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The Missing Link That Ties IT to the C-Suite

The business relationship executive is a conduit who can make interactions more fluid.

3. Identifying and communicating new metrics.
Most IT managers pride themselves on metrics: system availability, number of releases, lines of written code. When you move IT managers into a business-relationship-executive role, you are asking them to measure their work on something entirely different, including the quality of their relationships, their knowledge of the business as well as their development of a strategy. Those are amorphous, vague criteria, to which the business relationship executive will need to adjust. Be sure your CIO reviews performance measurement criteria with the new business-relationship-executive team so that they knew how they’re doing.

4. Growing your own.
Mike Jackson, CIO of chemicals manufacturer Celanese, describes the responsibilities of the business relationship executive:

• They  build and maintain relationships with their key business counterpart;

• foster innovation both in the business they support and in the IT organization;

• keep their business executives informed about day-to-day operational matters;

• identify and deal with problems and conflict;

• organize and govern business projects that have a large IT component;

• collaborate with business counterparts on building a business case for new IT investments; and

• manage outsourcing partners.

Because finding blended executives can be challenging, it may suit your company to grow them on your own. To begin, create a company-wide program that rotates business people through IT and vice versa. In addition, launch a leadership-development program that has business leaders working together with IT people on real projects, ensuring that learning the business is a formal part of onboarding new people.

Most CIOs are in the market to hire a blended executive, and these rare birds are not plentiful in the market. Your IT team is facing a dizzying array of new requests from every corner of your business. The business relationship executive is critically important for a company to grow. If you haven’t developed people with these skills already, it is time to get started.

Martha Heller is one of the most widely followed voices on the role of the CIO. She has been a CIO magazine columnist since 1999, and is the author of The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership, published in October 2012. Martha is president of Heller Search Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in IT leadership positions. 

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