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The Language of Alignment

Business benefit, growth, and profitability. Cost and risk. Value add. Forecast confidence. Customer satisfaction and loyalty. These are the measures of senior management. And if the goal of a commercial enterprise is to make money now and in the future, everyone in the enterprise needs to be behind that goal.

You manage a business unit and are looking at a red/amber/green dashboard report of your current programs, and you see that one is red. With your browser, you drill down the trail of red, each click bringing you to a lower level dashboard with more detail about a specific aspect of the at-risk program. Here is what you find:

  • The business’s success with a new product line is at risk because
  • The sales teams might not be prepared to sell the new product line because
  • Sales training for the new product line may be delayed because
  • Implementation of the Learning Management System (LMS) may be delayed because
  • The LMS module used for the management of training records may be delayed because
  • Development of the core code library for that module may be delayed because
  • The lead developer may need to leave the project due to an important and urgent personal matter

While the above may seem dreamy, it’s where we’re headed. Everybody in a value supply chain, from the lead developer to the LMS implementation project lead, to the sales team manager, to the business unit manager should, at any point in time, be able to express the status of his or her responsibilities in terms of Cost, Risk and Business Benefit.

The costs, risks, and benefits of what, you may ask? Simply put, for each person or team in the value supply chain, the costs, risks, and benefits of meeting their requirements.

Previously I have argued that the requirements management activities of planning, eliciting, etc. are necessary regardless of the domain in which one is working (instructional design, business strategy, database design, etc.). It is not only possible, but necessary, that requirements managers in those domains be able to express their status in terms of cost, risk, and business benefit. Rolling up requirements status to a senior level necessitates a common language, and that language is defined by the top-level requirement(s) of the enterprise.

We have much to do. In my next post, we will elaborate on the above and identify the top three challenges in achieving the dream.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post and earlier posts? Please don’t be shy! Let us know what you’re thinking by adding a comment below.

Terry Longo
has more than 25 years of IT experience, including software development, system and network administration, and instructing, as well as being responsible for the requirements, project management, and delivery aspects of complex training solutions. He currently holds the IT Service Manager ITIL and is responsible for HP Education’s ITIL, Project Management and Business Analysis curriculums in the US. Terry can be reached through

or at [email protected]