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Factors that hinder IT and Business alignment

Question:

Discuss about the Alignment of IT Functions and Business Processes.

Many organizations all over the world today have welcomed the idea of information technology integration, and the organizations are increasingly becoming dependent on the IT in conducting their basic activities (Chan & Reich, 2007). The alignment process can be described as a mutual synchronization of the objectives and the goals of the business and the services of Information Technology. Notably, it is challenging to achieve the complete alignment of both the business functions and the IT services (McCubbrey, 1999). This is because of the many and random changes that are happening in the world of business and the Information Technology environment.

Business and IT alignment have been a critical issue since the early 1970s and many stakeholders which includes; consultants and IT and business executives have over the years tried resolving the issues that hinder the success of this alignment (Ali & Green, 2009). It is also important to note that these stakeholders have regarded the alignment process as being a difficult process for several reasons which include; differences in the objectives of different organizations, communication gap, inflexible organization structure and lack of proper methodologies to handle the problem (Ali & Green, 2009). Most importantly to note, it needs great effort for IT to comprehensively provide all the services that are required in an organization when the organizations are rapidly diverting their goals and objectives on a daily basis.  

Additionally, both business and IT are related to the fact that IT provides all the services that are required in all the levels of business to facilitate achievement of its objectives and goals. In order to heighten the alignment process there are issues that need to be addressed these includes; understanding of business strategy, fostering a strong and complex cultural relationship between business and IT, sustaining effective communication between all the groups, the strategies of both the business and IT must be clearly understood, both business strategy and It strategy must always provide support to each other and all the groups in either of the sides must have trust (Braun & Winter, 2007 ). Below are some of the challenges that are experienced in the alignment of IT and business functions.

Inappropriate methodologies by The International Foods Group (IFG) can substantially undermine the process of alignment (Scott, 2000). The organization compares its activities with Glow-Foods Company and then decides that it has to implement such a system that is similar to that of IFG. This is without any market research or analysis its business activities. IFG like most of other organizations rarely makes full use of IT capabilities. The only technology they use is a website that they use to advertise where customers can find their products and come nutritional recipe. Similarly to other organizations which used IT for back-office operations and regarded it as an expenditure other than a booster of business value (Scott, 2000). There are organizational factors that greatly undermine the alignment process, in many organizations, the formal information systems strategies are controlled and made by the senior management. In the case of IFG Tonya is seen taking part in the alignment process although she is busy to commit to it fully. In many organizations, this results to a misunderstanding of the business plan by both lower and middle-level management. In this regard, it is important to note that unclear business strategies like duplicating other organization’s alignment plan may hinder IT-business alignment. Personal and group involvement is essential in developing clear business strategies.

Tools to facilitate alignment

Also, the existing and current techniques of alignment have not captured the real advantages of alignment (Baker& Niederman, 2014). In the case of The International Food Group ‘IFG,’ the benefits developing the information system have not been outlined the management is only focused on developing a system that works similarly to those systems that are used in the Glow-Foods company. Similarly to other organizations, this has consequently affected the alignment of IT and business functions in most of the organizations. Most of the techniques used in developing the systems do not understand that business is not a constant entity rather it is active and keeps on changing its processes and also different organizations have different have different requirements and information system working for one company may not work for another company (Baker & Niederman, 2014). Instead of driving the business many techniques follow the business. Most of the researchers and experts feel that most of the alignment methods that are in existence are business-driven and instead they feel that they should mostly be IT-driven. For this reason, more attention should be focused on IT to determine how IT can be implemented to offer better support to the organization.  Most of the researchers conducted are focused mainly on the IT side rather than the business side.


Poor or inadequate understanding of the alignment process also hinders that process of linking both IT and business functions (Galup, Dattero, Quan & Conger, 2009). In this case, both Ahern and Tonya don’t seem to understand the processes need to align their company ‘IFG,’ and it is for this reason that they have to rely on Josh who seems to have some experience out of his past work experiences (Silvius, 2008). The best conceptualization of alignment is the changing state in which organizations can effectively make use of IT processes to achieve the goals and the objectives of the organization and also to enable the organizations to compete with their competitors effectively like in this case hoe IFG want to compete with the Glow-Foods. If Information Technology is not implemented in a manner that it helps in providing the required services in an organization, then the alignment of the business and the IT is not effective (Galup, Dattero, Quan & Conger, 2009). According to Henderson & Venkatraman, 1993 they say that alignment cannot be considered as a single entity and explain that it has several phases which represent specific parts of the business organization. Improper understanding of what alignment entails will compromise the alignment of IT and business functions. Organizations heads and employees should comprehensively understand the whole processes involved in alignment to get to integrate both IT functions and business functions effectively.

