The Key to Improving Business and IT Alignment

by Zak Cole       • December 14, 2017

Fostering business and IT alignment has become more important than ever.

Gone are the days when IT was a fringe department, resigned to providing support. But after so long on the sidelines, many businesses still struggle to bring IT into the fold, ensuring its alignment with the wider business. But this should be a priority for any data-driven enterprise.

On a fundamental level, it requires a change of perception and culture. The stereotype of basement-housed IT teams was widely acknowledged and satirized. It formed the basis of the popular British sitcom The IT Crowd, which focused on the escapades of three IT staff members in the dingy basement of a huge corporation. Often their best professional input was “turn it off and on again.”

Today, the idea of such a small IT team supporting a huge business is almost too ridiculous to satirize..

Bring IT Out of the Basement

In the age of data-driven business, IT now takes center stage. And it has been promoted out of the basement – at least in principle.

Although IT has moved away from its legacy of support and “keeping the lights on,” many businesses still have a long way to go in fostering business and IT alignment.

But the data-driven nature of modern business demands it. Not only is the wider business responsible for understanding, making use of and capitalizing on data; the business as a whole, including IT, is responsible for upholding the regulations associated with it.

Fostering Business and IT Alignment

The key here, then, is a collaborative data governance program. For business and IT to be sufficiently aligned, the business needs access to all the data relevant to its various departments, whenever it is needed.

This means the right data of the right quality, regardless of format or where it is stored, must be available for use, but only by the right people for the right purpose.

Therefore, the notion that IT can manage and govern data independently is unthinkable. It’s the business that will use data the most, and it’s the business that stands to lose the most when decisions are made based on bad data.

Companies had long neglected this reality. Past efforts to implement data governance programs (Data Governance 1.0) often fell short in adding value. When left solely to IT, Data Governance 1.0 was solely focussed on cataloging data. This, and the disparity between IT and the business meant the meaning of data assets, and their relationship within the wider data landscape, was unclear.

This is what Data Governance 2.0, and its innately collaborative nature aims to resolve. With Data Governance 2.0, the strategy encompasses defined business, IT and business-IT requirements.

Data Governance for Business and IT Alignment

Business Requirements: The business is responsible for defining data, including setting standards for the ownership and meaning of data assets so the organization can use data with a uniformed approach.

IT Requirements: IT manages data at the base level: from mapping data – which may exist across various systems, reports and data models – to physical data assets (databases, files, documents and so on). This, in turn, enables IT to accurately assume the impact of things like data-glossary changes across the enterprise. That’s a key enabling factor in enterprise architecture, allowing for cost-effective and thorough risk management by identifying data points that require the most security.

Business-IT Requirements: A joint effort allows IT to effectively publish data to relevant roles/people. This way, the business can readily use data that is meaningful and relevant to it across various departments, while maintaining compliance with existing and upcoming data protection regulations.

Additionally, those using data can follow data chains back to the source, providing a wider, less ambiguous view of data assets and thus reducing the likelihood of poor decision-making.

For more best practices in business and IT alignment, and successfully implementing data governance, click here.

Business and IT alignment - Data governance

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