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Sun 29 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Popular demand

Forrester's Todd McGregor says IT relationship management needs to transition to IT demand management, if it is to be cope with future demands on the organisation's resources and IT team.

Forrester's Todd McGregor says IT relationship management needs to transition to IT demand management, if it is to be cope with future demands on the organisation's resources and IT team.

IT relationship management (IT RM) provides the single most important interface between IT and its internal business customers.

But while IT RM is now a common IT capability, it remains too focused on today's development projects to support the emerging adaptive, global and multifunction/multifirm business models. To address this change, IT will transform IT RM into IT demand management (IT DM).

IT/business alignment just won't leave CIOs' lists of top concerns. In a Forrester CIO confidence poll, improving and demonstrating IT/business strategy alignment was ranked in the top three concerns by 52% of CIO's.

But CIOs are finding that IT RM - sometimes called account management - plays a critical role in making IT/business alignment work.

Forrester found that IT RM teams:

• Have become the rule. 50% of CIOs report managing their internal customer relationships - the business organisations within the firm through IT RMs, which also report to the business units - and another 28% are in the process of adopting this model. IT organisations with IT RM in place report an increased closeness with internal customers.

One large oil and gas company said: "It's not bits and bytes - it's a relationship game and our relationship managers helped drive a change in how IT saw the business that went from users, to customers, to clients, and eventually to transparent partner - they trusted IT from the start and never wrote an SLA."

• Are shifting to become the CIO's direct reports. Historically, IT RM was handled as a dimension of application development. The role takes on greater significance as CIOs move IT RM into new areas. Some companies are building standalone IT RM groups that report to the CIO.

A manufacturing firm told us: "Each has carved out specific businesses or regions they're responsible for. For example, when the whole firm reorganised into regions three years ago, relationship managers became directly responsible for those theatres. As the firm grows by acquisition, so a relationship manager covers any new business that isn't integrated.

• Focus primarily on investment projects - not on operations. Even as IT RM moves beyond the domain of development projects, the IT RM role continues its traditional concentration on IT-based investments - including prioritisation, resource allocations, project management, and programme management.

But as a result of business' requests, a small number of the IT RMs are handling the planning, tracking, and measurement of the business organisations' demand for day-to-day tactical services as well as ongoing IT operations.

"I have a separate customer function that sits down with the business and talks. We then get together and go through a process to decide development priorities and make sure that this is clear to the business," said a representative of a global firm.

Forrester believes companies will move from today's project-focused relationship management - requently handled through the classic project management office - to an IT DM organisation incrementally, over a period of two to four years.

A well-run IT DM organisation can accomplish a lot to take the IT/business alignment off of the CIO's headache list. For the first time, IT/business alignment will have a senior IT team dedicated to identifying demand, driving delivery, measuring results, and improving over time.

And, it frees up the historical conflict between IT and business.

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