In search of alignment answers

How should CIOs manage their application portfolios? How can a business become more agile? The recently formed Business Technology Management (BTM) Institute is on a mission to answer those questions.

In his 2002 book The Alignment Effect, Faisal Hoque introduced BTM as a practice that seeks to apply management science theory to IT. For starters, Hoque wants to standardize the concepts and language of IT so that CIOs and other executives can manage IT value the way manufacturing managers use total quality management to pursue process improvements.

Hoque, chairman and CEO of Enamics, an IT management software vendor, is chairing the nonprofit BTM Institute and providing startup funding and administrative support near Enamics’ offices in Stamford, Conn. Hoque says he hopes to build support for the organization by conducting research, soliciting best practices from leading companies, publishing white papers and books, holding events and eventually expanding membership.

The founding members of the BTM Institute include IT experts from academia (such as Robert Zmud, the Michael F. Price chair in MIS at the University of Oklahoma) and the business world, including seven current and former CIOs. Members are charged with guiding and producing research that will bring IT more in line with traditional business functions — such as finance — which have established standard concepts and methods for management. “Areas like finance and marketing have a far more established, repeatable and institutionalized way of managing their processes than IT does,” Hoque says.

V. Sambamurthy, the Eli Broad professor of IT at Michigan State University and co-chair (with Zmud) of the BTM Institute Academic Council, says the group’s partnership with business leaders will give its research more credibility with practitioners. “Corporate access would be difficult to get if we did this individually,” Sambamurthy says.

Andre Spatz, CIO of Unicef and a member of the institute’s CIO Council, says he wanted to participate in the BTM Institute’s efforts because there is a dearth of practical research on IT management. “There’s a lot of talk and conceptualization about IT management, but there’s not much documented research that technology and business are aligned and yet work together in different ways,” says Spatz. “My hope is to see some of that documented and actionable for the benefit of both sides.”

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