Bob Evans at InformationWeek has done it again.  I hate to quote the same source twice in less than a month, but his January 19 column is a nice piece of debunking conventional wisdom.*

He points out that "aligning IT with the business" is still being presented as fresh thinking — contrasted, explicitly or otherwise, with the suggestion that IT will otherwise focus on its own technical measures of operational performance, and lose touch with the reasons that IT is being used at all.

His point, and it's a good one, is that "aligning with the business" implicitly means "aligning tomorrow's IT measures with yesterday's business needs" — unless IT has the benefit, and uses it, of getting leading indications of what tomorrow's business needs will be.

Where do we get those leading indications? From customers. Hence Bob's new* mantra for the enterprise IT professional: don't align IT with the business, but rather "interlace IT with the customers".**

How do we interlace IT with the customers? We make IT the leader in adopting tools like Ideas to engage the customer, proactively, in telling us things — to see, directly, the realities that we'd otherwise have to pay research firms to approximate (Platonically) by measuring shadows on the wall.

From now on, when I hear the phrase, "Align IT with the business," it's going to make me think of circling the wagons to defend against an attack. That's "business alignment," to be sure, but at some point the people in the wagons are going to run out of bullets. And then the people inside the circle are in trouble.

Let's use IT to work with the world outside our circle — while we can.

* Of course, Bob was also making a good observation in November 2008, when he said pretty much the exact same thing in mostly the exact same words. I know it's hard to keep coming up with new material — after 18 years of writing one or two columns per week, boy, do I know it — but there's nothing wrong with admitting that you're reiterating a point you've made before. Careful, Bob, Google is always watching.

** Memo to grammarians: yes, I know that conventional U.S. usage would put
that closing period inside the quotation marks. Modern hackish usage deplores
that convention. Get over it.

 - pc

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