Roger defines alignment as "a measure of how well two patterns overlay on top of each other". But this definition only works between two patterns that already occupy the same space.
For example, I think I know what it means to say that the furniture is aligned with the walls of the room, because I can measure this fact with geometrical instruments (ruler, set square), but if someone says that the colour of the furniture is aligned with the sensibilities of the owner, I can only make sense of this as a vague metaphor rather than a precise measurable fact.
The fallacy of astrology does not lie in the detailed analysis of alignments between the planets and stars - which after all occupy the same astronomical space - but in the notion that the movements of the planets against the stars are somehow aligned with the patterns of human affairs on earth. (And the reason this counts as pseudo-science is that the detailed correlation between sky and earth relies on an interpretation by an astrologer.)
When people talk about business-IT alignment, I can only make sense of this as a metaphor. I am not aware of a robust and meaningful formalization that would permit both business and IT to occupy the same geometrical space, and I can't see the point of inventing one.
All we need is a mapping between two patterns occupying different spaces. An alignment is a special kind of mapping within a fixed geometrical space. If we can't define a fixed geometrical space, then I regard the concept of "alignment" is a misleading metaphor, introducing unnecessary complication. I prefer the general concept of mapping to the false metaphor of alignment.
@aleksb6 objects that my position is "true iff two patterns to map. reality is a M2M relationship, so 'alignment' is not a complication, it's a necessity!" He continues "btw, isn't mapping two patterns just another instance of point-to-point thinking? I thought we wanted to discourage that!"
If alignment doesn't make sense between two things, I can't see that it makes any more sense between three or more things. The desired outcome is a set of structure-preserving mappings between as many things as we need to coordinate. That doesn't mean we can or should design each mapping separately. In all but the most trivial situations, however skilfully we decompose a large problem into subproblems, there is always some coordination (juggling) left to do.
Here's the bottom line. If assertions about business-IT alignment are to mean anything at all, then you have to have a way of looking at a lump of business and a lump of IT and say whether they are aligned or not, and if so how much.
Of course, if you believe you have a modelling language that can express both business and IT, then you might think all you have to do to find out if business and IT are aligned is to compare two models. But this turns out to a circular procedure, because the modelling languages are themselves justified by the claim that they promote business-IT alignment, so we cannot use the modelling languages themselves to prove that business-IT alignment has been achieved. There has to be some point of reference outside the modelling languages.
People keep telling me "alignment" is important, but they can only define it as a woolly and subjective metaphor. So if we stop worrying about "alignment", and talk instead about the various multi-dimensional mappings between a complex system of systems and a complex set of business requirements, we can concentrate on what is objectively important.
And leave the concept of "alignment" for the astrologers. All together now ...
When the Moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.