Making it Work: 7 Ways to Build Business-Technology Alignment

  • There’s often a disconnect between technology and leadership teams that can foster problems rather than partnerships.
  • Business and IT leaders must find time to sit down and discuss how they can collectively help the company succeed. 

A recent survey released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 93% of small businesses in America run their businesses with the help of at least one technology platform. Of those using technology, 85% say deployments helped get their business up and running, and 94% say these solutions have helped improve operations.

In addition, 87% of SMBs believed technology helped them achieve business goals through challenging conditions, such as the rapid shift to digital service delivery over the past few years and the ongoing shift in supply chain best practices.

Despite these tech and business benefits, however, there’s often a disconnect between technology and leadership teams that can foster problems rather than partnerships. Here are seven ways companies can make it work and build better business-technology alignment.

1. Start the Conversation

Technology alignment starts with talking. Business and IT leaders must find time to sit down and discuss how they can collectively help the company succeed. For example, on the business side, one top priority might be increasing the number of new website visitors. IT teams can suggest different approaches to help make this happen, from website redesigns to better SEO to an enhanced social media presence. 

2. Learn What You Don’t Know

Listening comes next in building better alignment. Here’s why: Both sides have expertise in some areas and lack knowledge in others. By taking the time to ask questions and really listen to the answers, both business and IT teams can learn what they don’t know and ask follow-up questions to increase their knowledge. 

Consider a CEO asking their CISO why more spending on a specific security tool is necessary. By listening to the answer — that spending on security tools is a drop in the bucket compared to what companies might pay for a ransomware demand or to remediate systems after an attack — business leaders are better equipped to make better decisions.

Learn More: Is Responsible AI a Technology Issue or a Business Issue?

3. Speak the Same Language

It’s also important for technology and business staff to speak the same language. This may take some effort since both business and IT rely on their own set of specialized terms and acronyms that make perfect sense to those in the same department but are effectively gibberish for those on the outside.

As a result, it’s worth taking a plain-language approach to any discussion. Not only does this reduce frustration on both sides, but it helps both parties consider how best to articulate their positions in a broadly applicable way.

4. Give IT a Seat at the Table

Where conversations happen matters. While there are benefits to one-on-one discussions with private officers, it’s important for technology to get a seat at the boardroom table. Here’s why: If IT leaders are informed of C-suite decisions after the fact, it’s almost impossible for them to backtrack and advocate for new solutions or different spending priorities. By saving technology leaders a seat at the table, CEOs and CFOs are clearly communicating that the input of technology teams matters in overall business strategy.

5. Make a Plan

Alignment only delivers results if it’s paired with an actionable plan. By setting clear goals with defined timelines, businesses can track the progress of business/technology team-ups to help ensure success. Consider a company looking to turn visitor website interest into steady sales. With this goal in mind, IT teams can suggest solutions such as an overhaul of current product pages or the implementation of a new eCommerce platform to deliver this specific outcome.

6. Measure What Matters

Effective business-technology alignment requires ongoing measurement. While the first step is hammering out common ground and common goals, this camaraderie isn’t enough without reliable results.

In the example above, metrics that matter might include the number of new visitors to a website, the number of return views, and the number of potential customers that move from website interaction to sales conversion. If this number is steadily trending up over time, IT interventions worked. If not, companies can go back to the drawing board.

Learn More: 3 Technologies That Are Transforming Business and IT Operations

7. Regularly Review Outcomes

Last but not least is that there’s no “last” business-technology alignment, no final step that solves all problems. Instead, there’s a need for regular review of current processes and how they impact existing outcomes. In the same way that customer preferences evolve under market pressures, companies must be prepared to change their approach if the numbers don’t add up.

Bridging the business-tech gap

When technology and business leaders work in tandem, both sides benefit. For example, if IT leaders help businesses deploy software tools that streamline internal processes such as invoicing or accounts payable (AP), the result is time and money saved.

If business teams see the benefits of these solutions, meanwhile, they’re more inclined to take action when IT staff ask for budget increases or suggest the implementation of a specific technology solution.

Ideally, bridging this gap delivers what both sides are looking for: More efficient business operations that reduce reliance on manual processes and help companies drive better ROI.

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