Conclusion

Lack of encouragement from colleague workers. In this case, Tonya is heard pledging her support to Josh who will help in developing the new system. However, she cautions him that not everyone in the organization will be supporting him in the development of the new system. This is a common trend in many organizations that aim at improving their technological advancements (Luftman, 2003). This is because many employees may fear to lose their jobs and there are those who do it because of jealous. Lack of support for the systems development team may negatively impact on the development process thus interfering with the alignment process (Luftman, 2003). In this case, the IFG Company may have difficulties in developing the systems because of the opposition that Josh is expected to receive from the company’s employees.  

Copying of innovative technologies and lack of research many compromises the alignment process of an organization. In this case, Tonya is heard addressing Josh and his team that they should remain vigilant on the ground and report to the management about any innovative technologies that can work for IFG organization. It is clear that IFG is not undertaking any research to understand what the users need and know how they will develop their systems. Rather they keep on copying what other organizations are doing like the case of Glow-Foods Company, and in this case, Tonya instructs the team that they should also report any advancements in technology that they think can be applied in IFG. Copying informational system without conducting proper research may hinder the alignment process of the organization this is because not all information systems that work for one organization can work for another. Therefore organizations need to develop a culture of conducting research and developing their systems that respond to their organizational requirements and systems that will help them meet the objects and the goals of the organization        

The best way of achieving the alignment process is by developing information systems that aid the managers, the businesses, and all the other stakeholders to efficiently and effectively meet the objectives and the goals of the business (Ordanini & Pol, 2001). Developers and engineers of information systems find it hard and challenging in developing information systems that can effectively and comprehensively meet the business expectations of an organization in a dynamic environment. If proper and effective information systems are not developed, they can lead to misalignment of an organization.

Some of the factors that can make organizations fail to get aligned with IT include; making of IT decision by business executive who have no or little knowledge concerning IT process can lead to misalignment of organization, in other organizations Information Technology managers are involved in making decisions yet they little knowledge about the needs of the business the other main reason than contributing to the misalignment of the business is that there are disagreements and lack of trust between the IT managers and business executives, their relationship leads to the suffering of the organization. This section will examine some of the tools that should be used in modeling and development of information system to facilitate the alignment of business, and IT functions.

Requirement engineering plays a major role in the development any system. The main objective of requirement engineering is identified both the user and system requirements. The processes involved in requirement engineering includes: elicitation- during this activity, the needs of the user and the needs of the business are examined, requirement analysis- this activity is used to examine the feasibility of the collected requirements, documentation- during this activity, the requirement of the stakeholders are documented in a formal document, validation- this particular activity makes it possible for the developers and engineers to determine whether the developed system is in line with the requirements of the proposed system, requirement management- during this activity all the changes in the requirements are captured and traced (Silvius, 2008). Requirement engineering in relation Information Technology and business alignment it can be implemented to capturing all necessary information of information system and business requirement engineering. For this reason, proper requirement engineering-based models should be developed to help in the alignment process.

These models will help in explaining the different activities involved such as requirement elicitation- this should clarify the objects and the goals of the organization that the system under development should meet, requirement negotiation- this activity explore the different goals of the business in perspective of all the stakeholders and aid in defining agreement on the system requirements and the user requirements. Requirement specification- this activity outlines the system behavior that the system should have and also should describe the context of the company that is to use the system, requirement validation- this activity is aimed at ensuring that the final requirements of the system meet the expected requirements.  

It is with no doubts that developing an information system that is meant to meet the objectives and the goals of an organization in a rapidly changing environment is a hard task. Component-based development of information systems ensures fast and reliable development (Saunders & Jones, 1992). This system development model makes it possible to develop different modules of the system, different testing of the modules and also ensures that the models are in a position to meet the requirements that are designed for and then the integration of the different models. Most importantly, component-based development makes it possible to subdivide the objectives of complex systems into small objectives which are meant to be achieved by the modules (Saunders & Jones, 1992). This is key in the development of information systems for facilitating alignment of IT and business in an organization since the different business processes are carefully subdivided depending on their requirements, and then the processes are developed by the engineers in modules (Scott, 1961). Component-based also facilitates the reusability of the modules in case such systems are to be developed for another organization that has the same objectives as the first organization. Component-based development facilitates the alignment of business and IT functions of an organization as it is easy to replace, reuse, and maintain the existing components to align with the changes that may occur in the dynamic business environment  

Integration of technology in the development of systems to aid in alignment of business and Information Technology is a great idea that is aimed at helping organizations to improve the alignment of their organizations (McCubbrey, 1999). The SPLE technology demonstrates the best processes of developing IT-based products at a less cost and within a short period producing systems and products that are of high quality (McCubbrey, 1999). In the context of aligning IT process with business activities, the features of SPLE can be of great importance to the organization. Most of the organizations put more emphasis in enhancing the performance of their IT departments, and therefore they raise their expectations regarding the capabilities associated with technological advancements. The main reason as to why SPLE should be integrated into alignment is because it reduces the cost associated with the development of information systems that facilitate the alignment process (McCubbrey, 1999). The advantages of using SPLE is that helps in improving the quality of the systems developed, and also it aids in testing the product line independently. SPLE technology is recommended for all organizations including those whose financial capability is low because it helps in developing information systems at a lower cost. Most importantly is simplifies complex systems and also facilitates the reusability of code so the organization can always change the functions of the information system with ease to match the requirement of the dynamic business environment. By so doing the alignment process will not be compromised.

