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Aligning Business & IT Manager’s Checklist

19 Feb, 2010 By: Laurel B. Sanders imageSource

Aligning Business & IT Manager’s Checklist

Visualize holding a primary-colored ball with shapes punched through the
sides and same-shaped pieces meant to push through them. Do you recall as a
child, repeatedly trying to push pieces through one of these mismatched puzzles?
The challenge created frustration until you learned that shapes must match and
the pieces must be properly aligned in order to work. 

One of our earliest practical realizations is that you can’t force a square
piece into a round hole of the same size, no matter how hard you try.

Why alignment matters

Alignment is extremely challenging for business and IT, and it’s on numerous
“top issues” lists for 2010.  Why?  IT strategies are increasingly essential to
business performance.  It’s not easy; business & IT units typically work
autonomously toward self-set goals & measure performance by independent
metrics.  Yet failure to align leads to frustrating projects, underperforming
solutions, and even project abandonment.

As a dealer, reseller, or solution provider, you can help by ensuring your
customers’ business and IT goals are aligned.  Whether you’re installing
scanners and fax machines, configuring MFPs to capture mail into a document
management system, or automating routine processes, failure isn’t usually due to
defective hardware, software, or ignorance.  It happens because IT & business
aren’t in sync.

Most common reasons solutions fail

Nearly every IT project failure comes back to poor or insufficient
communication, but there are several alignment challenges to watch out for:

1. Inadequate face time.  Although written communications are critical,
schedule adequate face time between IT and business teams during each planning
and review cycle and as problems surface.

2. Lack of proper discovery. Inadequate discovery of project needs up front
leads to poor decisions down the road regarding technology and processes.

3. Bad project specifications.  Those who write specifications sometimes
mistakenly presume knowledge and omit steps.  When specs reach IT, instructions
may be misinterpreted, resulting in poor technical decisions for which IT isn’t
responsible, since their job is to follow specifications.

4. Inadequate or flawed testing.  Testing often gets short shrift due to a
lack of financial resources.  Thorough testing is far more cost-effective than
IT redesigning a solution and losing credibility due to insufficient testing.

5. Lack of managerial flexibility regarding timelines.  Never force IT to
make a project to go live because of a deadline if the project’s not ready.  It
leads to mistakes, poor performance, & bad morale.

6. Lack of change management. 

New solutions shouldn’t be forced on staff. Regular communication between
teams helps everyone feel included and eases adoption.

Business Manager’s Checklist

  • Establish a clear, unified vision.  Get input from diverse staff from
    all business areas as well as IT.  Unearth common needs.  Make sure your
    technology strategy, infrastructure, vendor, and IT staff can address them. 
  • Plan solutions enterprise-wide, but implement departmentally.  Consider
    how technology & information can be shared and leveraged.  Your decisions
    will serve your enterprise better in the long term.
  • Understand that unless your funding and human resources are endless, IT
    has limits.  Create two lists:  what must be rolled out, and what can be
    added later.  Revisit the list regularly with IT.
  • Explain your vision in clear, written terms that everyone understands.
  • Establish articulate goals that are financially feasible, realistic, and
    support  the enterprise vision. 
  • Create a project plan with actionable goals, realistic timelines,
    milestones, benchmarks & collaborate with IT, department managers, vendors.
  • Give IT staff time to examine departmental business processes.  This
    provides vital information that leads to strong, relevant solutions.
  • Don’t expect realistic project timelines from IT unless you provide
    clear project specifications and indicate the resources you’ll commit. 
    Adding resources mid-project creates a costly learning curve.  Evaluate
    needs; make clear commitments.
  • Close communication gaps.  Hold periodic project reviews with IT and
    staff to avert or address problems as they emerge.
  • Establish metrics to ensure IT project performance is measured in ways
    that support stated business objectives. Don’t gauge success by the amount
    or level of IT services; measure by the solution’s ability to achieve stated
  • Involve an internal business analyst in the project who understands the
    business and knows how to use existing equipment and systems.  This person
    can help bridge gaps between IT and business.
  • Don’t drag your feet on providing resources for IT to implement your
    project.  If a project takes too long to implement, the need is likely to
    have changed, rendering the solution irrelevant.
  • Plan adequate resources for testing.  Buying additional hardware or
    software to test a major IT solution is a minimal investment compared to
    errors from insufficient testing.
  • Evaluate, optimize, and make improvements on a regular basis.  (That
    goes for IT, too.) 

IT Manager’s Checklist

  • Remember that the purpose of technology in business is to fulfill
    business objectives.  Restate management’s goals, objectives, and
    expectations.  Be  sure you’ve understood.
  • Take time to understand business objectives and how business is
    conducted, step by step.  Your solutions will be more effective.
  • Listen closely for shared departmental needs.  Consider how technology
    integrations could streamline infrastructure costs and increase ROI.  Help
    management to stretch their dollars for maximum effect. 
  • Whether you’re installing scanners or automating complex processes, make
    sure business people test the solution, not just IT.
  • Talk to end users.  Understand their challenges. Discover where
    improvements can be made. 

Tip for Resellers & Dealers

Listen closely to prospects’ needs.  If they steer a project in a direction
beyond your technical knowledge,  get IT involved. If you see a way for
customers to re-use equipment to save money,  voice it.  Don’t push a solution
in a straight line.  Demonstrating the business relevancy of IT solutions is
your best chance for up-selling.

Stay In Line

Today, companies must be ready to respond to changing marketplace
conditions.  Unlike a child’s static puzzle ball,  business objectives are
constantly evolving to address a need, thus making any investment well

Laurel Sanders is the director of public relations and communications for
Optical Image Technology.  For information about the company’s award-winning
suite of DocFinity software, visit

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