A model that is often used to “solve” the issue of finding a good alignment between business and IT is Maes’ nine-plane model (officially the Amsterdam Information Management Model, AIM).
When used correctly, the model can be used as a framework to address the essential issues surrounding information and communication in an organizational context. It addresses the issues, dilemmas, and various roles surrounding this issue in a cohesive manner. However, the model is not intended to provide a recipe like a cookbook to solve the alignment problem. And that is precisely what is often attempted. In the extreme case, arrows are even added between the planes of the nine-plane model (to arrive at a process description) or a normative implementation of the model is claimed in other ways.
Although the use of the nine-plane can help the organization to get a grip on the complex reality, the model cannot be seen as a panacea that provides a solution for all problems. The nine-plane model is a framework for integration, with which management can establish a coherent and balanced relationship between information and communication processes that support business processes and the associated technology at strategic, structuring, and operational levels.
The nine-plane model is a variant of the model of Henderson and Venkatraman (1993). Within this model, it revolves around a quadrant that is created on the basis of two criteria: internal/external, or business/IT. The variation is that the structuring level is inserted at the organizational level (internal/external) and that ‘IT’ is split into a ‘Demand’ and ‘Supply’ part.
The nine-plane model has three columns and three layers. The columns represent a separation of responsibilities:
- Execute primary tasks (including with the help of the information provided)
- Manage Functional Management (information column)
The business column focuses on the organization’s business processes. These business processes determine the required information need that must then be realized by the other columns. Obtaining and applying the desired information remains a business responsibility, but the business column delegates the provision of the information to the responsibility domain ‘Information’, which is referred to by the term Functional Management (in a broad sense: information management + operational functional management).
(2) Information (IV)
- Provide information to the business
- Manage IT Management
The information column (Functional Management) ensures the translation of the information need from the business column into specifications of the information provision, as well as the management of the realization thereof (specifying/managing). Functional Management is therefore responsible for providing the desired information provision to the business, but delegates the delivery of it to the IT column (IT Management).
(3) Technologie (IT)
- Provide IT service via functional management to the business
Within the IT column, IT Management ensures the realization of the specifications, against agreements (delivery, supply). IT Management is responsible for providing the desired (business), specified (Functional Management) information.
The layers support the management model according to the classical management structure:
- Strategy (direct)
- Structuring (organize)
- Operations (perform)
The use of the layers strategy, structuring, and operations creates a useful distinction between the different goals that need to be achieved. With the management model, the different time-bound goals can be effectively managed. At the strategic level, the long-term (directed) goals are determined. At the structuring level, these goals are translated into concrete goals (organized), which have a medium-term. At the operations level, these structuring goals are concretely realized (performed), in the here and now.