Blog: Uber-Relationship Management

Blog: Uber-Relationship Management

You hit the office at 7:30 am and by midday you've already spent an hour answering priority e-mail from customers, vendors and stakeholders; met with technical staff, attended a major strategy meeting and conducted a project review with a program team.

You lunch with a major vendor then spend the afternoon in back-to-back meetings with the CFO, the CMO, the head of the architecture group and other stakeholders. If you're lucky, you find a spare half hour to work on building your social networking linkages. You are living and breathing the life of the "uber-relationship manager".

The CIO role, in one form or another, is about nothing else but massaging relationships, building bridges, soothing sensitive egos and creating trust. A CIO has to manage multiple relationships within and outside the organization and to mediate between business expectations from IT and deliverables. Small wonder many CIOs are looking to relationship management techniques to better integrate IT into the core business units, a must if IT is to take a more prominent part in shaping the direction of the business.

As management consultant and executive vice president with BSG Concours Vaughan Merlyn notes in his blog on the realm of the IT organization in large (Fortune 500 class) companies, strong relationships are also key to moving the IT organization along the Business-IT Maturity Model - a key role of Level 2 is relationship manager, typically assigned to someone with the title 'IT Account Manager' or something equally innocuous.

"The role is critical as it truly is an important 'bridge' between the IT organization and the business(es) it serves" Merlyn writes. "While the CIO is typically the 'uber-relationship manager', much of the daily work of influencing, shaping, identifying and gathering demand takes place a level or two down below the CIO."

Relationship managers sometimes exist at Level 1, Merlyn notes, but these people typically execute their role as 'order takers' - the simple 'account rep' role, mostly adding little value in a role which is often unsustainable (because seen as an added cost and overhead) at the Level 1 maturity level.

"In Level 2 the role begins to add value as it shifts from pure order-taking to a more consultative role - advising the business on potential opportunities for IT enablement. As maturity progresses, the role shifts again from consultative to more of a true business-IT partnership - for example, partnering with the business in process and product innovation.

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