The ability for IT professionals to forge business relationships is as critical as technical skills, according to a study from analyst Meta Group.
Relationship management is not just about "feel good" - it's about return on investment, the analyst says.
Eight of 10 IT organisations report that their ability to build a relationship with lines of business will make the difference between success or failure over the next six years.
Overselling and under-delivery by vendors often causes relationships to fail, but user organisations have to shoulder some of the blame because they are unable to manage the supplier relationship.
Dale Kutnick, founder and co-research director of Meta Group, said: "With increased outsourcing - 80 per cent of IT organisations will outsource at least one IT operation by 2005 - relationship skills will become even more important for both outward-facing relationships with vendors as well as for inward facing relationships with the business."
Many companies spend between 10 and 15 per cent of IT effort interfacing with the business. This equates to a 20,000-employee company investing approximately £8m per year.
But more than simply save money, focusing on supplier relationships will help shift corporate perception of IT away from being a utility to adding real value, the analyst said.
Top companies are implementing programmes to formalise the relationship between the IT function and the business, and are also focusing on internal and external IT service providers to achieve the right dynamic between cost and skills.
"With the shift from operations to relationship economics at the heart of IT, the nature of the IT organisation challenge is moving," Kutnick said. "The organisation with strong relationship skills is better positioned to exploit opportunities, weather challenging times and add shareholder value."
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