

What Business Processes aid in achieving those objectives?

  • Retail/sales
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Procurement, HR, finance etc.

What IT Services are these business processes dependent on?

  • Web sites (internal and external)
  • Communication services (email, video conferencing)
  • Automatic procurement system for buying products
  • Point of Sale Services.

We have ITSM in order to make sure the IT Services are:

  • What we need (Service Level Management, Capacity Management etc.)
  • Available when we need it (Availability Management, Incident Management etc.)
  • Provisioned cost-effectively (Financial Management, Service Level Management)

If we don’t manage the IT Services appropriately we cannot rely on these services to be

available when we need. If too many disruptions occur, we cannot adequately support our business processes effectively and efficiently. If the business processes are operating as they should, we will ultimately fail to support and achieve our overall organization’s objectives!

Also note the relationship between IT Service Management processes and the technical activities below. Used properly, ITSM processes can optimize the time, effort and other resources spent performing technical activities, ensuring that all staff actions are working in accordance to agreed business priorities and objectives.

This is just a simple example used to illustrate the relationship between ITSM and the organization. Any approach used to improve ITSM practices should always be carefully considered to ensure that the plans suit the organization, in terms of:

  • Size (number of staff, customers, IT devices etc.)
  • Geographical dispersion
  • Culture and ethos
  • Current maturity and capability levels.

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