During a recent trip to Japan I found several examples of how culture plays a role in the success of certain types of business. So dramatic are some of the differences between our two countries — Japan and the United States — that I began thinking about how the practice of technology alignment is as much about the culture of a company as it is simply good business sense.
If you happen to be a C-level executive for a company that uses technology… so in other words, every C-level executive with few exceptions, you’re interested in how technology alignment can help you position your company for better times ahead.
Technology Alignment — also variously called IT Alignment, Business Alignment and Business and Technology Alignment — is both the process and the practice a company uses to assure a “best fit” between its current combination of technology assets and best practices with its five year plan.
As a simple example, consider that one very apparent cultural norm throughout Japan is maintaining cleanliness. Look far and wide but you will not see trash stuffed in corners or sewers or even blowing on streets. In this example, the long term goal (equivalent to a five year plan) is “keep all things clean and in their most beautiful state”. Available “technology” assets include brains and hands for understanding and executing processes for maintaining the cultural norm. Best practices include “don’t create trash” and “if trash occurs, remove it immediately”. So ingrained is this way of living that people like you and me are much more likely to step in and execute the process (pick up trash when it occurs) than the public domain workers who are paid to maintain cleanliness.
Benefits of conducting technology alignment studies include:
- Increased productivity and therefore increased capacity.
- Reduction in costs relating to an improvement or change in technologies or processes.
- The ability to hire resources who are less expensive or who want to work with newer technologies.
- Plays nicely with LEAN studies since many of the goals in LEAN and Alignment overlap.
A secondary benefit of technology alignment is the resulting culture that evolves based on the company’s desire to work smarter. After all, a technologically aligned company will make better use of its existing resources while acquiring or beginning to use assets and resources that are better suited for the work at hand.
Many Faces of Alignment
To help illustrate the importance of technology alignment, I’ll use the following themes in the next several articles:
- ROI of Culture on IT Alignment
- Agile Methods Provide the Greatest Value to Organizations
- Scrum, the Essential Agile Method for Software Development
- Clusters, Technology Alignment and Competition
- Community Planning
- Non-profits (or social sector)
It Just Makes Sense
A recurring concept throughout will be what the Japanese call joshiki (常識), a word which means, roughly, “common sense”. Technology alignment is the application of common sense where a company’s five-year plan is the contextual starting point.