Aligning business and IT: 3 tips for innovative software development

Aligning business and IT: 3 tips for innovative software development

It might come as a surprise for you…or not! But, the fact is that too often business and IT sides of organizations (still) walk apart, avoiding look into each other’s eyes.
It is time for c-suite leaders adopt innovative software development, it is time for them to learn the importance of aligning IT and business strategies, in order to better understand, accomplish and express the strategic goals of organizations.

More than ever, businesses require agility now, as technological changes impact almost all business matters today; fact is that the pace of innovation, influences the whole business and this might be the year, and the time, to take the right steps on your organization in order to better align IT with business objectives.

Business and IT – The perfect match!

To ensure technology is a positive rather than negative competitive differentiator, IT must be viewed as a partner to the business and never a necessary (or even mandatory) cost; it must also be seen as a utility offering basic infrastructure services.

If it is true that the goal of perfect alignment is unachievable, because of the dynamic nature of the business, the fact is that: nevertheless, IT projects must be assumed as business projects, and business projects must be worked out as IT projects – see how to do it here. Therefore, a successful partnership should include the integration of business and IT efforts early, having integrated IT and enterprise project management offices, and assigning business owners to projects. When IT and the business partner effectively use technology for competitive differentiation, IT becomes an asset in which to invest, not a cost to minimize.

Taking all into consideration, in a strategy aimed at the growth of the company, investing in innovative software development is crucial. More than that, to increase the competitiveness of the business, it is critical to combine the potential of technological innovation with business objectives.

Understanding and taking action

C-suite leaders are now under fire and must take an action, as competition hits the ground and becomes more fearful than ever. It is time for business to become digital and to answer all the customer needs, engaging them in a more digital experience and letting them be a part of the business itself.

Now, we see business leaders taking control of development decision making, especially on the front-end and there are already some good examples of that.

One of the disruptors in this area might as well be Netflix and their effort in adopting notebooks as an integrated development platform. The idea started as a way to find out what kind of development and collaboration interfaces might be used in the future.

From there, Netflix decision makers decided to go for a strategic bet on notebooks, both as an interactive UI and as the unifying foundation of their workflow scheduler. Step by step, progress in and out, the company is now migrating all 10,000 of the scheduled jobs running on the Netflix Data Platform to use notebook-based execution. A very good example of what we are talking about.

Another excellent example is Amazon, known in “backstage” as the “disruptor-in-chief when it comes to retail”. Supported by the latest technologies available in the market, Amazon is moving behind functionality to embrace an emotional — and why not also— a psychological connection with their customers. This is the way they had to become the world’s most customer-centric organization. And IT is giving here a huge help.
What started in 1995 as an online bookstore begin to diversify in just a few years to products like streaming of video, audiobooks, music, electronics, toys, and much, much more. Once again highly supported on IT to become the world’s most customer-centric organization.

Other examples follow this two, and are as good as them, on doing custom and innovative software development right, in order to reach their customers and business objectives. We are talking about Starwood Properties Group, Domino’s Australia, USAA or Farm Credit.
But the question remains the same: how to align business and IT for competitive advantage?

In this area, there is no magical touch nor right answers to all the questions. But we can give you three paths to follow, three ideas all C-suites must adopt in order to assure a more effective success:

#1 – First business questions – “Why” and “How to Go”

IT is everywhere so it comes as no surprise for companies that the most recent technologies must be involved in the process to ensure business objectives are reached.
But first, C-level executives must understand “what are” and “which are” those objectives and, from there, underline an effective strategy to reach the goals fast and efficiently.
Business objectives are the measurable accomplishments that the company pursues and, having that in mind, IT priorities and projects should be originated directly from the prioritized business objectives and imperatives.

#2 – Analysing your IT environment – “How” and “Why to do it”.

Do you know your current IT environment? Are you aware of all its changes, projects, needs and its budget? To better align IT and business, it is mandatory to have the whole picture and, from there, compare it to the needs and the reality of the business; the same is saying that, by doing this, c-suites are putting boundaries into IT gaps in a manner that maps them to the business imperatives and objectives.

#3 – IT Strategy: the secret of aligning your investment and defining your business priorities

“Structured approach” are the words to retain. Whether we are talking about business objectives or assessing IT implications, it is always better to go for a structured methodology.
Once you do that, you can be sure of addressing all the points you need, no fails included, and quickly reach different conclusions. And, when we are talking about business, markets, competitors, and revenue, faster is better!

And the more digital a business becomes, the more it obtains in terms of revenue gains. According to an Impacting Digital study on Business Digital Transformation in Portugal, the average digital transformation for the Portuguese organizations goes around 3.48 points (on a total of 5), which means they are still “developing”. Some study underlines that technology is becoming one of the main drivers for changes in Portuguese companies, leading into “a transformation in what is the technical knowledge of its professionals and the provision of tools to meet the needs of its customers”.
According to Impacting Digital, 68,5% of the same companies are saying that already have results on digital transformation and aligning IT and business and are satisfied with that; still, about a quarter of them (14,3%) say that “there is already some investment made”, but “it does not translate into business”.

What do I get from it?

Still, that is a scenario that will rapidly change, just at the moment that the c-level realizes how much business has to gain from this type of investment:

  • Accelerating time to market: Getting products and services available on the market faster than the competition is a “must do” for all the organizations that want to keep a healthy business;
  • Embrace and predict customer needs: investing in digital transformation and innovative software development will help c-level to predict customer demand with a greater accuracy; this means being able to go ahead of their competitors and, at the same time, embrace customer needs and, giving them a real and more effective experience. And, this way, become a customer-centric company (just like Amazon, remember?).
  • Talent is now (even) more important: It is true that “cost matters” and the money you put on a project, on a product or on a service makes all the difference on the business budget. But, it is also true that, nowadays, talent is becoming even more important, just because companies have realized competitive advantage from greater investments in talent despite the potential increase in overall IT costs. Specialists are saying that, for those that go this way, the payoff can be significant – once again in terms of business and customer-centric strategies.

By the way…

You may not have a digital business; you may have never thought of having something similar to that; your business might be the furthest thing from a digital or Internet of Things product… but if you want to maintain your competitive advantage and keep the pace ahead of competitors, so there is no way around: technology must be in place.
Fact is that you need to consider your company’s interaction with customers and suppliers, your product development, your maintenance processes and where it makes sense to go digital. The IT transformation is here to stay, and the business has to (really) embrace it.

And it is here where software-development competency comes in: to stay competitive, companies need to customize their solutions and becoming digital is the only way to do that; because they meet their unique production, customization, and supply-chain needs.

We are not talking about the need to start writing code but, for sure in the future, your business will need to develop some level of competency in software development. To understand this you should read “Digital Transformation: low-code vs traditional development – Who wins and why?”. You and everyone else because the command is… Going Digital!

Once again, today, IT companies already offer digital platform solutions to help to do business: a high starting point that makes the incremental cost of building a custom solution going down. These platforms work is easy to use and malleable in a way companies can make whatever they need to respond to customer needs. Just have to look for the right partner in the IT world and go for it. Once again remember: competitors won`t be waiting for you to do so…they are way ahead. Already!

Need a partner to the “Perfect Match” between Business and IT? Blue Screen can help with this process, feel free to contact us.