CIOs: Forget IT-business alignment; it's all about fusion

Forget about mere IT-business . At many companies, the new name of the game is melding together technology and business operations, with CIOs getting a say in setting not only IT plans but business strategies as well.

For example, when Anthony Hill was asked to lead an e-business initiative at Golden Gate University several years ago, what the San Francisco-based school's academic leaders actually were asking him to do was transform its entire operating model along business-to-consumer lines, he said this week at Computerworld 's annual .

Instead of the IT department simply supporting business operations, "we now talk about how IT gets in front of the business" and drives it into new ways of doing things, said Hill, who is Golden Gate's CIO.

"IT should no longer be viewed as just an enabler of somebody else's business strategy," he added. "We need to change the dialogue to really eliminate the lines between IT and the business."

Peter Walton, CIO at Hess Corp., has literally altered the dialogue at the New York-based petroleum products company by banning IT staffers from referring to its business units as customers or even users . Instead, Walton said he wants his team to treat their fellow employees simply as "company-mates and peers." He even tries to avoid using the word alignment internally. It goes deeper than that now, he said: "We're trying to fuse with the business."

That's all part of an effort to stop business executives from "just seeing us as technology service providers," Walton said. "I just absolutely hate being treated like that when we can provide so much to the company." His goal, he added, is for IT to be viewed no differently than the finance and human resources departments are within Hess.

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