Business alignment ‘disastrous’ for IT

Aligning IT with the business has been a disaster for IT departments.

The notion, which has underpinned so much management practice in the last decade, was dubbed “the biggest fraud in the industry”, at the Forrester IT forum in Paris.

Leading a session, entrepreneur and author of the book The New Normal, Peter Hinssen, said: “IT departments that tried to align themselves with the business became order-taking butlers to the business.”

Survival, let alone success, in a rapidly changing world came not from alignment but from fusing business and IT, he insisted.

Hinssen cited and then took issue with Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson’s 2007 claim that chief information officers (CIOs) were no longer innovators in the business, but had become “dead weights” who were “keeping the real technology innovators – employees who want to use the tools increasingly available on the wide-open Web to help them do their jobs better – from taking matters into their own hands.”

Anderson made his comments after speaking at a forum organised by’s sister title CIO, and went on to add: “In fairness, the CIOs have a pretty tough job.”

Hinssen said the “IT department’s relevance is being questioned on a daily basis,” but he urged a fight-back. There was the prospect of a “renaissance of it, but it requires a makeover of the IT department,” he said.

Urging the audience to accept a “new normal” of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), Hinssen said: “IT has to be seen as an innovator if want to survive.

“IT will have to seduce the business with direction solutions that make sense for the ‘new normal’ at the same time, CIOs will have to be tough to both make the changes their own organisations need and to ensure the appropriate use of technology in the wider organisation.”

He urged IT teams to “design for change” and create systems and architecture that are liquid if they want to survive.

Hinssen is also the former chairman of Porthus and has been an entrepreneur in residence with McKinsey & Company.

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