The quest for alignment

I liked to think that, as an IT Director, I knew what my end users needed. After all, I had the advantage of being a programs person for two state agencies and one county before I assumed full responsibility for IT.

But honestly, I was busy with tasks that largely focused on keeping things running, managing budget and staff and understanding what my director needed from me.

Most of my agencies had annual strategic planning sessions, breakout groups and even tried to mix up titles so groups had good representation from up and down the organizational chart. These sessions started with the mission, vision and annual goals and tried to take them down to the individual contributor level.

These types of sessions are useful, but as I walked through my department every day, I would notice things end users did. They worked hard, did not want to trouble IT and often, as a result, the solutions I deployed did not work hard enough for them. That mismatch meant that my IT department was not aligned with end users, even if it could, on paper, align to the higher-level mission and vision that my agencies consistently discussed and planned.

Alignment to vision

In my new(ish) role as an Enterprise Advisor at Hyland, I have learned more about the alignment struggles between IT, leadership and end users. Alignment to vision seems like the most persistent type of conversation that organizations have.

However, our strategic workshops are uncovering other types of alignment issues around a few themes:

  • The next normal

The need to work from home has heightened interest in digital transformation to give remote users the tools they need to be successful. IT departments must support WFH and look for improvements to continue to align with leadership’s mission as the next normal sets in.

  • Using the new stuff?

Some organizations have deployed solutions, but haven’t leveraged new functionality that might be critical to end user challenges. For example, users might need better search tools or be struggling with a feature that has been improved since your deployment.

  • Did we get it right?

There is always a gap between end-user understanding and the precise user advice and input IT needs to design and deploy impactful solutions, leaving IT open to criticism about how well a solution works for end users. In times of stress or rapidly changing conditions, the gaps, and the criticism, can intensify. That’s why it’s so important to have end users involved in rolling out solutions.

Alignment through strategic discussions 

These themes have me asking: How well can we pull in the direction of our goals when our alignment is incomplete? Recognizing these themes, uncovered by a different kind of strategic discussion, can make the difference for an organization trying to ensure that its technology investments deliver as much functionality and add as much value as possible.

While I believe that strategic planning for program, service and other organizational goals is critical, my most recent experience has me asking myself if I had enough conversations with my end users in the past. Did I have the time to observe what they were REALLY doing with the tools I thought I had provided for them?

Maybe not.

With that in mind, I am really pleased to have the time now to work on alignment through a different kind of strategic planning that starts with end user challenges (the things that leak efficiency) and works to communicate how alignment to these challenges enhances the value of a technology investment.

Are you on a quest for alignment? Starting with your end users is a way to success.

Looking for help getting started? Join our session, Am I Doing It Right? at CommunityLIVE 2020.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, in her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she’s managed IT departments, implemented... read more about: Terri Jones

1 Response

  1. Betty Dunagan Betty Dunagan says:

    Very well-stated. End users so often get lost in the shuffle!!

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