Keep your eye on the prize: Align your IT investments with business strategy

IT portfolio management is like scaling a mountain. The right tools, like an EA-based SPM approach, will help you reach the summit.

Paula Ziehr Paula Ziehr

For one of the greatest mountaineers in history, Reinhold Messner is an unassuming figure: a slight man, now in his late 70s, whose gentle demeanor and inviting blue eyes conceal a lifetime of adventure. When I met him this spring, on a trip to one of his Mountain Museums in South Tyrol, Italy, I was starstruck—not only because of his long list of accomplishments, but also because of his signature style. As the first person to climb all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, the first to summit Mount Everest solo, and one of the first two to conquer the world’s tallest mountain without supplementary oxygen, his achievements are unparalleled. Yet just as remarkable is the “Alpine style” in which he went about them. Unlike most climbers of the day, who tackled peaks in siege-like expeditions with all the latest gadgets, Messner set after his alpine prizes with few, if any teammates, and only the gear he could carry on his back.

When I finally had the chance to digest this surprise encounter, I realized Messner’s story offers lessons for the world of business. In an era where customer expectations change as quickly as the weather on a Himalayan peak, enterprises need agility and innovation to prosper.

Too often, businesses are bogged down by an IT landscape that’s overly complex: one filled with IT projects that are poorly planned and not in line with business strategy. Companies in this situation are like a climber weighted down by an overloaded rucksack: as they go higher, the gear that was so enticing at first will only cause them to tire and lose focus. To succeed in today’s business world, firms must be more like Messner: light, agile, and using only the tools that are perfectly aligned with their sought-after prize. For Messner, that prize was a snow-capped slab of rock above the clouds. For IT managers, it’s the ability to deliver on the goals of business—and business leaders’ recognition of the value of IT itself.

How, you may be wondering, can your enterprise ensure it meets its prize like Messner? At Software AG, we believe the key lies in an EA-based strategic portfolio management (SPM) approach to your IT investments.

Harmonizing IT and business

Like scaling a mountain, managing an IT portfolio has never been easy: with every project, dangers lurk like hidden crevasses, and trying to keep IT focused on the ultimate prize can feel overwhelming. Too often, IT managers get mired in a cycle of bad habits. Some spread their budgets thin by investing in too many projects. Others defer to the most vocal business leaders or the ones with the deepest pockets. Many get fixated on efficiency gains, instead of viewing IT as a vehicle to drive revenues and increase their company’s share in the market. All of this leads to wasted expenditure, the accumulation of technical debt, and a portfolio that can cause the company to wander off course—rather than taking the most efficient route to the summit.

How can your company avoid this fate—and ensure your IT investments deliver for your business? The first step is acknowledging there’s a problem: your company, more than likely, has a non-integrated, incohesive view of how the IT investment portfolio relates to your business model. To get back on track, you need to reestablish how your IT portfolio is planned, managed, and changed—with the understanding that technology impacts nearly every aspect of your strategy. In short, you need to take a more strategic approach to your IT investment portfolio management.

How, exactly, can an SPM solution guide you? It may help to consider two common business challenges:

First imagine a company where IT and business goals are disconnected—where expenditure in IT is misdirected into projects that fail to drive competitive advantage. An SPM tool will capture business strategy, business capabilities, operating models, the enterprise architecture and the project portfolio with unmatched visibility into how they all relate. This will give IT managers a robust understanding of the impact of a proposed IT change—and enable IT and business to act like cocreators driving innovation.

Second, consider an enterprise where business and IT goals are better aligned—but investment decisions are still carried out with inadequate due diligence, leading to high rates of project failure and a heightened risk of conflicts. With an SPM approach, IT leaders can see the interdependencies of the integrated project, application, technology, process and data portfolios to thoroughly understand the impact of planned changes. They can mitigate possible conflicts already at the demand stage. Risks will be reduced dramatically—and the firm will be able to take on more projects with confidence.

The right tool for IT transformation

Are these challenges familiar? As an IT leader, does Messner’s laser-focused “Alpine style” resonate? If so, it might be time to guide your IT transformation with an SPM solution like Software AG’s Alfabet. Available both as a full-fledged enterprise-size as well as an entry-level solution, Alfabet provides whole-view visibility of your current IT landscape. It helps you better plan and manage your IT investment portfolio. And it enables your IT to propel your business strategy to new heights: to climb Messner’s proverbial mountain.

Are you ready to manage your IT with confidence? If so, we invite you to explore how Alfabet can guide you to your prize.