IT Alignment

Business Strategy


A business strategy is a long-term plan for an enterprise to grow and improve its financial performance. It shall describe how an enterprise is going to increase value for customers, thereby extending its competitive advantage.

A business strategy presents a set of actions within a timeframe of up to five years to move from the current competitive position to the target position of increased performance (a strategic move). Vision and mission statements are concise descriptions of the target position and the way to it.

Strategic move of an enterprise

Strategic business goals

The paramount strategic business goals of an enterprise are to provide more customer value than competitors and achieve profitability above the industry average. An effective business strategy includes offensive and defensive actions in order to reach these higher business goals:

  • Seize opportunities from emerging (information) technologies and digital innovations.
  • Leverage the existing resources, capabilities, and assets of the enterprise.
  • Adapt or change the business model or architecture.
  • Exploit industry change and new markets.
  • Lower vulnerability against substitutes and threats in the environment
  • Defend against competitive forces.

Projects are a means to specify and organize strategic actions to move to the target position.


Business strategy phases

The development of a business strategy comprises two major phases:

  • Business strategy formulation: analysis of the current competitive position (as-is) and choice of the target position (to-be).
  • Business strategy implementation: the way from the current competitive position to the chosen target position is presented in high-level action plans and long- and mid-term roadmaps.

IT Alignment is part of business strategy formulation. Projects are part of business strategy implementation.

Internal and external perspectives

Business strategy formulation shall balance internal and external considerations:

  • Internal strengths and weaknesses: What the enterprise can do in view of its resources, capabilities, and assets, including skilled human resources, and business architecture.
  • External opportunities and threats: What the enterprise might do in view of the macro-environment (PESTEL) and the competitive forces, including customers, competitor products, and suppliers.

Strategy frameworks

A variety of useful frameworks for strategic analysis exist. We recommend PESTEL, SWOT, five-forces analysis (Porter, 1980), value chain analysis (Porter, 1985), STP marketing, and the customer value disciplines from Treacy and Wiersema (1995). Newer strategy frameworks such as 'The Business Model Canvas' (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010) build on similar ideas and can also be appropriate.

Functional areas

The business strategy includes all functional areas of the value chain:

  • Marketing and sales strategy (channels, communication, etc.)
  • Customer service strategy
  • Production strategy
  • Sourcing strategy
  • Research and development strategy
  • Organizational strategy (mergers, acquisitions, outsourcing, governance, etc.)
  • Finance strategy
  • Human resource strategy

The IT strategy of an enterprise must be consistent with all strategies in the functional areas. Thus, IT alignment concerns all functional areas.

Roles and management practices

Various roles can be engaged in business strategy formulation: C-level executives, board members, business analysts, external strategy consultants, internal strategists, business unit managers, and functional managers.

Project portfolio managers and enterprise architects play key roles in IT alignment and are therefore involved in strategy formulation. Project portfolio managers ascertain business strategy implementation.

The IT Alignment Guide emphasizes management practices rather than specific roles. Roles denote stakeholders with defined tasks and responsibilities within management practices. Management practices are areas within an enterprise that organize people and tasks towards specific objectives.