Business-IT alignment is a strategy that prioritizes objectives around reducing costs, improving agility, and increasing the return on IT investment.
Although business and IT teams have vastly different roles and purposes, they ultimately share one underlying objective: to offer a seamless and satisfying customer experience that has a positive impact on business outcomes.
Traditionally, business professionals and IT departments operated in their functional silos, each dedicated to their area of focus. However, there has been a philosophical shift towards improving the collaboration between teams so that an enterprise’s business needs and goals can be anticipated and considered throughout the decision-making process. One DevOps technique demonstrated the many benefits associated with breaking these silos down, and its success has encouraged organizations to rethink the more traditional, compartmentalized approach in favor of improving communication and participation across departments.
The divide between IT and business is so culturally evident that it reads like a punchline to a workplace joke. Today, companies recognize the need to align IT and business: A recent *Gartner report predicts that half of the organizations worldwide will achieve increased IT-business collaboration by 2022.
In this article, we’ll look at IT-business alignment, including problems when IT and business units aren’t aligned, benefits of alignment, and even best practices and strategies to take your alignment from an idea into action.
What do you think are the problems with the current state?
Most companies can agree that business and IT aren’t working as closely as possible to optimize their service and product delivery. The oft-cited reason? Traditional business units function very differently from technology. Other reasons: Stereotypes perpetuate misconceptions about how business sees IT and vice versa. Non-IT personnel thinks IT is too technical to understand, and they might fail to recognize that IT participates in core revenue-generating activities like sales, marketing, customer service, etc.
Though these stereotypes are changing in the 21st century, different disciplines do have inherently different cultures, objectives, incentives, languages, and skillsets. It’s how writing makes sense to some people, and others are more comfortable working with numbers and spreadsheets.
Despite the elevation of roles like CTOs and CIOs, tech leadership continues to report significant struggles when attempting to collaborate with business units. You might easily recognize a problematic IT-business relationship. Indicators that these differences are hurting your company often show up in problems like:
Every organization today must become a technology business, no matter what product or service you offer. This shift is inevitable, and with it comes the concept of IT-business alignment: that IT enables business and business drives IT efforts. Neither is less necessary; both are revenue-generating.
Benefits of aligning IT and business
Aligning IT and business results in countless benefits:
- Reduce IT expenses
- Increase collaboration
- Better customer experience
- Improve ROI by fine-tuning investments
- Speed up time-to-market
- Synchronize all units to become agile
- Upskill your industry and employee knowledge
- Achieve your strategy
- Make smarter decisions in every area: infrastructure design, application lifecycles, planning and budgeting, marketing and sales, outsourcing, staffing, partnerships, and vendors, etc.
All these benefits result in top customer experiences, boosting your bottom line.
Achieving IT-business alignment: best practices
Talking about alignment and achieving it are two separate things. Achieving true IT-business alignment is difficult primarily because it’s cultural. Culture changes might seem easy—hang up value-based posters, encourage department meet-and-greets—but those efforts rarely succeed.
Instead, achieving alignment requires strategy. And that strategy should be an iterative process: define one change, put it in place, watch it perform, and decide whether to tweak it. Consider the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle to implementing change.
To align IT and business, consider these best practices:
Change your thinking, change your doing. Most companies are siloed, so marketing experts rarely work with IT, and both teams rarely see how sales talks with customers. Instead, think of all your business units, including tech, in a continuous, strategic loop. Changing your thinking means teams begin to understand other teams, so they can function better: increasing efficiency, reducing risk.
View IT as an instrument for business transformation. If you’re asking how IT can support other business units like sales, product development, and marketing, you’re still following a siloed approach. Instead, add IT to those business units: each one is equally capable of transforming the business. Integrate teams to combine business units. Explore revenue streams that IT can directly impact.
Make the customer experience the #1 factor. Every single business unit, person, and the task should be working to improve the customer experience. Aligning everyone under common language and goals that directly support the customer makes it easier to break down traditional discipline silos. Sales talk directly to customers, of course, but so do marketers and product developers. Make sure your tech teams also focus directly on the customer.
