Business-technology alignment is a renowned issue that continues to plague various businesses. Often, the disconnection results into some disastrous results. However, despite the severity of the issue among various corporations, Tom Uva seems not to be threatened by the issue. He states that business-technology alignment is not rocket science. Uva has gone ahead and created a framework that allows IT staffers to focus on strategic business priorities. Uva and his staffers are driven by the motto “There is Nowhere to Hide” “You deliver or You do Not.”
In the article “Absolute Alignment: How One CIO Remains in Lock-Step with the Business,” Uva reviews various issues that are related to business-technology alignment. Initially, he emphasizes on the importance of assembling as teams in a corporation to discuss various issues affecting the corporation, lay strategic plans for the organization, and review progress. Uva’s team meets weekly to discuss the status of all the projects that have an IT component. The meeting comprises of various heads from the CIO’s five groups that make the Sensis Corporate Technology Solutions (CTS) (Wailgum 1). These groups include Business Solutions that is concerned with applications and data management; network operations team; client services, which is responsible for dealing with all the IT issues of the Sensis user community; information security; and the Run as Business that is responsible for such issues as vendor management, the IT group’s financial management, and training programs. The weekly meetings update the staffers on their next activities; they ensure that each staff is focused on the set priorities. Thus, meetings should not be activities that are undertaken annually and forgotten; they should be actively managed. Uva’ meetings emphasize on the significance of constant meetings as teams and heads of teams for the success of IT organizations (Wailgum 1).
The teams undertake various priorities. In a single month, a team’s priorities may range from five to ten priorities. Additionally, priorities differ in terms of size and complexity; often, priorities can be an entire IT project or a constituent of the larger IT project. The teams’ first concern is on how to prioritize their priorities from what has not been done to what has been done. Though Uva’s meetings are similar to all the other status update meetings that are held within any other CIO’s office; the meetings have their own distinctive characteristics. The meetings are more effective, defined, and strategic compared to other CIO meetings. This arises because all the parties present in the meetings understand that the Sensis Group and all CTS partners have signed off all their priorities and are committed to the success of these priorities. Additionally, they understand that all the Sensis employees review their successes or failures on a monthly basis, and their remuneration is tied to the performance of the entire CTS portfolio. These factors are critical in promoting boosting morale and commitment of the IT alignment staffers to achieve the priorities of the company.
Business and IT leaders are required to establish an IT operating plan that is based on the company’s goals and long-term strategies (Wailgum 2). The strategic plan can then be broken down into yearly, quarterly, and monthly IT priorities. These priorities can then be tracked and monitored objectively since they are visible along the company’s lines of business. Sensis has adopted this approach. Uva comments that the approach is not as complicated as perceived. However, it is an effective approach for mending conventional business-IT disconnects. The approach is based on transparency and truthfulness, responsibility and rigor, and pacing and prioritization.
The present manifestation of Uva’s project and priorities approach does not have any formal name. The approach has progressed over the years to its present form. There was a significant external expert input in the development of the approach; former CIO’s contributed greatly to the creation and development of the approach (Wailgum 2). It involves blending of sound project management strategies and the reality in IT.
Uva’s greatest influence is E.P. Rogers, The Mony Group CIO. Rogers interconnected daily activities to the tactical operations, and the strategic obligations. The company’s strategic annual plan is connected to the IT deliverables per month (Wailgum 3). He uses governance, project management, and alignment to carry out his business operations.
The company has a Four-Leveled Plan with different variations and one plan complies with the other.
The Three-Year Sensis Strategy- This is strategic plan that spans on 3-4 years. For instance, Application of Consolidation Plan. This involves identification, modification, or elimination of applications. The executive annually revisits this strategy (Wailgum 3).
Twelve-Month Operating Plan- This consolidation plan is broken into smaller annual targets. For instance, Review five applications. Annually, this target will be reviewed whether the objective was met.
Quarterly Targets- The annual operating plan is broken down into quarters and targets are set in every quarter.
Monthly Priorities- These are generated from the Quarterly Targets. For instance, in the first month of Quarter 1, the specifications for the evaluation criteria. This helps the shops to deal with the IT capacity (Wailgum 3).
Every employee has a copy of the strategic and operating plan that is updated to meet the demand of clients. If they have a client that will order their products in 2012, they change their operations and strategy to meet that plan so that they can be able to meet with the demand. At the same time, the Chief People Officer, and SVP at Sensis, Peggy Dudarchik, looks into the CTS department to know which business projects need resources.
All priorities are reviewed, and for Uva, 99 percent done equals undone. Monthly progress is published and is made available to every employee in the company. This implies that everyone easily accesses information about the performance of every team. This enables all the employees to see if they met the set objectives during that period. The other business executives can see the meaning and implications of the IT system.
Uva has the ability to say no to last minute projects. This helps him to avoid exerting too much pressure on the capacity of his organization. Vice President of Operations at Sensis, Greg Farnham, says that, he understands when his request is processed (Wailgum 4). He knows the capacity of manufacturing, demands of the IT employers, how the resources are allocated, and above all the priorities of the organization (Wailgum 4). Such situations can be solved through reprioritizing the demands of every project.
Uva uses strategic operations, limited IT resources, and prioritization of projects to meet organizational transparency. This transparency is reflected by the accountability in this organization. Three-quarters of the salary of employees is tied to their monthly performance (Wailgum 4). The success of the IT department is measured with a ratio. The number of completed projects is divided by the total number of projects that every team was assigned for that month.
At the beginning of every year, Uva and his leadership team set three grades of IT performance: Grade 1- Threshold or a basic passing grade
Grade 2- Target or a performance that is rated as above average
Grade 3- Above Target that denotes excellent work
In the 2010 fiscal year, the results of Q1, Q2, Q3, were 81, 86 and 91. This shows a marked improvement in performance. The overall score of the CTS team stood at 90.4 %.
In conclusion, Uva has geared his business towards success using the Four-Leveled Plan, prioritizing, IT transparency, and commitment. He spends a third of his time on operational issues, and the rest on strategic issues (Wailgum 4).