When you first opened your business, your mission was clear to everyone and certainly top of mind. With few employees, everyone had the same goal, however, as the company grew, things began to change. It wasn't as easy to keep everyone focused on the same goal. Over time, each department developed its own goals that were derived from what that department needed to accomplish. The one department that often has the most isolation from the company's main goal is the IT Department. This is the biggest gap in alignment but is one of the most important places where alignment with the corporate mission is most important. Why is it that alignment, which came so easy in the beginning, became so difficult over time?
Challenges to Alignment
The main concentration of a business is on customers and generating revenue. Typically the main concentration of IT is the computer systems, correct? On a superficial level, this is true, but when this belief is the over-riding one within an organization, it puts a strong divide between the management and IT. Both need to be focused on the success of the corporation and both need to know what the ultimate mission is at all times.
For example, if the mission of the corporation is to be considered the leader in the industry by consumers, then every department needs to focus on that goal. This means that marketing must strive to present this image to the consumers, Personnel must strive to hire individuals who can deliver on this goal and IT must design and maintain software that will help the other departments achieve this goal.
The biggest challenge to alignment is in realizing that the ultimate goal is the same for every department of the corporation. Every area needs to be on the same page and the lines of communication need to be wide open in order to keep this focus. The corporation must work as a whole and not as disjointed parts in order to succeed.
Benefits of Alignment
Making the effort to align the IT Department with the corporate mission has long-term benefits for all involved - the business, the employees, and the customers.
With the IT department on track with business goals, they can provide the exact software needed to help other employees get things done quicker and more efficiently.
Costs Are Reduced
Having the necessary technology available allows people to be most efficient, ultimately improving ROI, reducing costs and avoiding any spends on erroneous items.
You Gain A Competitive Advantage
When the IT department knows exactly what the business is working to achieve, it can be reviewing and promoting the newest, most advanced technology. This affords your business the opportunity to have access to intelligence that your competitors may know nothing about, or even be using.
Everything Runs More Smoothly
When everyone is on the same page, there are fewer discrepancies and bugs that create difficulties in executing tasks.
Employee Morale Is Boosted
With alignment, everyone understands exactly why they are doing something and how their job benefits the company as a whole. Every individual in every department realizes their overall importance and this creates a greater urgency and desire to achieve the common goals.
Customers Are Happier
With a well-run company, employees are happier, work is completed quicker and more time and energy can be spent on customer service rather than on trying to problem solve or work through issues. In the end, the customer receives better, more quality service.
Company Growth Increases
With the ultimate goals clearly in mind, the IT Department can focus on that goal and seek out, develop and work toward providing the company with solutions that help it grow as technology grows. By doing this in an aligned environment, the company doesn't feel the growing pains that adding new technology all at once can so often create.
Making It Happen
Getting the IT Team aligned with the overall business vision takes time and effort. It doesn't have to be a painful process, but it does need a change in perspective and communication. Here is how to get on track with the process:
- Make sure everyone knows the corporate mission. Having a sit-down meeting with the heads of each department is the best way to achieve this. Discuss the overall business message and then figure out how each department can advance their efforts towards the goal. This allows department heads to identify any misalignments and then align their main goal with the company mission. They can then take that perspective to their team members.
- Work together to determine how available technology is being used to meet that goal. With the IT Department now aware of the main mission, discuss how IT can work to make that goal happen. Is the current system working in that direction? Are there areas that can be improved upon? What needs to be changed to make it all work?
- Consider what can be done to fill in the current gaps. Here is where the IT department can communicate with those who use the technology and see where improvements need to be made, what is missing entirely and what can be done to fix it. It is here that communication needs to be strong.
- Work together to perfect the current system and look towards newer technological developments to see how they can be integrated into the current system to achieve the common goal.
- Communicate regularly. Don't stop with this one meeting. Department heads need to meet regularly to discuss progress, adjust for any issues and continue to identify what is necessary to keep the entire company on track and not heading off on detours.
When everyone knows how their work is contributing to the company as a whole, there is a certain sense of accountability that takes shape that makes each department's duties as critical as the next. Every department is important to the company's success and it is necessary that each be given the recognition they deserve. With every department working toward the same goal, you can be sure your company is heading toward the success you envision.