Strategic IT/business alignment for SMBs

The alignment between the business side and IT is crucial. Learn more with these tips and news articles.

Strategic IT alignment with business goals is the key to a successful IT operation. Easier said than done, you say? Maybe so, but some experts say small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) actually do this more easily than larger enterprises due to several factors, including the fact that smaller companies have easier access to upper management.

Even so, there are specific steps to take to ensure that each side is giving all it has to make the IT/business alignment a roaring (and noticeable) success. And it's not exactly the same for CEOs as it is for CIOs. These articles, resources and advice columns are a must-read before you attempt to begin a prosperous business/IT relationship.

For free advice and resources on more IT and business topics, visit our main SMB IT Management Guide section.

Table of contents

   With project portfolio management, city CIO saves big bucks
   IT job rotation rare, but critical for alignment
   E-discovery must be a team effort
   CM systems: Keep your customers in the driver's seat
   SMBs stymied by uncertain economy
   More resources

  IT job rotation rare, but critical for alignment  Table of Contents

[Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer]

Tom Freeman, CIO of the city of Roseville, Calif., reduced his $10 million budget by 6.8% just by using a project and portfolio management (PPM) application to align his department with his city council's strategic goals and objectives.

"Roseville is one of those cities that have its own operations -- an electric department, planning, police, fire, transportation," Freeman said. "We have 16 different operating organizations. It's somewhat difficult because it's almost like running 16 different businesses. We were having a little bit of trouble with a silo effect. One of our goals was to break down those silos and try to align technology projects with the goals and objectives of the city council. But to do that, everybody had to see the big picture of what was going on."

"We were overburdened with projects," Freeman said. "If we had on another major project, a PPM tool implemented in-house -- that would have taken even more resources and we would have been burdened with software licensing and additional equipment."

   Learn more in "With project portfolio management, city CIO saves big bucks." Also:

  • Relationship management essential part of IT, business alignment (
    CIOs use relationship management skills to improve IT and business alignment and ultimately add more value to the business.
  • Project managers top CIOs' must-have list (
    Historically, project managers were a luxury most midmarket companies couldn't afford -- and thought they could do without. But now a growing number of CIOs say without a project manager, why bother?

  IT job rotation rare, but critical for alignment  Table of Contents

[Shamus McGillicuddy, News Writer]

Ten percent of the employees in CIO Joe Lacik's IT organization were originally recruited from the business side of his company.

Lacik says rotating workers into IT from business operations is part of the reason why IT is so strongly aligned with the business at Aviall Inc., a Dallas-based distributor of aerospace parts and services with $1.3 billion in sales. Aviall was recently purchased by The Boeing Co.

Despite the success that CIOs like Lacik have had with them, IT job rotation programs like Aviall's remain extremely rare.

In a recent survey of 281 IT leaders, Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., found that only 22% of organizations rotated staff within their IT organizations.

"When I've interviewed people before about rotation in general, I get a lot of responses along the lines of, 'Well we should be doing that,' or 'We're not doing it yet,'" said Forrester analyst Samuel Bright, author of a report based on the survey.

   Learn more in "IT job rotation rare, but critical for business alignment." Also:

  • Key to IT alignment: Know your place (
    What kind of IT organization are you? Do you offer strategic value or deliver on business requests? Industry expert Paul Gillin discusses how IT organizations can successfully define themselves in a way that best matches the needs of the business.
  • 25 Champion CIOs (CIO Decisions)
    These 25 leaders are shaping business strategy at their companies with smart technology decisions. Meet our 2007 Midmarket IT award winners.

  E-discovery must be a team effort  Table of Contents

[James M. Connolly, Contributor]

IT organizations have survived Y2K, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA and other compliance issues that more or less have an end in sight once the deadlines have been met. But there's one hurdle for CIOs at SMBs that never really ends: the emergence of rules relating to electronic discovery, or e-discovery, of corporate communications and documents in court cases.

The rules relating to types of information companies must produce when involved in lawsuits are being defined by individual court decisions and changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that took effect in December. They affect companies of all sizes and in all industries. While larger companies may tend to be prime targets for lawsuits, SMBs are more likely to lack the IT and legal resources to deal with e-discovery.

"The biggest thing we have to do from a small-company perspective is to balance everything we have to do because we don't have the luxury of a big staff," said Dan Grosz, vice president of information systems at VIP Parts, Tires & Service in Lewiston, Maine. "We wear multiple hats, and I don't want to add yet another hat. I have enough to worry about without having to become a lawyer.''

   Learn more in "E-discovery must be a team effort." Also:

  • Risky business: Talking to your company's lawyer (
    An IT legal expert stresses the importance of good communication between a CIO and corporate counsel.
  • ITIL at SMBs challenging but rewarding (
    With the right training and investment, ITIL can help SMBs define and improve IT best practices just as much as it benefits large businesses.

  CM systems: Keep customers in the driver's seat  Table of Contents

[Sarah Lourie, Site Editor]

BOSTON -- Let your customers drive your content management (CM) system selection. It will only grow your bottom line. That was the message Anthony Wilson, director of client services at New York-based Molecular Inc., gave to attendees at last week's AIIM Conference & Expo. "There's a fundamental shift in the digital world. Content does not stand alone anymore, people are trying to understand the relationships in the data," Wilson said.

What works for one company may not work for others, especially SMBs. IT professionals at SMBs need to consider the context of any recommendation they are given -- whether by a friend, colleague or analyst. Ask detailed questions about usage and what criteria was used to evaluate systems. Your needs and goals probably aren't an exact match.

It's also important, Wilson warned, to look into the corporate standards at your company. There may be some for CM systems -- you'll need to work within those standards to find a system. "This approach reduces licensing costs and simplifies maintenance for IT but does not always assure the right system is used for each application," he said.

   Learn more in "CM systems: Keep your customers in the driver's seat." Also:

  • Intranets build productivity and efficiency (
    SMBs can benefit most from intranets, which offer better productivity, knowledge sharing and money-saving resources.
  • Email etiquette policies: Big savings and productivity (
    Email makes the world go 'round, but without an email etiquette plan, productivity and collaboration can make you spin into information overload.

  SMBs stymied by uncertain economy  Table of Contents

[Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer]

An uncertain economy and shrinking capital are hobbling SMBs and forcing many to readjust their business strategies.

For the smallest SMBs, the tough economic climate is prompting layoffs. Midmarket organizations plan to cut costs by optimizing business operations and integrating their IT infrastructure.

The findings are from a study by AMI-Partners Inc., a New York firm specializing in global IT, Internet, telecommunications and business services strategy. The "high level" snapshot gives SMBs insight into how other companies are attacking the problem, said AMI analyst Spencer Richardson, author of the study. But the barriers to growth should raise concerns beyond the SMB community.

"Enterprise firms need to be aware of what is facing both their clients and future competition," Richardson said.

   Learn more in "Report: SMBs worldwide stymied by uncertain economy." Also:

  • CIOs confident about budget but plan for economic slump (
    A positive economic outlook has CIOs feeling rosy about their IT spending next year, but economists warn shrinking corporate profit growth could be the thorn that bursts their bubble.
  • Short CIO tenures paralyze IT
    Companies with unstable CIO positions are short-sheeting not only IT, but their business objectives as well. Want long-term success? Keep your CIO.

  More resources  Table of Contents

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