Old habits die hard. And you do not know, what you do not know. As a result, business relationship managers (BRMs) are faced with a huge challenge to persuade IT to change. Generally, the business partner, or business unit, the BRM works with, is happy with the differences for the better that the BRM has brought them. Often, that is not so much the case with their peers in IT. What is going on here? And what can be done so that IT also experiences the joys of having BRMs on the team?
Old Habits Die Hard
Many IT organizations are order takers. And they are fully prepared to be just that. Practices such as service request management and demand management are just a few examples of a “wait-and-see-what-happens” attitude. It gets worse when the predominant culture is one of fighting fires. A reactive mindset, instead of a proactive one.
Other examples are:
- IT has no seat at the strategy table. And is not engaged early and often when business decisions are made.
- Shadow IT is accepted and taken as a given.
- When communicating with the business partner, the conversation is solution-based. Instead of a problem-based one.
You Do Not Know, What You Do Not Know
For many IT organizations, the reason for appointing BRMs is to establish a stopgap. The business unit and business partner have insisted to be heard. For many reasons. Slow response times, unclear project progress, and “Who do I talk to?” are just a few examples where BRMs fill a gap.
Obviously, these are examples of quick wins that make the business partner happy. However, the BRM now serves as a band aid. Or shall I call it, a cover up? A cover up for broken IT processes. Or a lack of IT capabilities.
Either way, fixing a broken process, or addressing a capability gap, is more involved than a quick workaround. And when resources are scarce, “throwing more bodies, in this case BRMs, at the issue” is not an uncommon approach.
So, what are the permanent fixes? Let me address a few.
From Gap Filler to Strategic BRM
The BRM Institute, the single global community for BRMs, provides the BRM with a path to move away from an operationally occupied BRM to a BRM who has earned a seat at the strategy table. Which is only one of the characteristics of a strategic BRM.
Stopping Value Leakage
The path that the BRM Institute recommends is based on the BRMs responsibility to surface barriers and to stop value leakage as they call it.
For instance, imagine the business who wonders about the status of a request. The IT service desk, its single point of contact, is the obvious place to turn to. After two emails and a phone call, there is still no clear answer. So, the next option is to reach out to the gap-filling BRM. In essence, at that time, the BRM now puts on the hat of the service desk agent. Not knowing the status of a request is a barrier. And valuable time, and money, is wasted by at least three people. In other words, value leakage.
Besides surfacing this value-wasting gap, it is also the responsibility of the BRM to propose solutions, or permanent fixes. Per the semantics of the BRM Institute, the BRM is responsible to orchestrate that, with the right subject matter experts and decision-makers in the room, a permanent solution is being proposed. And hopefully implemented at one point. This orchestration effort is a form of persuasion by the BRM.
Techniques for the BRM
What is also part of the path that the Institute recommends, are the many techniques for a gap-filling BRM to use. For instance, an array of assessment techniques. To assess the maturity of IT for example. Along with a direction to help IT with improving its capabilities.
The challenge arises when a BRM starts applying these techniques. Particularly a technique that exposes areas for improvement for IT. Some of the typical responses have a lot to do with confusion:
- Assessing maturity is not part of your job.
- Are you the right person to do an assessment? Given your background. Given your position in the organization.
- Why are we doing an assessment in the first place? This was not part of this year’s plan. Let alone will there be time and resources to do something with the results.
It is important for BRMs to educate its peers in IT on what a strategic BRM has to offer for them. As well as what can be expected from such BRM. And that the BRM cannot be alone in moving the IT organization forward.
The BRM Challenge: Persuasion to Change
Both examples given here, stop value leakage and techniques for the BRM, will allow for the BRM to become less operationally involved. And in turn, free up time to focus on more strategic opportunities.
However, without the backing of leadership in IT, the chances are slim that anything will change. Not for the BRM. Not for IT. Let alone for the business partner.
Now the ball is back in the corner of the BRM. How does the BRM persuade leadership? Thankfully, the BRM Institute comes to the rescue again. It provides a set of tools and techniques for the BRM to consider when in need to persuade.
Let me highlight a few.
Raise Savviness on Both Sides
Important precursors for these persuasion efforts are:
- Raise business savviness within the IT organization
- Raise IT savviness within the business unit or the organization of the business partner
Employees entering the workforce on the business side are no longer shy of using a keyboard, a mouse, a tablet, and so on. And most understand what a modem and a router is for. I am not implying that they are all IT specialists. The point is, they are starting to speak the language of IT. More and more.
The big question though is, what about the business savviness of IT? And now the picture often turns quite bleak. Little is done structurally to increase this level of understanding in the IT organization. Let alone, to start speaking the language of the business.
Raising savviness on both sides “of the isle” is the responsibility of the BRM. Provided of course that the BRM is given the bandwidth to do so. This effort is form of persuasion.
Ideation is another technique that the BRM Institute recommends the BRM has at his or her discretion. It is a technique that enables to benefit from the creative minds in an organization to continuously improve the organization’s operating model and capabilities.
It serves many purposes. Among others, it helps with removing barriers. It helps with stopping value leakage. And it helps the BRM with persuading IT given that ideation surfaces what is on the minds of the business partner.
Customer Value Hierarchy Technique
While there are many more techniques for the BRM to consider persuading IT leadership per the Body of Knowledge (BOK) of the BRM Institute, there is one more that I would like to highlight. It is called the Customer Value Hierarchy technique.
This technique surfaces the expectations the business partner has about IT and particularly the relationship the business partner has with IT. Each expectation is classified and weighed. Since some expectations are more important than others. The result is a powerful message from the business partner to IT. Both good and bad. And both can be used by the BRM to persuade IT leadership to change.
What Needs to Change?
The answer is of course unique for every organization. There are four areas in which change may be needed.
- Organization and people
- Tools and technology
- Partners and suppliers
- Value streams and processes
De educated reader may recognize the four dimensions of ITIL 4 here. This easy to grasp concept is powerful at the same time. It allows for a quick gap analysis that is holistic at the same time. Furthermore, the same can be said when seeking permanent solutions.
The good news is that BRMs who in essence are positioned as gap fillers, have a plethora of techniques at their fingertips. All provided by the BRM Institute though their BOK.
A fearless BRM does not shy away from using those. All for the purpose of persuasion. And to be better off. Obviously, as a BRM. As an IT organization. As a business partner. And, finally, as an organization.
Call to Action
Intrigued by what could be in it for you? As a BRM. As an IT leader? Or as a business partner who works with IT? And are you interested in learning more about this topic? You have several options. Choose the that fits your needs. And thank you for doing so!