Hot Jobs: Business Relationship Manager

Job description: A business relationship manager liaises between the business and IT communities. But "liaison doesn't do justice to the position," according to Bob Keefe, senior vice president and CIO for Mueller Water Products and a former business relationship manager. "They ensure that everyone's firing on all cylinders and that the right technologies are being brought to bear," he said. The position is on a par with a divisional director's job and should ideally report into the CIO or the office of the CIO. High demand for internal IT projects and the need to ensure that such work is done right has made this a hot hire, say hiring specialists.

Why you need one: In most companies, there's still a divide between the business and IT. A business relationship manager bridges that gulf and aligns the demands of those two very different groups to facilitate, for example, the smooth adoption of new technologies by business users. The manager also ensures that everyone reads from the same script when it comes to the company's core information and that no one takes any liberties with that data. "They're someone who's really looking at methodology and making sure that standards are adhered to," Keefe said.

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Desired skills: A technology-related BS or MS, possibly an MBA. The bottom line: a combination of strong technology skills and business acumen. In terms of IT background, it really depends on the specific technologies an organization is using, says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at talent and outsourcing firm Yoh. For instance, a company that uses a lot of SAP software will likely choose to employ former SAP staff as its business relationship managers. Not only are they experts in SAP software, but they also have plenty of experience dealing with both the applications vendor and its partners.

How to find them: Network with communities set up around the technologies your company uses, such as professional organizations, consultancies, vendors, their partners and user groups. People who've sat on companies' internal task forces and committees may have the right stuff since they're used to working in teams that cut across divisions. Don't be discouraged if you find it hard to locate candidates. The business relationship manager is one of the positions talent agencies tag as a "purple squirrel," a dream candidate with a perfect balance of skills, who can prove very hard to track down.

What to look for: A business relationship manager must be people-oriented and understand how to lead. A manager has to quickly form relationships and balance a wide variety of priorities. A candidate also has to have a good handle on the company's day-to-day business and the important IT tasks that need to be executed to facilitate those operations.

Salary range: $120,000 to $200,000

Elimination round: Lanzalotto suggests asking, "If we hired you, how would you tackle this problem?" The answer can shed light on a candidate's ability to resolve issues. Ideally, a potential hire should offer multiple ways of attacking a problem and, in the process, demonstrate that she can take both ownership of and responsibility for it.

Growing your own: While teaching leadership and people skills can be hard, it's possible to develop business relationship managers internally. Look for people with an existing interest in technology who either have undergraduate business degrees or have acquired solid business knowledge from working in financial roles. Bringing them in on a project basis or swapping them between projects can work well to see if they can quickly get to grips with particular issues and rapidly build relationships.

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