Looking Into the Future: Sustaining IS Alignment

26 Nov

Now that we are nearly finished with our investigation into strategic alignment, we have already discussed the topic from a number of different angles. We have covered the basics, how it works, where the challenges lie, and what are its advantages and disadvantages. To conclude my own posts, I would like to examine the process of maintaining IS Alignment, and sustaining it in the long term.

One of the major pitfalls of alignment is the inability of businesses to cope with change and adapt to the ever evolving external market. Henderson and Venkatraman (1993) define it as “not an event but a process of continuous adaptation and change”. It isn’t just a once-off event, and a simple process. Strategic Alignment is an on-going development that is constantly changing and adapting as the environment permits.

A major element of the external environment, and one that has adverse effects on a company’s internal dynamics, are other organisations or competitors. A paper written by Joe Peppard and Karin Breu (2003) uses “co-evolutionary theory” to describe the bigger picture of how organisations operate and change. While evolutionary theory described organisations as single actualities, co-evolution thinks of all organisations as inter-linked, whereby a single action can have rippling effects that force all organisations to constantly change and adapt.

Adapting to this way of thinking may make it easier for an organisation to accept that constant progression is imperative in maintain IS alignment. When it comes to something as comprehensive as IT and IS, businesses should not just react and counter-react to competitors’ actions, but constantly keep in mind the techniques necessary to achieve alignment, such as communication and prioritizing internal structure in order to maintain alignment as their company’s procedures and strategies change according to these external factors. Such actions will ensure alignment is sustained well into the future.

Research on the struggle to achieve optimal alignment still remains inconclusive. Based on my own investigation, and what I’ve learned from other user, it is something that, once achieved, can lead to an increased level of efficiency, and a strong foothold in the market. Two major advantages, but two advantages that companies will struggle to achieve. Most operate without a clear understanding of what IS alignment really is, where the challenges lie, and how to overcome these challenges, and for these companies IS alignment will remain impossible, and that “best fit” within the organisation will be unattainable.

Henderson, J. C., and Venkatraman, N. “Strategic Alignment: Leveraging Information Technology for Transforming Organizations,” IBM Systems Journal (32:1), 1993, pp. 4-16.

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2 Responses to “Looking Into the Future: Sustaining IS Alignment”

  1. cdat2 November 27, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Very enjoyable post cob12! I agree that strategic alignment is a continuous process. Do you think firms may be sceptical in their decision to bring in information systems to their business if costs of updates, maintenance and training staff are also continuous?

    • cob12 November 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks for reading cdat2.

      Definitely. I think that alignment brings a lot of subsequent intangible costs with it, so extra expenses like the ones you mentioned would defnitley act as a deterrent in some way.

      I do feel like companies need a bit of foresight to be able to gauge the benefits that will be incurred in the future, and will be incurred from these subsequent expenses. Though it might seem daunting to face so many different expenses, you need to remember that it’s all in the interest of long term efficiency.

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