Periodically I will identify a term or phrase that conveys a problem confronting both business and IT leaders. This week, we are focusing on congruency or more accurately incongruence. Congruence means “in agreement or harmony; identical in form; coinciding exactly when superimposed. Incongruence between IT units and business leaders can result in devastating impacts both financially and operationally.
For businesses on which technology is the primary driver of value and innovation, it is essential for business executives and IT leaders to design a path that is congruent, easy to follow and communicate. A critical component of sound IT Financial Management (ITFM) is precise communications; communications should emanate from joint planning, and collaborative discourse to achieve a deeper understanding of business objectives and how technology can help reach these goals.
Here are some examples of what I call “passive behavioral incongruencies” in which executives are often uncomfortable voicing and manifest themselves in the following ways:
1. Our technology investments are not keeping pace with our business. What this means is, “folks in IT are spending money on things that don’t matter to us.” Typically, stakeholders grumble that results in additional requests by budget approvers to explain the business case which often results in wasted cycles of effort by consultants and internal staff.
2. The business is making decisions without IT involvement. This perception is a symptom of the inability to understand what is driving demand; thus, the capabilities the company is looking for often go wanting for something the IT group is not providing. The symptoms we typically see include financial waste because of duplicate efforts, incomplete decision making and its potential downstream implications and myriad of symptoms.
3. We don’t know for what we are paying. When the bills from service providers or internal approval requests for expenses are due, there is often a sense of mystery and surprise—, especially in larger companies. Businesses can follow different pathways to address: 1) approval documentation that is explained up-front as supporting proof for purchases; 2) zero-based budgeting to drive clarity of need, fiscal transparency and efficient use of capital.
Achieving congruence or eliminating incongruence packs a powerful punch for organizations operating within tight financial constraints. ITFM sets the stage to driving more value from IT investments by charting a course that is more sustainable to support both running day-to-day operations while supporting innovation and growing new opportunities.