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The evolution of Information Technology usage in business processes has increased organizations' performance and efficiency and saw an exponential rise in organization growth as profitability heighten. However, studies show that organizations that saw rise in performance by the employment of IT in their processes were those that were able to sustain the use of IT in their business processes even for a finite period. As business processes continue to rely greatly on IT for enhancement, modern management strategic principles in recent times have since seen the emergence of two separate yet coexistent strategic domains: the business strategy and IT strategy aligning to achieve a common organizational goal. This new emergence prompted numerous researches as Steven and Wim (2009) called for "a specific focus on IT governance to handle the critical dependency on IT" to guide implementations of IS in organizations which, according to Christophe et al (2008) "represents a structure that pursues collective goals".
Many studies have been done on the concept of Business-IT alignment and its sustainability in an organization. Frameworks, models, and tools have been built, redesigned, and enhanced, but studies on how Business-IT alignment directly impact on organization growth has not been majorly ventured on by many researchers. This paper seeks to analyse five previous works done by prominent authors on this Business-IT alignment concept and identify how their findings and postulates practically relate to organizational model and can affect the performance as well as growth of any organization that seeks to adopt developed models or frameworks relating to Business-IT alignment.
As stated above, "the importance of IT" as pointed out by Steven and Wim (2009), Salah et al (2008), "has become crucial in the support, sustainability, and growth of the business and" as "a means to implement business objectives". In their research, Rik and Daan (2000) viewed this imperative dependency on IT as a concept aiming "at the effective exploitation of IT in an organisation, at the effective enabling (and not disabling) of the organisation by IT". Also, Bjorn et al (2007) viewed it as "the degree to which the ICT mission, objectives and plans support and are supported by the business mission, objectives and plans". Steven and Wim (2009) further viewed it in terms of "IT governance consisting of the leadership and organisational structures and processes that ensure that the organisation's IT sustains and extends the organisation's strategy and objectives". However, Felix and Brent (2005) suggested that "there are two dimensions to business-IS alignment-intellectual and social of which a major component of the social dimension of alignment is the shared understanding between businesses and IS executives and the business-IS alignment construct denotes the intellectual dimension". In view of the social aspect of Business-IT alignment, Christophe et al (2008) cited responsibility as a vital part of management theory and organization model and "to improving business/IT alignment and corporate ICT governance, it becomes increasingly important to define a commonly accepted personal responsibility model that embodies important and well-known concepts like accountability, capability and commitment".
Many organizations already have goals and business strategies that create business processes which determine what IT processes will be adopted and hence which IT strategy will be employed to enhance the business processes. Matching business processes with IT processes and strategy is the major challenge in this alignment concept. In view of this, Rik and Daan (2000) elucidated that "the potential strategic impact of information technology requires both an understanding of the critical components of IT strategy and its role in supporting and shaping business strategy decisions and a process of continuous adaptation and change". Salah et al (2008) also denotes IT strategy "contribute positively to the creation of new business strategies or better support existing business strategy". Strategic Alignment Model (SAM), one of the earliest models postulated since the advent of Business-IT alignment, has since been a foundation for major researchers on the concept of Business-IT alignment. And according to Rik and Daan (2000), "almost all later models and consulting practices in alignment started" from including Bjorn et al (2007), and Salah et al (2008).
In their research, Rik and Daan (2000) cited scope, core competencies, and governance as related to the external strategy dimension of the strategic alignment model (SAM), while work processes, acquisition, training and development of skills required to manage and operate the processes and an "administrative" business infrastructure / IT architecture relate to the internal dimension. Similarly, Bjorn et al (2007) also defined four domains that they argued needed attention such as the business strategy, ICT strategy, business (infra) structure and ICT (infra) structure. They maintained that "each of these domains has its constituent components: scope, competencies, governance, infrastructure, processes and skills". The above points prominently sighted IT architecture or ICT strategy as vital to modern strategic management models to achieve organizational performance and business value. However, Salah et al (2008) pointed that "even if the SAM is widely admitted as a de facto standard tool for strategic alignment measure and improvement, strategic alignment analysis is often based on subjective interviews".
In their paper, Salah et al (2008) used objective method approach to introduces the use of i* goal models in strategy formalising in an enterprise domain. Their research based on the comparison of two goal models, describing Business strategy, and IT strategy. Interview-based methodology was used as Business and IT managers of two Belgian SMEs partner enterprises: HappyMany and Concept & Forme were interviewed in order to analyse the connections, relationships, communication and understanding between both domains (Business and IT) to achieve Business/IT strategic alignment. Their finding highlights semantic correspondences between both strategies for Business-IT alignment to be sustained.
Rik and Daan (2000) criticized further on the bases that "alignment is not clearly defined and offers no handles for (management) practice such as the role of human actors" and "organizational learning" which Christophe et al (2008) identified and elaborated on as responsibility aspect of the SAM model.