Use a single language. Every industry and every company have its lingo. While business units understand other BUs and tech-minded personnel get other tech minds, separate languages tend to keep them separate. Help demystify what every team does: start by standardizing your company language across all teams.
Be equally transparent to all departments. Continuing the theme of unnecessary mysteries, executive and management decisions should be transparent (as much as possible). What are good investments the company is making? What investments panned out poorly? A good way to know if one or several teams don’t have this clarity is to see whether they agree with or understand a recent managerial or executive decision. If it seems like the CTO simply trusted his gut or your manager played favorites, that’s a big clue that you’re not being as transparent as your staff needs.
Rotate IT and business employees to encourage understanding. A simple in-house mentorship program supports IT and business employees in bridging the IT-business gap. Put a salesperson in with a dev team and sit as a help desk agent with the marketing team for a few weeks—the cross-cultural learning will result in better understanding that will close the gap. Those inter-discipline relationships also broaden thinking, resulting in innovation.
Promote a vibrant, inclusive culture. Company culture isn’t the single key to achieving alignment, but it’s one component. Stop holding sales-only happy hours or ordering late-night pizza parties for only the help desk. Instead, promote inter-department exchange formally and informally. Schedule conversational events and speaking series. Use company money to encourage cross-functional meetings. Do this on a 1:1 level, buying lunch or coffee when an IT person and a business professional go out together or offer extra budget dollars to do this on a team level.
Understand change in humans. Take some time to learn how humans accept change and then look at change management processes that might inform what works for people—and what doesn’t.
Create an alignment plan. Before embarking ad-hoc on your alignment journey, consider some frameworks for turning your alignment efforts into an actionable strategy:
The Zachman Framework shows how one complex idea can be translated to different people for different purposes.
Organizational Change Management (OCM) offers a way to re-organize your IT depending on your purpose—which, in our case, is to better align IT and business.
I hope the above discussion has emphasized the benefits of IT and business alignment for every aspect. Now it’s time to bring business leaders and IT teams together under a single platform so that organizations can fine-tune their applications to meet target audience needs. Still, now those are trapped under business problems and trying to find out the perfect IT solutions for tech challenges software services company InovarTech is ready to extend the hand of collaboration to help them. Reach out to us for the digital transformation and application development strategy and ensure your success in the global competitive market.
Gartner VP analyst Stefan Van Der Zijden has mentioned “For many organizations, legacy systems are seen as holding back the business initiatives and business processes that rely on them,”
When we say legacy application, the first thought that comes to our mind any outdated technology that needs to be replaced or updated. One recent study reveals that more than one-third of all businesses continue using legacy apps that have not changed for over 15 years.
Legacy systems are not so reliable in keeping up with modern workflow and workloads. Sometimes, those applications also can’t handle the sheer volume and power required for new work processes, which makes them more likely to crash periodically. Companies have to spend enormous amounts of time and resources on keeping legacy apps functional or updating them to meet present needs. At some point, it is incredibly expensive to maintain and continue using these legacy apps.
Business facing problems from Legacy applications
The best approach to modernize legacy applications depends on the problems you are trying to solve. The added grunt of the Covid-19 pandemic has made it a necessary process to switch into a newer, more advanced environment to aid operations, IT, and their business in general. Modernization also paves the way for improving efficiency, optimized functions, and reducing costs. The sprawling digital adoption has made the situation more imperative for IT leaders to find effective ways to revive legacy systems. Knowing the risk-to-reward ratio before acting is now one of the main challenges for them.
Before delving into the ways of solution, let’s have a look at the four main factors that drive the need for modernization. If you check all the boxes below, then it is time for you to modernize your legacy applications—
- Are the market trends moving towards modernization?
- Is the demand for demographics shifting towards newer technologies?
- Do you have growing pressure on legacy systems to keep up with the changing needs of any project?
- Are you facing the inconvenience of use in work from home settings?
How to make the best approach for application modernization? — This is the thought that comes to your mind when you have already decided to renew your application. Here is the three-step evaluation provides direction in determining the best approach of application modernization depends on the problem that needs to be solved.
Phase 1: Six drivers for evaluating legacy system
Application modernization starts with the six main drivers. The legacy application is responsible for creating Complexities, concerns, or impediments results of its technology, architecture, or functionality.
