Eradicate “IT Business Alignment” - How to Empower a Data-Driven Partnership

You’ve heard the somewhat dated term, “Make IT part of the business” or “Align IT to the business,” but I have a better question for you.

How can you “Empower the business to partner with IT?”

Data-driven organizations by Isaac Sacolick

Yes, I’m turning the question around 180 degrees. Seriously, we’re at a point in the evolution of technology, data, and innovation that we want to foster a collaboration where business people pull tech capabilities into their operations and can self-service their data, apps, and workflow needs.

IMHO, this future of work starts with data-driven practices

What I mean by that is how can you equip business people with technology, practices, and, dare I say, a governance model that empowers them with data to make smarter, faster, and safer decisions?

My answer? There are several ways to enable this highly collaborative, digitally enabled, and experience-driven “future of work.” Recently, I shared one post on three ways data-driven organizations enable the future of work, and at the end of the post, I promised to share two more ways.

I provide them in Episode 55 of the Driving Digital Standup. In under twelve minutes, you’ll get quick answers where I jargon-bust “data-driven organization” and the “future of work” and then provide two more data practices that truly help make the business part of IT.

No spoilers here, but one practice is really basic (though most orgs still don’t employ it), and the other is more advanced (though it should help more organizations bring machine learning models into production). The video is embedded at the end of this post, and if you find it valuable, I hope you will subscribe to the channel.

Addressing business-IT alignment, finally

Honestly, I don’t know who coined these phrases, but I suspect it’s the very large research and analyst firm that advises CIOs. The phrase made sense a decade ago when IT ran dysfunctional service desks, managed data centers, focused on end-user computing, and struggled with ERP and other enterprise systems.

Sadly, I’m sure the phrase is still relevant today, which is one reason I began my first book, Driving Digital, with these questions and a proclamation

Driving Digital by Isaac Sacolick

Did you build a customer-facing website in the nineties, invest in enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and business intelligence (BI) through the 2000s, and are now working on mobile, social, or cloud-driven transformations? Did your teams figure out how to be more agile, virtualize servers, or enable continuous delivery? Did you partner with marketing to improve lead conversion or efficiently generate new mobile and web customer experiences? Did you put in a new data warehouse and invest in data governance? Did you enable employees to bring their own mobile devices and launch collaboration tools so that the global organization could share information and innovate on new ideas?

If you are a technology leader and didn’t do some of these things, chances are you were replaced or will be soon. You will be disintermediated by spending too much effort just keeping the lights on instead of driving change or being the business steward of risk instead of being a solution provider. -- Isaac Sacolick in Driving Digital

Folks, I wrote that five years ago! If you’re still stuck with business-IT alignment, that’s one indicator of future disruption for your business – and maybe your job.

The three capabilities that empower a data-driven partnership

Digital Trailblazer by Isaac Sacolick, Buried in Bad Data

We messed up twenty years ago when rolling out Microsoft Office, Excel, and Access to business people by providing little to no governance on using these tools without creating mountains of data debt. Today, we have better self-service BI capabilities with tools like Tableau, Power BI, KNIME, Sisense, and Domo, but we must still guide employees on best practices.

In the video, I provide the structure for setting up a data-driven organization for success, enabling a future of work based on a collaborative partnership, and leaving “business-IT alignment” to the depths of last-generation data centers.

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Encourage more employees to partner with citizen data science centers of excellence
  2. Foster agile, multidisciplinary teams on all data and analytics program
  3. Blend proactive data governance, DataOps, and analytics work as part of a program’s objectives

Learn more in the video, read my buried in bad data stories in Digital Trailblazer, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.