In their research paper, Rik and Daan (2000) sought to provide well enhanced model built on SAM and based their work "on re-assessing Business-IT alignment by repositioning it in a unified framework" which was "derived from the generic framework for information management" considered to be a tool for management and an "integrated architecture framework" (IAF) which is "a design tool, aiming at the development of mutually aligned business and IT systems through a unified architecture". Their methodology was to create an "intermediate "structure" row and "information/knowledge/communication" column" on the existing SAM iterating both as "key to a successful alignment of business and IT". Their findings showed that alignment at the structure level is linked with variables like architectures and capabilities, and at the operations level, with variables like processes and skills. They argue that "these variables have to be horizontally and vertically (relationship with the structure level) aligned" in other for business strategy to maximize the use of IT in its processes and hence performance and growth of the organization.
Also, Christophe et al (2008) found it unfortunate that "a large range of IT oriented frameworks" depicts the responsibility aspect of Business-IT alignment. Hence, they based their research on the principle that to have a sustainable Business-IT alignment and impact on the growth of organization there needed "to have responsibilities clearly established and accepted internally by the collaborators and externally by the stakeholders as well". For them "organization is a structure encompasses employees (agent) playing roles and that are responsible to perform processes' activities". They used the investigative methodology to develop a responsibility model "designed to be a structured representation of the responsibility necessary to achieve a finite set of activities (like in a process)" within an organization. The authors identified "three main components of the responsibility model: Capability, Accountability and Commitment".
In their result, Christophe et al (2008) argued that the responsibility model "improve the business/IT alignment and establishes clear understanding of responsibilities for IT" and maintained that agents are held for accountability of their activity which "addresses the commitment aspect of the responsibility and consequently increases the ethics of the business in general". Their findings further elucidate that organizational growth is seriously linked with the performance of business processes employing the use of IT. This performance depends on the right capability and control been given to agents with the organization.
Rik and Daan (2000) concluded that a sustainable Business-IT alignment "is a combined management/design concern" suggesting active interaction across organization structure. The research of Christophe et al (2008) concluded that Business-IT alignment is sustained when responsibility are "clearly defined and aligned with the business goals". That is, "the creation of policies (business, IT or security)". This implied that responsibility is prominently necessary for business processes to be enhanced and performance increased to achieve goals.
Bjorn et al (2007) supports the above by denoting that "Business and ICT planning and management processes should be tightly connected and integrated" and "strategic B/ICT alignment processes at a centralised level have to be in line with strategic B/ICT alignment processes at a decentralised level" and hence concluded that "shared domain knowledge and mutual understanding, typically social elements, emerge as important alignment enablers in combination with the previous formal elements".
Rik and Daan (2000) demonstrated strength in their work to have "included the social dimension of Business-IT alignment in their research" thereby enhancing the SAM with interactivity in the organizational model. However, they did not cite the implications of their framework on the performance of an organization or how the framework should be practised. Salah et al (2008) enhanced Business-IT alignment concept with the introduction of "some formalisation in the interview based alignment measurement process" aimed at "Measuring the gap/fit between Business Strategy and IT Strategy". However, the research methodology employed gives rooms for inaccuracy "the classification can be biased by the managers' interpretation of the SAM model". Christophe et al (2008) came up with a simple generic innovative responsibility model to deal with the Business-IT alignment sustenance from the operational layer of the SAM. However, this requires high people's management and technicalities in designating access policy in an organization and identifying capabilities of agents. Organizational performance diminishes when the responsibility model is not properly implemented.
Analysis of the findings above further shows that the issue is not using IT to just enhance and achieve business goals for a finite period, but in the sustenance of the Business-IT alignment to ensure sustainable growth in organizations. The essence of Business-IT alignment "is to achieve harmony with the business strategies and plans" and "to increased profitability and competitive advantage" in the modern market, Felix and Brent (2005). Sustenance of Business-IT alignment required a concise adoption of a guide (framework, model or tool) to ensure that the implementation of IT follows an IT strategic model which aligns with the organizational strategic goal and objectives at all times. Steven and Wim (2009) further advised that before an organization adopts and implements a Business-IT alignment model, "it should, as indicated in the above definition, enable that IT sustains and extends the business goals, or in other words, enable that IT is aligned to the business needs (business/IT alignment)".
Again, analysis clarify that Business-IT alignment is a process involving communication and responsibility between the strategic layer and operational layer of an organization. Felix and Brent (2005) cited that "collective encounters between business and IS executives" cannot be overlooked in order to sustain Business-IT alignment in an organization which is vital factor in determining the efficiency of business process and growth of an IT driven organization. Furthermore, the findings of Christophe et al (2008) elucidate that every entity in business processes should have responsibilities assigned to roles and tied to identity with access policy to guide the workflow of that agent as lack of responsibilities across the organisation decline performance and growth in the long run.
Future researches should base on standardization of Business-IT alignment models and frameworks with respect to performance. Most researches made have been mechanically driven and seems far from identifying the social dimension as a vital input to having a sustainable Business-IT alignment within an organization since management strategy all stream down to operations which interacts with the business environment.