It's time for CIOs to get in the game

"I'm so done with alignment," declared the CIO pacing across the stage at our CIO Perspectives New York event a few weeks ago. "It's not even part of the conversation anymore. IT and the business are in this together. Period."

Yes! From the sharp nods of agreement around the room that day, it was clear to me that this was the consensus among the other enterprise CIOs. At long last, the conversation is finally changing, finally moving forward. "Aligning" is about order-taking and about playing catch-up with business strategies that were thought up in boardrooms where no CIO was present.

Let's get in a different game here. Let's talk about engaging, accelerating and optimizing instead of aligning. Those action verbs all signal the kind of IT-business partnerships CIOs want. "We live or die on creating customer value and shareholder value. There is only business value," says CIO Richard Boocock of Air Products and Chemicals in our cover story (" IT Value Is Dead. Long Live Business Value.").

Our story aims to drive a stake through the heart of the IT value conversation, arguing that business outcomes are what really matter in measuring the true worth of IT.

To get some practical advice on how to change the conversation, contributing writer Stephanie Overby talked with CIOs and senior executives who are actively working on this issue at Chevron, Amtrak, Air Products, Oxford Industries and TD Bank.

The language of alignment can actually be dangerously counterproductive, because it underscores the notion that IT is something apart from the enterprise, says Dave Aron, a vice president in Gartner's CIO Research group. "The next step on the journey is to move from alignment to engagement, treating the rest of the business as partners, creating business value together."

Yet people will keep asking the value question about IT, which is often one of the biggest expenditure lines in a company's budget. Calculating the value that technology spending delivers to the top line is admittedly an evolving art, all the CIOs we interviewed for this story agreed.

Their best collective advice? Start somewhere, and start soon.

"You will never find a perfect way of doing this," says Chevron CIO Louie Ehrlich. "There's value in just getting in the game."

Maryfran Johnson is the editor in chief of CIO Magazine & Events. Email her at mfjohnson@cio.com.

Read more about alignment in CIO's Alignment Drilldown.

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