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Aligning Business with Information Technology

Aligning Business with Information Technology
 Technology with Integrity

By Vineet Nanda, Torian Group, Inc.


Businesses today are greatly influenced by technical advancements. There is a direct relation between business and information technology. I call this relation - ‘Biztech’.  Information systems can be and often are central to business strategy. IT has traditionally provided a competitive advantage to businesses. Now businesses can fully leverage this advantage. Most organizations face thousands of problems and opportunities for improvement every day.  IT has proved as a lifeline to businesses, particularly in and environment of intense completion. This is a required asset, which a business cannot ignore.

Now, the question arises: what should be done to improve business/IT alignment? The answer to this question lies in daily business operations. Here are some guidelines to help you get the most from IT in your business:

1.      Have a Strategy. An organization must develop a strategy for using information technology to define how it will support the organization’s objectives

2.      Make sure it is aligned.  Information Technology plans and strategy must align with organization’s plans and strategy.

3.      Top managers must focus on meeting organization’s needs when deciding what projects to undertake, when to undertake them, and to what level. In a small business, this usually means it is up to you.

4.      Projects that address broad organizational needs are more likely to be successful. A broad organizational need might be to improve customer service, provide better communication, enhance sales, improve security or provide all employees with the hardware and software they need to access information.

5.      Determine the need, funding, and will to carry out a project. Begin with the end in mind, and then explore alternatives. Don’t adopt technology, and then figure out how to make it useful.

6.      Some projects can be completed very quickly. Where appropriate, empower staff to take action where they see a need. Have an end user support system to handle small projects.

7.       Even though many information technology projects can be completed quickly, it is still important to prioritize them. Focus on high priority projects first, even if a low or medium priority project could be finished in less time.

8.      Financial consideration is an important aspect of project selection. Three primary methods for determining the projected financial value of projects include: net present value analysis, return on investment, and payback analysis. Spreadsheets, such as Excel, can be used to compute these important values. Look at the cost of not implementing a solution as well.

9.      Time is also an important factor. Who is available to manage the project and do the work? What could they be doing instead?

10.   Build in systems that help you regularly review your priorities and strategies. Some of our clients have an annual retreat, where partners take a day just to think about where they have been and where they want go as a company.

11. When you make a change to your business process, be prepared for the human side of change – Explain to those affected how it will benefit them (not just the company), and enlist their help. Make sure there is adequate training, and that there are mechanisms in place to address the inevitable problems that will come up. 

It is important for Information Systems leadership and business managers to cooperate in making basic decisions about the two elements of IT: the physical infrastructure (hardware and networks) and the application software. In both these areas difficult technological trade-offs must be considered and key decisions must be made.

Cooperative efforts between an IT consultant and a business manager have often proven useful in clarifying how information technology is to be best used. It is the responsibility of an IT company to help business managers become comfortable with information technologies and knowledgeable about their effective use.  They can help managers make better decisions.

An IT contractor should know and care about the business as much as the client executives do. Some of the factors in selecting an IT consultant are:

·        Technical and Business Skill, which includes understanding both technology standards and the way the business operates.

·        Quality of service, which includes all of the activities related to satisfying the relevant quality standards for a business IT project.

·        Flexible pricing, or in other words,  cost effectiveness. As the business expands, costs can escalate.

A successful IT project meets business goals thru careful planning and well managed execution. Utilizing modern technology and methods makes even a small business owner able to compete using the same tools and strategies as large corporations.

Vineet Nanda has a Masters degree in Information Systems, is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, and Sun Certified Java Programmer. She works as a developer and trainer for Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, and custom software development. They can be reached at (559) 733-1940 or on the web at http://www.toriangroup.com


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