BRM – a Superhero organizational capability

Published on Friday 3 March 2017 by in News with 1 comment

“I want the BRM to be in this meeting said the Business director and CIO to the CEO”.

How did we manage to create THIS position for the BRM?

Glenfis organized a Grab@Pizza business simulation workshop aimed at exploring BRM (Business Relationship Management).

Why?… when there are so many other sexy topics to choose from!

Business and IT-Alignment is once again in the number 1 position of CIO challenges, having been in the top 3 for the last 15 years!! With the growing importance of IT for ALL organizations this lack of ‘Alignment’ presents a significant business risk.

Current approaches have clearly NOT been working. It is time to find a different approach”.

Despite throwing a number of best practice frameworks at the problem we are still unable to solve this issue. One answer has been to throw more best practices into the equation – we now have an explosion of interest in Agile, DevOps, IT4IT, SIAM…..however there is still a ‘Relationship’ problem between Business & IT which some of the latest reports describe as a ‘Chasm’ – Enter BRM (Business Relationship Management).

BRM is a sorely missed role and capability that can make the ‘Alignment’ – or rather ‘Convergence’ a reality. The BRMI body of knowledge, practitioner based CBRM courseware and pragmatic instruments CAN be a vital enabler. But as with any ‘instrument’ – ‘ A fool with a TOOL is still a FOOL’.

In the simulation workshop, the team, playing the business & IT roles in the fictive organization ‘Grab@Pizza’ must work together to create value for the organization by deploying a number of digitally enabled strategic business initiatives, whilst at the same time ensuring continuity of existing services.

BRM – Irrelevant!

In the first round the BRM role walked around looking ‘lost’ – unable to find, or claim a ‘Partner’ position within IT or the business. The team lost $15 million because of outages and failed to realize $25 million revenue growth from innovation.

  • We asked the business if the BRM delivered value? No
  • We asked IT if the BRM delivered Value? No

An interesting observation was this: I asked if the BRM had any authority. ‘I thought I had given him authority’ said the CIO. Neither the business nor IT were aware of this. The BRM role and mandate was unclear. As a CEO I felt the BRM was ‘irrelevant’ – This is a clear and present danger that having a BRM certificate does not guarantee the ability to be a BRM. Practice and coaching is required which is one of the aims of the business simulation – to translate THEORY into PRACTICE.

We then explored the BRMI body of knowledge and concepts. The team assessed the Provider Capability Maturity, the Business Relationship Maturity, the Business Demand Maturity and the BRM Competency and agreed a set of Business & IT improvements. It was clear that there was a strong Business demand for innovation from all of the business units within Grab@Pizza but insufficient BRM’s to cope with the demand. BRM became the constraint! Not only the number of BRM’s but also the skills of the BRM and the license to operate.

In the workshop I used a cartoon of Superman (and Wonder Women) to show the skills that would be required. I mapped the core competences from the BRMP to the superman core competences. I thought the cartoon summed up perfectly where we are now.


Cartoon ©DC Comics, Competence model ©BRMI

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – BRM’s must help IT organizations transform from ‘Order takers’ to ‘Strategic Partners’, which represents a significant Transformation.

Faster than a speeding bullet – Top CIO concerns in a SIM study (Society of Information Managers) revealed ‘Velocity of change in IT’ and ‘Velocity of business change’ as 2 of the top 10 issues. BRM’s must help implement sound ‘Portfolio management’ to ensure the right investments are made, and to ensure ‘time-to-market’.

Stop runaway trains – BRM’s as ‘Business Transition Managers’ must stop the runaway train of Shadow IT, or rather, ensure that uncoordinated investments don’t create significant risk and unacceptable ‘Value Leakage’ – such as Cybersecurity threats, at the same time stop the decline in the perception of IT value. BRM’s must have a solid understanding of practices such  as ITSM, DevOps, Agile and how to ensure the Business IQ and focus on Value creation is translated into these practices.

Able to see through walls – BRM’s must gain strategic business intelligence and help shape business strategy, without always being invited to strategic meetings. BRM’s must help IT close the ever widening communications gap and ensure that IT develops a solid understanding of ‘business impact and priority’ as well as understand how they contribute towards business Value.

Round 2 – The future is now!

After applying BRM concepts in the simulation and reskilling the BRM role the team significantly reduced value leakage and realized $50 million profit from their IT innovation initiatives. Everybody was happy.  Both the Business roles and the CIO wanted to bring the BRM into meetings with me ‘Playing the CEO’.

I asked at the end did BRM bring value?

  • CIO: It freed me up to focus more on strategic alignment and exploring how emerging technologies could help shape business strategy.
  • Business units: It helped ensure Value creation goals were achieved and Value leakage minimized and helped translate IT information into meaningful facts, figures and decisions we could understand.
  • The IT provider teams: It ensured we had business intelligence to help us prioritize resources for changes and dealing with outages – we were now able to understand the business impact of what we were doing and the business took ownership for IT Governance.

The team gave the BRM in the game a Superhero logo ‘S’ to pin on his shirt as a badge of achievement. He had managed to help the team build a BRM capability and create significant business value.

At the end of the session we asked delegates for their key learning points. What would they take away and apply in their organizations.

Key take-away:

  • The need to see the end-to-end impact. How Value creation flows, and where Value leakage occurs. From ideation, to implementation to usage – it doesn’t stop when the system is delivered. It is when business value is realized…..or not.
  • Not just focusing on ‘Internal IT metrics’ that are meaningless to the business. IT metrics must be translated into business value terms – this means engaging with the business more to understand the impact that IT has.
  • Improve communications – face-to-face – asking more questions about ‘business value’, exploring and understanding the ‘Why’ Question.
  • The need to create more transparency, end-to-end. From Business strategic intentions, through to portfolio and change planning, to operational usage. This will help enable decision making and setting priorities for scarce resources.
  • BRM is nothing new, but BRMI gives it more clarity and makes it pragmatic. We can take away and use the capability maturity instruments to create a meaningful dialogue.
  • The need to make the strategy known at all levels within the organization. The BRM has a role in helping translate this into the provider capabilities and answer the ‘Why’? question..
  • Go back and find out where BRM is placed in my organization and what the Business and Provider capabilities are….and what the business & It THINK they are.
  • I thought we were too small to employ an extra BRM person – but BRM is NOT just a role. It is a capability and all levels have a role to play.
  • How change management and IT ops become constraints with decision making, and prioritization of resources and how BRM can help provide the necessary Business IQ.
  • The need to understand and balance resources against Value creation and Value leakage.
  • Visualization is crucial. How we visualized value leakage, portfolio mapping to value creation and changes and visualizing improvement goals and road-map.
  • Change management is critical. Ensuring the right prioritization and fast, smooth flow of changes through the system.
  • Both Business and IT have to be mature. The capability maturity mapping helps make gaps (Chasm) visible.

Where is YOUR BRM capability? Heading towards ‘Irrelevance’ or providing Superhero capabilities?


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