Install a High

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2007-08-03 Print this article Print

At too many companies, technology managers aren't on the same wavelength with the top business executives. Here are 10 ideas for improving that dynamic.

-Level I.T. Liaison in Every Business Unit">

6. Install a High-Level I.T. Liaison in Every Business Unit
As the idea of alignment has taken hold in recent years, many companies have created liaison positions that are explicitly intended to bridge the gap—in understanding, language and communications—between business and I.T. Some companies have gone even further, installing a person responsible for I.T. implementation and strategy in individual business units.

Called everything from account managers to business I.T. managers to relationship managers, these people are essentially mini-CIOs, residing within the business units and doing for them what corporate CIOs do for entire companies. Their jobs go beyond the basic function of representing I.T. to the business; they are also supposed to identify ways that the business units can use technology for competitive advantage. Giving a sense of how seriously some big companies take this function, consultant Merlyn says he is working with a global pharmaceutical company (I.T. budget: $1 billion) that has about 30 relationship managers around the world. Another of Merlyn's clients, a financial services firm, has almost 1,000 people in the role, he says.

It is not an easy job. Relationship managers can fail if they lack the experience and credibility to interact with business-unit leaders at a very high level. After all, you can't expect most 29-year-olds, even ones with all the brains in the world, to square off with executives who have shown they can run billion-dollar businesses. It's the conundrum that the baby-faced Topher Grace ran into, on a smaller scale, in the 2004 movie In Good Company.

"People with the skills to be an I.T. relationship manager are few and far between," Merlyn says. "Most people are not very good at it."

Next Best Practice: Distribute a List of Ongoing Projects—To the Business as Well as I.T.


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