A business process is activities that take place within an organization and leads to layout business output. The business process always identifies the user needs and provides the services that meet the user needs (Ullah & Lai, 2011). On the other side, business process management is a set interlinked process that works together to facilitate the achievement of business objects and both short-term and long-term goals (Ullah & Lai, 2011). Business process management provides a systematic approach that can be effectively used manage the processes that take place within an organization (Sawhney, Prandelli & Verona, 2003). Business process management is important and effective because it can be used to manage the changes that take place in a dynamic business environment thus facilitating alignment in both static and dynamic environment (Sawhney, Prandelli & Verona, 2003). The main advantage that can be achieved by using business process management is that it structures and organizes the workflow of activities in an organization in a way that organization objectives and goals can be effectively achieved. Proper management of business activities can help in implementing effective alignment processes.

In information systems and business engineering, business process modeling is the activities that represent organizational processes to effectively analyze manage and carry out changes that may be required in the system’s processes (Skoularidou & Spinellis, 2003). There are several business modeling tools that can be implemented to help in managing processes in an organization which is in a dynamic environment. Some of the most useful tools used in businesses and information systems include; six sigma- which works by effectively by identifying and improving areas of business processes. Another tool that is commonly employed in SWOT analysis- it consists of modeling tools that are used in analyzing both resources and the environment of the organization or the business. Such tools are key in ensuring that an organization remains focused on implementing alignment processes. The tools can help in case the activities and processes of the business keep on varying.

In conclusion, this report focuses on the alignment of business functions and IT functions. The report has examined some of the challenges that hinder the alignment processes and also it has explained some of the techniques that can be applied to overcome the challenges that are encountered by organizations during alignment. If these strategies are used effectively applied then organizations can effectively ensure that organization remains aligned even in the most dynamic environments.   

References

Ali, S., & Green, P. (2009). IT governance mechanisms in public sector organisations: An Australian context. Handbook of Research on Information Management and the Global  Landscape, 458-478.

Baker, E. W., & Niederman, F. (2014). Integrating the IS functions after mergers and acquisitions: Analyzing business-IT alignment. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 23(2), 112-127.

Braun, C., & Winter, R. (2007, March). Integration of IT service management into enterprise architecture. In Proceedings of the 2007 ACM symposium on Applied computing (pp. 1215-1219). ACM.

Chan, Y. E., & Reich, B. H. (2007). IT alignment: what have we learned?. Journal of Information technology, 22(4), 297-315.

Galup, S. D., Dattero, R., Quan, J. J., & Conger, S. (2009). An overview of IT service management. Communications of the ACM, 52(5), 124-127.

Luftman, J. (2003). Assessing IT/business alignment. Information Systems Management, 20(4), 9-15.

Luftman, J., & Kempaiah, R. (2007). An Update on Business-IT Alignment:" A Line" Has Been Drawn. MIS Quarterly Executive, 6(3).

McCubbrey, D. J. (1999). Disintermediation and reintermediation in the US air travel  distribution industry: a Delphi study. Communications of the AIS, 1(5es), 3.

Saunders, C. S., & Jones, J. W. (1992). Measuring performance of the information systems function. Journal of Management Information Systems, 8(4), 63-82.

Sawhney, M., Prandelli, E., & Verona, G. (2003). The power of innomediation. MIT Sloan  Management Review, 44(2), 77.

Scott, J. E. (2000). Facilitating interorganizational learning with information technology. Journal of Management information systems, 17(2), 81-113.

Scott, W. G. (1961). Organization theory: an overview and an appraisal. The Journal of the academy of Management, 4(1), 7-26.

Skoularidou, V., & Spinellis, D. (2003). Security architectures for network clients. Information management & computer security, 11(2), 84-91.

Silvius, A. J. (2008). The Business Value of IT: A Conceptual Model for Selecting Valuation Methods. Communications of the IIMA, 8(3), 57.

Ordanini, A., & Pol, A. (2001). Infomediation and competitive advantage in B2B digital marketplaces. European Management Journal, 19(3), 276-285.

Ullah, A., & Lai, R. (2011). Modeling business goal for business/it alignment using requirements engineering. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 51(3), 21-28.

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