I’ve noted before that Level 1 in the Business-IT Maturity Model is mostly about Supply Management (managing the provisioning of IT products and services for consumption by the business or its customers/consumers), and that Level 3 is mostly about Demand Management (shaping and surfacing the demand for IT products and services from the business and or its customers/consumers).  Reminding us that, as a maturity model, the Supply Management emphasis of Level 1 does not go away – rather it becomes institutionalized, highly efficient, and optimized such that the management focus for improvement/transformation can shift to the Demand Management capabilities ot get through Level 2 to Level 3.

In our much discussed Level 2 (where I see IT organizations getting “bogged down” or stuck) a key role becomes that of the Relationsip Manager.  Note, I am describing a role, not a job or a title – rarely, if ever, do I see this role thus named.  More typically it is “IT Acount Manager” or something innocuous.  (I’d be delighted to hear creative titles for this role that you have in your organization, or that you’ve come across!)  The role is critical as it truly is an important “bridge” between the IT organization and the business(es) it serves.  While the CIO is typically the “uber-relationsip 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, but typically execute their role as “order takers” – the simple “account rep” role.  They are typically seen as adding little value, and the role at Level 1 maturity is often not sustainable – it is seen as an added cost and overhead.

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.

There is much, much more to this shift that I’m covering here (I will drill down on the other dimensions and subtleties of the shifting Relationship Manager role), but the key point I want to make today is that the shift in Relationship Manager role, and its implied shifts in competencies, is yet another common “sticking point” that traps IT organizations in mid-Level 2 maturity.  The people that interface with the business and that help get you out of Level 1, are not the people that are likely to get you to Level 3.  The skillsets are very different, and even if a Relationship Manager is able to develop the needed competencies, if she has acted as an order taker for several years, it will be very difficult for her to be perceived as a valued business consultant, let alone a business partner.

One complexity is how the Relationship Manager faces of with the business it serves.  Again, as a reminder, we are referring to a business-IT maturity model – the business is maturing with its ability to drive value from IT assets and capabilities, just as the IT organization is maturing.  At Level 1, the business is typically stove-piped and functionally oriented.  In Level 2, a strong process perspective develops (e.g, order to cash, procure to pay, hire to retire) cutting across business units and functions.   So, at Level 1, Relationship Mangers typically face off with business unit leaders.  At Level 2, they also have to face off against business process owners, raising interesting questions of “who’s on first” and how priorities get set.