Business prospection is one of the vital success factors for every business. Business prospection divides into three different categories called — business fit, business value, and agility. If, a legacy software/application can’t meet the new requirements imposed by digital business, then application modernized is the foremost option to fit properly and needs to be upgraded to provide greater business value. Business agility is one of the organizational methods, helps businesses adapt quickly to the first market changes. Sometimes, lack of application agility in keeping pace with the demands of digital business may be a cause of risk liability.
The remaining three drivers come from the IT perspective, which involves cost, complexity, and risk. Sometimes organizations face a lot of difficulties from the high cost of ownership. If you are dealing with complex technology infrastructure or security compliance – if your support or scalability are being compromised, then it is high time to modernize your legacy application.
Phase 2: Seven paths to evaluate modernization
Once the opportunity is selected and the problem identified, look at modernization options. The below options will help you choose the best-suited approach to ease the process and avoid business compliances. The below seven paths will guide your legacy app in modification.
1. Encapsulate: Leverage and extend the application features by encapsulating its data and functions. The process makes the application available as a service through an API.
2. Rehost: Without modifying the code, redeploy the application in different infrastructures, including physical, virtual, or cloud infrastructure.
3. Replatform: Organizations can migrate the application to a new runtime platform by making minimal changes to the code, but not the code structure, features, or functions.
4. Refactor: Restructure and optimize the existing code (although not its external behavior) to remove technical debt and improve nonfunctional attributes.
5. Rearchitect: Businesses can alter the code materially to shift the application to new application architecture and exploit new and better capabilities.
6. Rebuild: Redesign or rewrite the application component from scratch while preserving its scope and specifications.
7. Replace: Eliminate the former application component altogether and replace it. At the same time, consider the new business requirements and specifications.
Phase 3: Choose the best approach with the highest value and effect
Now you have multiple options for modernizing your legacy application but, you need to choose the best approach that will have the highest effect and value to your organization. An organization should map the bespoke seven options based on their influence on technology, architecture, functionality, cost, and risk.
Influence of factors (technology, architecture, functionality, cost, risk) on seven pillars
Basically, modernizing legacy software or applications means making the best decision between rearchitecting, rebuilding, or replacing. Rebuilding or replacing provides the best results with higher costs and risks, whereas rearchitecting has medium cost and risks. The key is to weigh all options to help identify the extent to which each will have the desired effect — with the minimum effort and maximum positive impact.
Now, it may be a question- how could an organization implement those processes to get rid of their legacy application. For those who don’t have the proper IT infrastructure or development support for modifying their existing system, consult with a Digital transformation Services company will be a well-rounded choice for them. An IT consulting company will support them with an A-To-Z application modernization roadmap.
Application modernization roadmap
A roadmap seems to be one common path that all the enterprises follow to successfully transition. But it is essential to remember that each organization has its journey, with personal goals and budgetary needs. The very first step is to break down monolithic applications into groups and small microservices. To rebuild from this point, application development service providers can guide you in the right direction with few general steps like
Roadmap for legacy application modernization
- Create a list of future goals before starting the actual process of transition. They help to conduct an application evaluation for making the transition smooth as well as gauge the probable difficulties while migrating to the targeted architecture. In this stage, your organization and targeted stakeholders should work together to reach a common achievable goal.
- After understanding the essence of each application, it is necessary to orient your business and goal settings in the same direction. Software consultants also identify the target audience, standardize the process and map the project from end to end in a much easier way.
- After assessment and prioritization, organizations need to look for the latest technology to aid modernization. In this situation, app development consultants will help you understand which technologies complement your applications and which ones don’t. They prioritize the features like scalability, agility, cost control, feature customization, and data security and allow you to have a hassle-free digital environment in the long run.
- In the final step, organizations implement the changes and make a transition. Review the infrastructure and collect feedback from the end-users can be the best course of action to run the application smoothly.
Some companies even try to explore ways of integrating with a digital workplace without making any changes to their existing application. I am hoping the above-mentioned strategies will help you to draw a positive solution in the future and apply the best approach by modernizing your legacy system with new technology.