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By Day 7
Review a selection of your colleagues' posts from earlier in the week, focusing on the best practices and key activities that are necessary in successfully managing business information systems. By Day 7, respond to two or more of your colleagues in one or more of the following ways:
- Explain the similarities and/or differences between your own findings and those identified by your colleague. Why do you think your analysis of the case was similar to or different from your colleague's?
- Share what you believe could potentially impede or enable an organization when aligning its IT and business strategy.
- Offer additional best practices or tools organizations could use in aligning IT strategy and business strategy. Explain why those are important and effective. What specific steps does an organization need to take to make sure it continuously monitors how well these strategies align?
Please be specific, and use citations and references as appropriate and necessary.
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Week 2 Discussion
For Cheryl Smith to succeed at her quest she needs to be able to motivate the team: Convey to the management the importance of information technology, earn the trust of the team, and give potential outcomes if alignment does not occur. To do this, she will need to have concrete examples of why and how information technology has allowed their competitors to succeed.
Earning the trust of the team will hinge on how well she can sell herself, her background, and her expertise in the field. Based on the case study of WestJet, Cheryl has an extensive background to portray her success. Her accomplishments go back as far as 1973 and her list of impressive accomplishments include contracts with private as well as public enterprises and even a stint as a business owner herself in the early-80’s (Muro, & Khan, 2013).
As for understanding the importance of the alignment between IT and business strategies, Cheryl will need to provide examples of how the utilization of IT plays a role in the overall success of an organization (Sabegh & Motlagh, 2012). By aligning IT correctly you can not only increase efficiency, but you can get a better return on investment as well (Sabegh & Motlagh, 2012). WestJet is no longer a small company and to be competitive in the industry they will need to be efficient and convenient to the consumer. Research on IT performance shows it not only as an asset, but an enabler of capabilities (Drnevich & Croson, 2013).
Cheryl will also need to convey what will likely happen if IT and business strategies are not aligned. For some, fear is a motivator and if she can provide evidence that the business will suffer and possibly fail if this transition does not occur then she can bring about the last group of people that may have pushed back on her during the alignment process.
The experience of WestJet brings to light the importance of IT alignment. “Information technologies increasingly form the foundation for improved organizational processes and products. “ (Fichman & Melville, 2014). For my organization to continue to succeed we need to have perfect alignment. From a competitive standpoint, if we are not aligned we are not only missing opportunities but could lose existing clients, causing us to slowly wither away. Proper IT alignment for my organization can be made better through proper IT governance. Management of the IT resources that include the people, and processes would have a positive impact on alignment between IT and business strategies (Sabegh & Motlagh, 2012). The case study of WestJet shows the importance of teamwork across all departments and having people cross-trained in other areas to be able to respond to emergencies at any time or to keep work interesting by allowing individuals to change projects from day to day (Muro & Khan, 2013). This is something that my organization could benefit from greatly. As it is now, we are trained for what we do, but if a client has a question about our external website we must hand them off to another team member that is trained for that specifically. This is frustrating for the clients who value convenience and quick response. I also feel that our organization would benefit from a similar set-up to the annual meeting that presents ideas for the executive team to vote on. It would be nice to know what project the team was working on and that the resources and funds were available for it and not being used up on projects that “pop-up” throughout the year.
The technique for aligning business strategy and IT strategy is illustrated through five (5) steps that include, engaging business stakeholder, building a plan, setting benchmarks, piloting a program, and looking to the future (Stillwell, 2013). By engaging stakeholders, you are inviting those that are impacted if the business fails or succeeds. These people have something to gain from proper alignment and everything to lose if it goes wrong. Building a plan, setting benchmarks, and piloting the program allows a trackable way to evaluate how a plan is going. Finally, looking to the future keeps the business competitive based on where you want to see your organization go. The key to successful alignment, in my opinion, is to be flexible. As the program you are piloting moves along, you must be able to change and modify it to better fit the needs and achieve the benchmarks you have set. Just because the plan has been built, does not mean it will work without some adjusting. The five (5) steps are similar in nature to the ten (10) point plan laid out by Colin Beveridge that suggest the creators of the plan know the organization and its culture and are committed to the value of the relationships within it (Beveridge, n.d.). The alternative to a laid out plan is simply hoping it will align by happenstance. It can happen, but the success rate of such a coincidence is minimal (Sabegh & Motlagh, 2012). For alignment to happen there generally requires a conscious state of mind to make it happen.
The risks that an organization takes for not having a properly aligned IT and business strategy are performance issues. Studies have shown that proper alignment is linked to high performance of organizations (Kekwaletswe & Chuene, 2014). If a company has a more aggressive approach to business strategy but lacks the IT strategy, then the theories and ideas of the innovative team members never fully come to fruition. Likewise, if the IT strategy is more aggressive than the business strategy, you have capable team members with limited ideas to work with (Sabegh & Motlagh, 2012). By investing resources, both financial and time, you create atmospheres of innovative thoughts and ideas and if the strategies are aligned you have resources in the form of people who can create ideas and then make them reality. A properly aligned strategy will allow an organization to reduce costs through efficiency, improve workflow and communication between team members, and remain competitive in the marketplace (Beveridge, n.d.). Without these items, the organization risks failure and going out of business completely.
There are many things that Cheryl Smith can do in order to help managers at WestJet understand the role of information technology. Cheryl had many many years of IT experience and by the time she reached WestJet, she was already considered an expert in the field. First of all, Cheryl has to sit down and explain the role that information technology will play in regards to the corporate strategy. IT is one of the many factors that keep business in competition and the ability to rank them among the best of the best. When Smith came to WestJet, the question that needed to be answered was “what do we have to work with?” Smith was to help figure out if the company had the right technologies and processes in place.
The experience that WestJet had could possibly influence the way that my organization aligns the IT and business strategies. Our company identifies with some of the same initial issues that WestJet was facing. For example, our IT department that handles any kind of computer or login issues only works during the day. However, there are many departments within the bank that are opened 24 hours a day. So when someone has an IT issue after 5pm, that person has to wait until the next day to even get the process started. All the while, they have customers to serve in the meantime. This serves as a disservice to our customers as they may not be able to be helped due to IT issues. WestJet’s story can help influence our business strategy and create or expand on the IT department so that they are open 24 hours a day or at least after 5pm. Expanding on the IT department could possibly increase revenue as well because customers that aren’t able to served due to IT issues would now be able to be served and in turn, pay their bills.
I work in the Recoveries department of a large bank. The customers that I work with have closed credit card accounts that are charged off. One way that our business can grow and expand is allowing online access to closed accounts. Currently, our customers have no options to pay their accounts online or even view the account online. The bank has started a new process called “Digital Recoveries”, which is a new pilot serving to try to increase online usage for closed accounts. So far, the pilot has been working well. The few customers that are able to get to their accounts online are very happy to do so and have said that the process is very convenient.
There are many ways that organizations can ensure that their IT and business strategies are in alignment. One way is to ensure consistent and complete communication across the company (High,2011). Communication will serve to keep everyone on board with IT and business strategies. One way that we do this at my current workplace is through Town Halls. We have Town Halls twice a year where we meet with many other areas of the business and discuss future plans and objectives in regards to IT and other business strategies.
If an organization does not take the time and or money required to invest in the resources that are essential for maintaining alignment between IT and business strategy, there are risking many important aspects including customer/associate satisfaction, revenue loss, and credible reputation.