Managing relationship managers

Are engineers really 'not good' with dealing with customers?

Managing with less

Princeton University CIO Betty Leydon likes the concept of relationship managers, but she doesn't have the budget to create the positions. Still, that hasn't stopped her from working to improve communication between IT and her customers -- the heads of administrative units and academic departments.

Soon after she arrived on campus in 2001, Leydon asked her 280 Office of Information Technology employees to volunteer as "ambassadors" to develop personal relationships with executives in the 50 academic and 30 administrative departments at the Ivy League university.

"Sometimes departments are limited in their use of IT because they don't know what is possible," she says. "The ambassadors can fill them in regularly on what IT can do for them."

Surveys show that the program has improved the perception of IT responsiveness, Leydon says. And feedback to ambassadors has led to a strategic collaborative software initiative and a push for digital signature technology.

"The ambassadors aren't the perfect solution," Leydon notes, "but they were the best I could do given budgetary constraints. They are another link to our customers, and their focus on immediate needs can translate into strategic projects."

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