Sneaky Bear


If you are only listening to the sound of your own footsteps you will never hear the bear sneaking up on you.  There has been much discussion around IT alignment with the business.  I believe that true IT alignment is neither possible nor advisable.  As Werner Heisenberg would say you can either know where you are or know how fast you are going, but you cannot know both. The only way IT can stay aligned is if both the business and IT are in the same place at the same time, which means both are standing still.  This might be fine for rustbelt type companies, but for the dynamic company it means getting eaten by the bear.

A quote often cited by Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  On the other hand Steve Jobs said, “ Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”  If IT is aligned with the business it is either a follower or lagger. IT must lead by employing sustainable innovation, See Sustainable Innovation on CHAOS Tuesday. IT is often trying to catch-up with the business and is often falling behind because projects take time and change is hard.  Therefore the more IT tries to catch up they get further and further from alignment.  This of course causes management frustration and disappointment with IT management.  It is no wonder the average CIO tenure is less than two years.

CIOs need to stop trying to be in alignment with the business by trying to catch up, but need to leap frog the business. Leap frogging takes, insight, innovation, and guts. Leap frogging is risky and the CIO needs to play multiple hands to increase his or her odds of getting a wining hand.   In this regard The Standish Group has created the Innovation Center technique. 

The idea of an innovation Center is to create an idea factory that would produce small projects and prototypes.  The Innovation Center could adopt advanced engineering techniques such as set-based concurrent engineering.  The innovation Center allows organizations to take on more risk in a controlled environment without burden of the PM Industrial Complex.  You can learn more about the Innovation Center by listening to CHAOS Tuesday #31.

We are about to release our report titled CHAOS Manifesto 2014: The Orthogonals. For many years we have listed “Clear Business Objectives” as the third Factor of the Ten CHAOS Factors of Success. As part of this new report it is clear from our research the alignment is orthogonal to IT value. In fact software projects that were the further from the corporate goals and strategy returned the highest value. It also clear to us that IT has to make a fundamental decision whether alignment is more important than value or is value more important than alignment. Alignment and value are also orthogonal. See our free report titled Exceeding Value.


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Subject Matter


About the Author:


Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is chairman of The Standish Group. He has been professionally involved in the computer industry for over 40 years and has a long list of published books, papers, articles and speeches. He has a combination of technical, marketing, and research achievements focused on mission-critical applications and technology. He is best known for his research on project performance and early recognizing technology trends. Jim is a pioneer of modern research techniques and continues to advance in the research industry through case-based analytical technology.

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