Playing IT/Business Matchmaker: Look for Similar Attitudes

Ann All

Last week I wrote a post offering lessons for CIOs on how to be a great communicator. A key piece of advice, practiced by some of the CIOs offered as role models, is to dedicate IT staffers to each business function to serve as liaisons between the function and IT.


Vaughan Merlyn elaborates on this liaison role in his IT Organization Circa 2017 blog, noting that an important function for such folks is "stimulating an appetite for high-value demand and suppressing appetites for low-value demand." The staffers, whom Merlyn refers to as relationship managers, should align with their business partners in three important areas.


They should have -- or be able to quickly develop -- a detailed understanding for the domain they represent, whether it's marketing, human resources or finance. Ideally, they should be co-located with a senior manager of the business function. If that's not possible, they should enjoy ready access to business managers and other staff.


While most companies handle those first two areas pretty well, Merlyn says many struggle with the third area: matching up IT relationship managers with business managers that share similar attitudes toward IT's ability to help the business meet its goals. He writes:

Innovative, "change agent" types of Relationship Managers will quickly become frustrated facing off against executives who are technologically in the dark ages, or who cherish the status quo. Similarly, progressive, innovative business leaders will become quickly frustrated working with a Relationship Manager who lacks drive, a sense of urgency, the creativity to generate valuable ideas about IT possibilities, and the wherewithal to bring them to fruition.

Merlyn's thoughts remind me of CIO Dashboard blogger Chris Curran's contention that CIOs are more appreciated (and I'd add effective) when working for companies where their skill sets mesh well with the organization's overall developmental goals.

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Apr 27, 2010 8:40 AM Vaughan Merlyn Vaughan Merlyn  says:

Thanks for referencing my post!  To your final point from Chris Curran, my own research over the years highlighted that it is a very rare CIO that can lead an IT function through an entire maturity journey - from Level 1 Business-IT Maturity to Level 3.  The leadership characteristics at each level, and what it takes to move to the next level tend to require different CIO competencies.  So, yes - CIO skillsets must mesh well with the organization's overall development goals - taking into account current maturity and aspiration.


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