Paul Wilkinson, GamingWorks – BRM Institute Strategic Alliance Partner.

– This article contains the key learning highlights Paul garnered during the one day session in loughborough, UK

First Annual UK BRM Community meetup

Gary Hardy opened the session with what can hardly be described as an upbeat note;

“For 42 years I have always felt that Business & IT Alignment has been an issue!”

Gary declared that it is once again the number One CIO concern in many reports. Whether we call it Alignment or Convergence, there are still serious ‘Relationship issues

This was met with affirmative nods from the audience. ‘For 42 years we have failed to focus on outcomes and value’.The focus of the session was ‘The Power of BRM’ – The power of BRM to break through the ‘Alignment’ barrier and create Business & IT Convergence. Gary went on to add that ‘Everything has the highest priority’ according to the business which received more vigorous nodding. This finding is supported by fact that these ABC (Attitude, behavior, Culture) cards shown below have been 3 of the top chosen cards for more than 10 years in workshops with more than 4,000 organizations!

Delegates at the meetup were also asked ‘how many have a converged business & IT strategy’?

Only 2 hands went up and 1 person asked “what about NO strategy“! 

This meetup was to explore the role of BRM in helping to address these long standing relationship and capability issues.The following are my list of highlights from the various speakers and from the afternoon BRM story telling sessions;

Mariana Carroll presented ‘BRM in a changing Technology Landscape’ announcing the need for ‘adaptive mindsets’. Mariana went on to add ‘We can’t afford the ‘them & us’ culture anymore, and we have to shift from ‘Alignment’ to ‘Convergence’, stressing ‘There is no longer relevance in a digital strategy – only a strategy in a digital world’. This requires a mindset, behavior and culture change from both IT and the Business.  Mariana shared her experiences facilitating many “CIO Labs”, where CIOs and business execs are interviewed separately to discover the perspectives on each other.  The overwhelming message was that the business wants a ‘Strategic partnership’, focused on ‘understanding of the business and delivering value….on time!’ – wanting IT to bring ‘Thinking’ to the table. Most of the CIOs then admitted they need to develop new skills and especially behaviors to become a partner. However a barrier to achieving this is ‘Operational excellence / stability’. #BRM & #ITSM must converge.

As one delegate added in the afternoon session; “ITSM is the foundation. If this isn’t solid then BRMs spend all their time dealing with issues rather than adding value. The CIO is always making excuses, rather than having strategic conversations”.

This complex, ever changing Digital world means ‘the need to embrace change management and culture change as a permanent feature’. BRMs, said Mariana “need to become change agents for both the business AND the IT provider. These are critical, critical, critical capabilities!” A key to realizing change is the importance of mapping existing relationships and ‘planning’ to develop these. It’s all about the relationship. A critical enabler for relationship building, which is currently more a barrier in many organizations, is communication. “We all have our own SILO’d jargon, e.g. Business, IT, HR’ and we expect the other to understand what we mean, which leads to assumptions, confusion, mistakes and distrust. This is certainly one of the top issues we consistently encounter in world-wide workshops”. (Review Scene 3 in this story and see if you recognize this in YOUR organization)!

Marleen Lundy Chief Development Officer at BRM Institute presented the ‘BRM Knowledge path’ a road-map of ongoing BRM skills development. Key for me in this was a ‘Certificate of Experience’, with the case studies being transformed into ‘how to’ whitepapers and shared with the community. Let this be an inspiration to other framework organizations when developing their certification schemes. Another highlight for me in the road-map was a module to focus on ‘becoming a value focused organization’. Value management is a challenge to many organizations, as detailed in this blog.

Marleen introduced the power of the BRM Institute Campus, describing it as “a sort of Facebook” for BRMs. “Ask any question, and a practicing BRM from somewhere around the globe will answer and help”.

Nick Houlton presented the ‘Adoption of BRM’, stating key reasons that relationships fail – something BRM’s need to be aware of. These he called the ‘4 horsemen’, which are ‘Criticism’, ‘Contempt’, ‘Defensiveness’ and ‘Stonewalling’. Nick went on to explain a big challenge, which I recognize globally from the Grab@Pizza simulation workshops around the world. The need to shift from ‘Predict and prevent’ mode to a ‘Trusted advisor’ position which represents a transformation of IT capabilities and skills, again confirming the need for change management skills.

