Book Review: The Alignment Effect

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust business executives are more skeptical than ever about throwing millions of dollars at IT projects that often yield more headaches than benefits.

In this type of environment you need to harmonize business and technology objectives like never before. Okay,

that’s a bit like saying the secret to a happy marriage is open and honest communication. No one can argue with the basic premise, but it is a lot easier said than done.

In his book The Alignment Effect (How to Get Real Business Value Out of Technology) U.S.-based author and IT consultant Faisal Hoque claims he has found a sure-fire system for closing the business/technology disconnect that is bleeding many North-American companies dry. Can his book be the Holy Grail everyone has been searching for? Yes and no. Hoque has developed a system for marrying business and IT objectives. How well that system works in the real world is an open question. However his book is a valuable read for any IT executive who wants to re-examine his approach to investing in technology.

Hoque’s approach stems from the idea that alignment is only possible when business strategy, business processes and IT are all pulling the company in the same direction. The way to make that happen, according to Hoque, is by deploying business technology management. BTM is a somewhat slippery notion, but in a nutshell it incorporates predictive modelling, collaborative decision-making and knowledge management.

The basic idea is before you commit to an IT project, you should first understand the range of possible outcomes, you should canvas input from key stakeholders, and you should have information systems in place that ensure good decisions are made.

So far so good, but Hoque does not do a great job at defining some of his key concepts, including business model definition and process optimization. The problem is the author too often describes things by what they are not, and relies heavily on jargon.

On the plus side, Hoque makes some helpful suggestions. A case in point is when he argues CIOs should also consider intangibles such as opportunity costs and competitive threats when trying to define the benefits of an IT project because ROI measures alone are too narrow in their scope. That is certainly helpful advice for IT executives who sometimes have trouble seeing their contribution in the context of the overall business.

Whether it will help them squeeze more value out of their IT investments is less clear.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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