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Why is “Business Partnering / Business Relationship Management” a Hot Topic?

Internal and External Collaboration is Critical

In a digital world where relationships exist everywhere, and with everyone, collaboration and agility are critical to deliver stakeholder value. Enterprises depend increasingly on internal and external service functions to meet strategic goals and to operate a sustainable and stable business.

We’re all “In the Business”

Functions such IT, HR and Finance need to work very closely and partner with business to enable business value, rather than operating at a low a level in a silo. Support functions have traditionally been regarded as a cost with limited added value. Trust tends to be low, there are communication gaps and the net effect is wasted investment in technology, human and financial resources. That’s why we have been talking about the alignment challenge for years and struggle to leverage technology for business advantage.
Business Relationship Management recognises that IT, HR and Finance are in the business and are not separate. In today’s enterprise “you can’t have one without the other” – easily proven when IT crashes for an extended period.
Business Relationship Management encourages a strategic partnering model where all functions are focused on business goals with a shared responsibility to deliver business value. BRM drives convergence of these key functions with business as a partner.

BRM – More Than Just a Role

Effective relationships require mutual understanding of WHAT is required, before assuming HOW. Business Relationship Management is an enterprise wide discipline and capability that “stimulates, surfaces, and shapes business demand for provider capabilities and ensures that the potential business value from meeting this business demand is captured, optimized, and recognized”.
The Business Relationship Manager role facilitates an effective relationship between the provider of a service and the business. Everyone who interfaces with the business partner has a specific role, and this happens at every level from strategy and architecture through to business analysis and operational service delivery and support. These are all BR roles. By collaborating across support functions the service is optimised as an investment with effective use of all resources.

BRM is not “Just a Framework”

BRM is an Art and a Science – it recognises that “good practices are only as good as the people that use them”. Culture and human behavior is critical. Having empathy and building trust is essential for effective relationships and so Business Relationship Management includes effective personal communications based on emotional intelligence practices. The other competencies are based on value creation: strategic partnering, business IQ, portfolio management, transition management and delivery of the right service capabilities to meet business demand.

The BRM Institute was incorporated in March 2013 with a mission “To inspire, promote, and develop excellence in Business Relationship Management across the globe, leading to outstanding business value for organizations and professional fulfillment of every individual member of the BRM community”.

First Annual UK BRM Community meetup - Paul Wilkinson

Author; Paul Wilkinson, GamingWorks – BRM Institute Strategic Alliance Partner.

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

13th June, 2018

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!”

He 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

First Annual UK BRM Community meetup - Jeremy Byrne

Author; Jeremy Byrne, Loughborough University – BRM IT Services & Vice Chair to Council, BRM Institute

13th June, 2018

Wow what a week! Last week comprised of working through the first ever UK Strategic Partnering Approach Workshop, followed by hosting the first annual UK BRM Community Event. Both of which were hugely beneficial! Let’s start with the Community Event;

UK BRM Community Event

Firstly, I have a new found respect for Marleen Lundy who organises the global BRM events. It is hard work and stressful! We had fluctuating numbers in the run up to the event, but it was looking like we had around 50 – 60 people. Then at the last minute we had a few drop out and a few add-ons. In the end we had a really nice sized group, with a good mix of people. As always we had a mix of job titles from Business Partners to Business Relationship Managers from a variety of industries but we all had similar stories.

We started the day with a few presentations, setting the scene of why we were all there and who the professional bodies were in attendance. Gary Hardy from ITWinners, who helped pull it all together, told everyone who ITWinners were and what they do, as well as making it clear that they wanted to set this up but it isn’t their event but a BRM event, run by BRMs for BRMs. More on that later. He also told his story of ‘finding’ BRM and why he thinks it’s the most powerful needed shift in mindset in current times.

Marleen Lundy then presented about BRM institute, the delegates in attendance were a mix of active members, members but not that active to not knowing about the Institute at all. The importance of the Institute, the best practices, guidance it provides and the accredited training were key points for the delegates especially the Knowledge Pathway, created by Marleen to help guide personal and BRM function development.

APMG were also in attendance, supporting the event and informing the BRMs of how social sharing of accreditation can help promote both BRM as a whole as well as your own personal brand.

The last session of the morning was presented by Mariana Carroll, who spoke about BRM and emerging technologies. Mariana has a wealth of experience in this area and was truly inspiring.

In the afternoon we opened the floor for our BRM guests to share their stories. I had my story ready to tell if we needed, but my main role was to facilitate others telling theirs. The great thing about working with a room full of BRMs is they all want to communicate and share; my story wasn’t needed as we had plenty of others. They ranged from theories on early BRM from the introduction of electricity to Leicester University and the creation of a strategic role over 100 years ago to manage this emerging technology disruption, linking back nicely to Mariana’s earlier presentation. To stories of becoming strategic and staying strategic through successful positioning of the role in both hierarchy and boundaries of responsibilities. These story telling sessions really got the room buzzing with ideas and excitement as well as shared pain points. I think next time we meet we will have to facilitate some more of these earlier on and then capture and discuss the points in more detail, because we were getting so many golden nuggets of information.

As we approached the end of the day, we asked if anyone was able to stay a bit later and discuss ways to help progress this event in the future. We had a good number stay behind and others running off but stating they still want to help out further. Now we are going to need to pull these people together and start to develop next year’s meet up, let it expand and grow and hopefully become even better each year. We are planning on starting this off via the Community Of Interest for the UK on the BRM Institute Online Campus. If you want to join in pop over and say hello, if you need help getting on just send me a message.

This was my first time trying to organise and pull together an event such as this and I was overjoyed with the outcome and feedback. I can’t wait to help out on the next one! Though thankfully with so many enthused BRMs to help, the second annual BRM community event should be much easier.

Strategic Partnering Approach Workshop

This is a new workshop and part of the BRM Institute knowledge pathway as outlined here. It’s a practical application of the theory which results in a strategic plan for your BRM function. As we had already completed the BRMP training, we were familiar with the theory so managed to skip over some of the content and get stuck into the meat of the workshop.

We ran through various maturity assessment pieces which highlighted some areas for improvement, some of which were well within our control others were outside it at an organisational level. The ones outside of our immediate control were considered and some of which we are going to put forward as institutional change requests, but the politics and governance to implement them will be much harder than the changes closer to home.

We then prioritised our potential improvements and started work on a plan to progress our BRM function. Using a combination of these techniques and the excellent knowledge of Gary Hardy from ITWinners, we were able to create a great strategic action plan. This is going to form the basis of a BRM re-launch for our function as we re-position, re-focus and clarify our value offering both now and for the future. It’s bringing a new energy to the team and we can’t wait to get started on the next leg of our BRM journey!

About the author;

Jeremy is a full time BRM at Loughborough University for IT Services. He is also a qualified BRM trainer, currently offering the Business Relationship Management Professional training and other consultancy. If you are based in the UK and would like to go through the BRMP training with a practising BRM, drop him an email! Jeremy is able to use his knowledge and experience to liven up the theory with lots of real life examples!

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