It is strongly supported that an IT strategy that is focused on maintaining a cutting-edge technology position is the most effective way to support all sorts of overall business strategies. Development in business communication technologies has found its place as one of the key components of management considerations. It has been argued that it is impossible to align the IT strategies and business strategies or it is simply hard to do so and the benefits of aligning are not obvious As it will be shown in this paper, the benefits are obvious but the process of aligning is not simple but professionals and experts are required to achieve this. This paper is going to introduce the concepts of business strategy, business information strategy, and alignment of the two strategies as a way of achieving the ultimate business goal. It will show how connected the two strategies are and it will also argue for the above topic. A conclusion based on the discussion made will then be drawn.
IT strategy concept
Before the alignment of IT strategies and business is discussed, it is felt prudent to elaborate on the concept of IT strategy. Its strategies refer to the steps or activities that need to be done to achieve the best benefits of information management. If a company wants to have, for example say the best and the most efficient modes of communication and information management, all the steps that it will take to achieve the predetermined status will constitute the IT strategies. The strategies may range from having the latest communication gadgets such as access to the Internet, fax services, reliable communication phones to best methods of managing business information, employee data, information concerning their marketing plans, market survey data among others. Although it may be harmless, the concept does not necessitate new technology innovation by the business IT department but it requires the employees in this department to keep watching for any new technology in the market that will be an improvement to the technology currently in use. To maintain the cutting edge position of IT, the IT department has first to perceive a need to change in the currently used practices of information management. Then inform the rest of the employees and senior management about the desired changes, then get down to setting a strategic plan on how to achieve the goals. The department has to find an efficient method of monitoring how the delivery process is performing. In case a weakness in the delivery process has been noted, fast response to improve the process’ architecture should be taken to eliminate the weakness. The newly established information systems are now managed as investments in the sense that cost was incurred when the system was put up and it needs to be managed in such a way that it will make a significant contribution to economic return as the overall business goal.
Overall business strategy
On the other hand, the concept of business strategy implies the business operations or activities which if the company/ business adopts will give it an advantage over their business opponents and competitors and most importantly will bring more economic returns for the investments in the form of profits. Any business that is professionally run has attempted to find ways of achieving its key goals through the implementation of its business strategies but the environment has remained competitive and new challenges are emerging day after day. Generally, the most commonly shared business strategies include how to minimize running costs and other expenses, how to maximize the sale of their goods and services, how to ensure perfect external relations with their customers and suppliers, how to ensure proper management of internal human resources who are the most important people behind the success of any business, how to effectively and affordably manage the businesses information systems, how well should the business be improved and expanded, and how to sharpen the management skills of the top management staff as well as the doing skills of the technical and support staff to ensure very effective service delivery. To ensure that these strategies are well met, it is therefore important to give IT strategies first priority in addressing the above and any other business strategies that will aim at developing the business economically both in the short term and in the long run (Holmes, 2007). As discussed below, although other strategies may have a positive impact, aligning IT strategies with Business strategies will result in more impact in achieving the overall business goal.
Integrating IT strategies into the business strategies
Marketing is one of the key departments of any business. For an existing business, there is the technology currently in use. As competition gets tighter, there emerges a need to use more effective methods of marketing. For example, if a company used to rely on TV and radios to market its commodities, there is an evident need to involve IT strategies that will see new technology adopted, like the use of the Internet to market their products to widen their market and remain in the competitive edge. Despite the competition, the use of the Internet will swell the market catchment to a global level. The use of cyberspace technology in businesses has allowed frequent modification and redesigning of company web pages and sites to make them more attractive to clients. The use of new and cheaper technologies in communication with clients especially in making orders and follow up during the delivery of orders has contributed much to the business strategy because first, the newly adopted methods are cheaper than those used earlier (wireless versus telephone lines technology), they are more convenient, effective and through their use, businesses have greatly improved their productivity (Berkman, 2000). Businesses saw it wise to shift their advertising activities from the use of the analog TV technology broadcasters which is becoming outdated and has limited coverage to the use of digital TV which has wide area coverage and is being viewed by most people who are potential consumers of the goods and services being advertised.
The change of information system of tracking the views and comments of clients and suppliers from suggestion box to use of emails texts (that are either anonymous or normal) has given convenience to the suppliers and clients. It is also possible to make an anonymous call and give out your views. The use of this technology has made businesses understand better the needs of their clients and suppliers and any loopholes in their operating systems have by this means been identified and addressed. The use of new technology has also greatly embraced the just–in–time concept whereby if a company is playing ‘the middle man between the manufacturer and retailers or wholesalers, a software that is Internet-based has been developed to monitor stock movement automatically such that if the distributor is capable of knowing how much of the stock supplied to retailers was bought and therefore needs replacement while the manufacturer can know how much to deliver to the distributor based on what was issued the previous day. This has helped in establishing lasting relationships between businesses and their clients.
Finance management is one of the most sensitive issues in a business. Proper, minimal, and informed expenditure is the desire of most businesses. Information strategies have been integrated into finance management through the use of Internet-based finance monitoring software (Art, 2004). By use of this technology, senior finance managers can obtain minute-by-minute information concerning transactions while on their business trips or other functions from any part of the world. This is possible through the use of satellite transmissions and cyberspace information technology. Most supermarkets and big stalls have adopted this business strategy- IT strategy alignment strategy and have proved successful in managing their finances from anywhere in the world. Any misappropriation of money can be detected easily. This is a way of minimizing business costs on hiring accounts auditors to detect any technical theft. The number of employees who would have been employed to handle finance issues is reduced significantly, thus reducing the cost of labor.
As highlighted earlier in this paper, businesses’ efforts to attain their ultimate goals are greatly contributed by the workforce (the human resources). As scientific management theories notes, the success of business investors and that of its employees are mutual. IT and information systems can be engineered to benefit employees as a way of motivating them. The use of business IT systems to automate the process of paying employees, tracking their records among others can boost the morale of employees and make them work to their capabilities. Information systems integrated into planning, budgeting, and evaluating business performance are a move towards achieving the business goal. These are crucial activities for business management. It is important to recognize the fact that it is very difficult to manage an enterprise that you do not understand well (Thomas & Kay, 2002, p. 87). It is unimaginable how a senior human resource manager can announce the retrenchment of some employees with claims of having a lean workforce that is well catered for. Such decisions are damaging to the reputation of the company within the society. A critical analysis of labor and company output needs to be done and decisions made with consideration of the community and the future of the business. The only department of the business where critical data concerning these issues can be obtained is the information department. Management policies are made based on the data on sales, personnel, finance, and suppliers. This data has been collected and archived by the Information departments.
The business strategy seeks to achieve an advantage for a business over its competitors. Business Information strategy seeks to use the most efficient, cheap, and convenient methods of communications in the business. Although when combined with other strategies of businesses management may lead to more success of the business, information strategy is the most influential strategy when on its own because it seeks to promote Marketing, customer relations, human resources, finance management, and in sharpening the management skills of all management personnel. These are the pillars for the success and achievement of the ultimate business goal.
Art, J. (2004). Business-IT Alignment Difficult? CIO Magazine, Web.
Berkman, E. (2000). Still Talking About Alignment. Web.
Holmes, A. (2007). ROI of Alignment. CIO Online, Web.
Thomas, M., & Kay Lewis, R. (2002). Business goals aligned with IS to improve profit margins CogniTech Services Corporation, 15, 82-90.