BRM stories

In the afternoon it was the turn of BRMs to share their stories. There were some powerful insights and shared experiences, too many to name in a short blog. These are just some of the nuggets of insights I extracted. I have clustered these around the BRM Competence Model (BRM DNA);

Strategic Partnering

• ‘..CIO changed the terminology, no longer IT business partner, this implies a divide, we are now ‘enterprise partner’. This shift in language causes a shift in mindset and buy-in’.• ‘..A danger is that when the BRM wants to shift to the strategic partner position ITSM is not always engaged early enough in the process to be able to develop the right skills and capabilities to move beyond being a ‘“service provider’’.

• ‘Important to discuss cultural readiness’.• ‘Don’t assume there is understanding or buy-in’.• ‘Invest in achieving service stability first’.• ‘Navigating the political and organizational barriers is a big challenge’.

• ‘Should the BRM function be in the Provider domain? Independence can be helpful – dotted lines are also useful’.• ‘Research and prepare for the role. Community is really useful’.

• ‘Think carefully about goals and KPIs’.

Business IQ

• ‘…Need the right team at ‘ideation’. BRM can have more value the earlier involved in ideation, with delivery partners as well’.

• ‘Outside-in focus and improving the real customer experience can help change the internal service culture’.Portfolio Management

• ‘…We need to be able to understand and explain business value and risk in business terms if we want to stop being overruled by ‘the loudest’ in terms of prioritization’.

• ‘..Help business also understand the risks associated with their decision making and behavior. The business must have good governance’… (in terms of decision making and prioritization based around Performance (Value) and Conformance (Risk)’.

• ‘Prove you know the business area or they won’t trust you’, ‘help business colleagues recognize technology is part of everyday life’.

Provider domain

• ‘..Whether given a formal role or not the BRM has to be able to influence service delivery improvements, and demonstrate the value that BRM brings to ITSM’. As one delegate stated ‘ITSM is the foundation, without this the house of BRM will fall’.

• Teaming up – ‘BRM and Service Delivery had same tiered structure. Service Delivery took up the ‘fire-fighting’ delivery issues leaving BRM to focus on the strategic demand shaping topics’.

• ‘..Have knowledge that ITSM needs, to help you gain credibility. You are not just the business Partner. You also represent the provider organization’.

• ‘Attitude – feeling good about your function. Rise above trivial requests and stay at significance to business.’

• ‘Don’t take on too much and don’t be the IT go TO’.

• ‘Don’t alienate your IT colleagues. Bring service people and others along with you and help them see the business reality’.Business Transition Management

• ‘..More and more business colleagues are ‘digitally literate’ – many decision makers still not there yet, help business colleagues understand the impact – change the mindset within the business’.

• ‘Changing one small process for one person can be a trigger for building a lasting trusted relationship’.

• ‘Don’t try and take-over and own everything. Hands behind your back and try and steer and influence decision making and action’.• ‘Find a brand that works for your organization – example from service delivery to enterprise planning’

Powerful communications

• ‘Empathy is an enabler or a killer. Take time to understand personality types and behaviors using instruments like DISC and Myers Briggs’.

• ‘Branding’, Marketing. Using the right terms to get ‘emotional buy-in’, and using the right terms to influence decision making.

• Be well prepared to tell the truth, to gain trust and credibility (showing that you are prepared and understand the business decision making).

• Be prepared ‘why should they listen to you’?

• ‘Explain to senior execs the reality and consequence of the current IT environment’

• ‘Need to be persuasive if we believe something is critical’.

• ‘Prepare before you have a meeting and make your arguments sound’.

• Awareness and sensitivity to personalities – communicate accordingly’.

It was a powerful learning and sharing event. At the end of the session a group of ‘volunteers’ stayed behind and agreed to explore ways of driving the UK BRM community forward. Please keep an eye on the Professional Business Relationship Managers LinkedIn group for meet-up dates and locations