Criticism on Business/IT Alignment

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Alignment, Criticism on Alignment
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Business IT Fusion (book)

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Critics of Business/IT-Alignment research argue that in the world of work, alignment does not succeed because strategy is not a clear concept due to various turbulent, unpredictable circumstances that leave managers muddling through, betting and tinkering with their corporate strategies. [Chan and Reich, 2007]. One of the challenges Chan and Reich see, is that Corporate Strategy is unknown, unclear or difficult to adapt. This poses a significant challenge, because most models of alignment presuppose an existing business strategy to which an IT organization can align itself. Managers may face ambiguity surrounding the differences between espoused strategies, strategies in use, and managerial actions, many of which may be in conflict with one another [Chan and Reich, 2007]. Critics of Strategic planning and alignment maintain that the implicit dominance of a structured strategy process is questionable in an era where uncertainty and flexibility predominate and the articulation of the strategic intent is difficult (Ciborra,1997 in Avison et al, 2004).

A warning on alignment is mentioned in a study of Bain & Company [Shpilberg et al, 2007]. They come up with the conclusion that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the path to IT-powered growth lies first in building high effectiveness and only then ensuring that IT projects are highly aligned to the business. Good alignment alone is not enough, and even worse, can distract the IT department from a high IT performance. This is called the Alignment Trap.

Another interesting view can be found in the work of Hinssen [Hinssen, 2009]. He sees Alignment as a model to optimize existing relationships, but it will not help in establishing an optimal relationship between business and IT. He introduces Business/IT Fusion as the next step in this area. Where Alignment implicitly calls for a two-party system to collaberate, Fusion is about a strong convergence.


Avison, David, and Jones, Jill, and Powell, Philip, and Wilson, David: Using and validating the strategic Alignment model, Journal of Strategic Information Systems 13, 2004.

Chan, Yolande E and Reich, Blaize Horner: IT Alignment: what have we learned, Journal of Information Technology (2007) 22, 2007

Hinssen, Peter: Business/IT Fusion, How to move Beyond Alignment and Transform IT in your Organization, Mach Media, 2009

Shpilberg, David, Berez, Steve, Puryear, Rudy, and Shah, Sachin: Avoiding the alignment trap in IT, MIT Sloan Management Review, 2007

  1. […] the IT Engagement model of Fonstad [2005, 2006].  One could also recognize this as a step towards business/IT Fusion as introduced by Hinssen […]

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