Does business-IT alignment really exist, or just a figment of consultants' imaginations?

'I want IT to move itself up the value chain... become a money-pit and you will be relegated to support or overhead.'

We talk a lot about "business-IT" alignment here at this site, and no subject is more obscure or overworked.

But is business-IT alignment real, or a figment of consultants' imaginations? My associate here at the ZDNet community, Michael Krigsman, recently put the question out there at the Focus business social media site, and generated quite a bit of lively and thoughtful discussion:

John Bagdanov: "The bottom line is IT has to develop healthy working relationships with the business units and the executive office. You have to gain their respect and demonstrate you’re commitment to their success."

Scott Priestley: "IT leadership needs to be integral to strategic planning, accountable for business metrics outside of their function and supportive of the innovation throughout other business functions."
Ben Shatley: "Add value and money will be thrown at you for any and all projects you can imagine. Become a money-pit and you will be relegated to 'support' or 'overhead.'"
Jim Smith: "In most companies I've consulted for, there simply is no focus on measuring the results of IT investments... If there's historically been no or little effort at reviewing the post implementation results, then the justification can be anything that is even remotely plausible because, 'they'll never know.'"

Vratislav Paulik: "Business/IT alignment has multiple dimensions, but I would like to focus on the most important one – strategic alignment. Balanced scorecard is a very good tool here. You include IT in the company strategic planning and ensure that the IT strategy is aligned with the business one in all the four balanced scorecard views – financial, customer, quality and employee. On the high level it means that the company objectives are cascaded down to IT in all the four areas, so that IT works in the company’s direction."