Is "IT-Business Alignment" dead, or actually attainable via modern APM?

A recent article by Stephanie Overby on CIO.com titled “IT Value Is Dead. Long Live Business Value” struck what should be a very relevant chord for anyone involved in Application Performance Monitoring (APM) related initiatives. In short, this post suggests that since most organizations have struggled to attain any sort of tangible success with “IT-business alignment” in the traditional sense, that we should simply convert to an even more unified perspective, where we think of everything as just “the business”. Certainly, I agree that business and IT staff must work together not just in a separated and aligned fashion, but truly in a unified fashion with a common perspective of the business, including the ultimate business results at one end of the spectrum all the way through to the foundational technology components at the other end. And yes, as this post posits, the one and only true measurement of success across all of this must be the actual business end result; however, numerous technology side measurements still must be prioritized and managed 24x7 in context of those business results in order to minimize any potential impact and to maximize the attainment of those results.

 

Unlike the original pontifications around “IT-business alignment” from as far back as the mid 1990s, this is less about how to organizationally embed IT personnel into some business department, and more about IT’s systems management approach. The fact that IT organizations to-date in general have failed to evolve beyond traditional silo’d technology management techniques, and figure out how to manage their technology estates in a business aligned fashion (mostly because system management vendors have failed to deliver practical solutions) does not somehow magically eliminate this requirement regardless of the industry label we decide to place on it. Furthermore, declaring that “the end of IT-business alignment is nigh” or “the language of IT-business alignment is now dangerously counterproductive” may perhaps provide a minor improvement in language and perspective, but if we are not careful, one that seems to essentially “throw the baby out with the bath water”.

 

Over the years, ongoing “IT-business alignment” systems management hype has resulted in a wide range of overly complex solutions with labels like “ERP for IT” (who ever thought that was a good idea?), “Business Technology Optimization” and “Business Service Management” from the mega-IT vendors. These solutions hit the market with high expectations but few tangible benefits, even after many years of often massive investment by IT organizations. As a result, many CIOs and Senior IT managers have been left no better aligned to their businesses, and certainly more than a little jaded.

 

So has anything really changed in recent years to drastically affect the landscape here? Is the difference today as Overby quotes from a consultant who helps CIOs that “people really mean it now”? Enter modern APM (see the first ever Gartner Applicaiton Performance Monitoring Magic Quadrant released in Feb 2010 for an excellent definition). From my detailed APM related discussions with a large number of Foglight customers in what has proven to be one of the highest growth areas of our business over the past year and half, I see two major catalysts for change right now, which I will outline in a subsequent blog on this subject.

But what do you think? Is the hope of IT-business alignment really dead, or did some of us just take premature steps under the glow from the earlier hype? Many of our customers tell us that Foglight helps them achieve in weeks or months what they were never able to achieve before, even after many years of massive investment in mega-IT vendor solutions that turned out to be little more than expensive server monitors. Anyone own one of those? Two? Maybe ten? I thought so.

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