In implementing strategic alignment there are various positionings which can be established, providing a framework within which the organisation will manage the application of IT.
The positioning adopted by the company, ideally by means of an explicit senior management decision, is probably the most important step to be taken in executing any information systems strategy. However, what is, if anything, more important than the decision itself is how the key players actually adopt, understand, share and fulfil it.
Possible positionings would include:
Information systems strategy execution positioning
Implementation of the information systems strategy is used as an operational cornerstone, derived from a well described and expressed business strategy, creating stronger links between executive management and information systems management. In essence, the CIO becomes an additional functional manager, focusing his efforts on aligning technology with the business model.
Members of the organisation can be provided with a platform on which to develop their own initiatives, supported by a framework of consistency and management, based on the underlying principle of the match between initiatives and strategic planning.
The information systems strategy becomes the bedrock of sound project management, with executive and information systems management ensuring that this pathway is maintained.
Costs are given particular importance in that they represent a vital factor in implementing strategic plans, by performing comparative analysis with the benefits potentially generated from the business perspective by a specific technological application.
In certain business scenarios, typically with emerging businesses, technology may be the fulcrum on which the information systems strategy turns.
In this case, the efforts of Information Systems management will focus on seeking out innovative technological options, and how they can be implemented and supported at the organisation with a view to the future. IT managers will have an IT architect profile.
With this positioning, senior management defines the company's possibilities in economic terms, delegating decision-making to the IT division.
Under this positioning, the focus is on establishing the most efficient way to deliver the products and services demanded by users. IT management is based on the technological infrastructure.
This positioning does not include a vision of the business strategy, with the main role of Information Systems management becoming that of prioritising projects and the administration of internal resources. Executive management therefore plays a more passive role.
This model typically involves establishing IT as a service or business unit within a business which must prove profitable.
Objectives are typically short-term and handled by committees made up of representatives from the management teams at different areas of the organisation, debating the priorities of IT projects.
The role of Information Systems management is that of a service manager centred on user satisfaction, with the users being viewed as members of the organisation. The only strategy to be devised is how to respond to the demands of internal clients.
Measurement of the level of operational effectiveness is typically performed by means of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which provide the measurement dimensions for services and the model for comparison between standards and actual data.
This focus is similar to the use of electric current. Devices are switched on and off and their power settings regulated as required, with no need to understand the complexity which lies behind the power socket, simply its cost.
All these positionings may be perfectly valid, depending on how well aligned they are with the business strategy, or how they suit the company's management style.
What really matters is that one of them, or a novel combination of them, should establish the pathway for execution of the Plan, with this decision being shared and understood by the members of the organisation, at differing intensities. Otherwise, management, the Information Systems department and user areas will have different concerns, and some expectations will therefore not be satisfied.