RIP IT Value?

This is the headline from the cover story of the May 15, 2011 print edition of CIO Magazine. The question mark is mine. The article by Stephanie Overby takes as its theme the assertion that "The end of IT-business alignment is nigh." It reaches this conclusion based on the astounding finding that, now, "Business outcomes are all that really matter." Good grief! I don't know whether to be more apoplectic about the fact that I can't think of any other IT value than business outcomes (which is why we always talk about the "Business value of IT,") or the fact that I can't understand how anyone achieves business outcomes without IT-business alignment. I confess that I was tempted to just ignore an article that started so badly but there is an underlying valid point here which resonates with a keynote address I heard last month from Bill Curtis at the SEPG Europe conference in Dublin. There ARE IT "best practices" out there which do not sufficiently address business outcomes. Bill is a long-term contributor to and proponent of CMMI. So neither Bill nor I are taking anything away from the value of CMMI by supporting the view that many of the CMMI implementations that have not delivered the expected impact for their organizations have missed the mark because they have not been required to address business outcomes. For example, I am often asked how CMMI can be so valuable if CMMI Level 5 organizations in India perform so "poorly" as outsourcing vendors? I have a stock answer to this that covers the following points: - CMMI Level 5 (if implemented and appraised seriously in India - which it is in many organizations) does truly represent high maturity software development; - CMMI does deliver value to its Indian accreditees if and only if they align it with their desired business outcomes. This alignment is external to a CMMI implementation because CMMI does not really address it. This means having a full and frank conversation with their clients about the constraints on performance that the client's lack of development maturity impose. - CMMI only delivers value to the client organization if the business outcomes of client and vendor can be aligned and if the CMMI implementation can be corralled to support those outcomes. It should not be this hard and I support any initiative by Bill and others to ensure that IT best practices frameworks are tied into business outcomes. For this reason, I have high hopes for the IT-CMF framework developed by the IVI (search for other posts on this topic).

Written by Michael D. Harris at 18:29
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