The idea that there should be a disconnect between IT and the organization it operates within is, clearly, an insane proposition.
Over the past 40 years we’ve recognized that there should be alignment, indeed convergence, between business and IT – and yet we’re still talking about it!
IT as a profession grew out of a time when the ICT/data processing department existed as the only place that a business could obtain information. Reports were produced in the computer room – a place behind lock and key – and delivered via a small hatch to the waiting world. Think about that!
In a way, this has continued as some IT organizations still talk about “the business” as if it’s something distant from them.
And while ITIL® proposes the need for IT to adopt a customer service mindset and provide a quality service, this has led to some misinterpretation, misuse of language, behaviour and bad habits.
However, the coming of strategic Business Relationship Management (BRM) has heralded a new way to bridge the divide.
Strategic BRM – a leadership and transformation capability
Strategic BRM – or known otherwise as business partnering – is a way of really painting the picture that “we’re in the same boat, rowing in the same direction”. It offers organizations a unified, common purpose and the method of delivering shared outcomes and business value.
And it supports the need for organizations to articulate their strategy: if IT is to drive innovation and growth you need to ensure that technology is exploited to achieve these desired outcomes.
However, if leaders can’t explain what good looks like and what the desired outcomes are, how can they expect IT to connect to that? The risk is that IT will respond by saying: “We’ll do this and deliver that because we think it’s what you want.” Equally, if IT simply waits for orders from “the business”, the true potential business value from IT won’t be realized.
Therefore, modern BRM is not only associated with service management but with business transformation. This strategic approach to BRM fuels conversations such as: “Did you know our competition is using this/that technology and seeing great gains? Have we considered that technology?” Strategic BRM is about leading the conversation based on the knowledge of business drivers and IT capabilities.
So, how do you get to that conversation?
A business relationship manager needs to develop skills that, traditionally, have been deemed “soft skills”, when they’re actually far from soft. Today’s BRMs need:
- Business acumen and awareness of strategic drivers
- Articulate what it means regarding the business portfolio and business investment
- Understand how investment connects to transformation projects
- A creative mindset
- Enough understanding about service delivery to be able to connect and orchestrate further engagement
- Emotional intelligence
- Empathy – bucketloads of it!
- Knowing the good time to have a conversation, or not.
Strategic BRM and the ITIL update
While BRM already appears in ITIL, it will be interesting to see how the ITIL update looks at the role and responsibility of strategic BRM today.
Whether you are coming from an ITIL background or not, strategic BRM offers universal skills that work for anybody from IT operations, transition and even if you’re connected into development and working with DevOps; having the skills of the modern BRM will serve you well.
And they’re not merely good business skills, they’re also good human skills – necessary in organizational leadership.
From what I see now in organizations, the tide is definitely turning for the better. While there is still the issue of working in silos – PMO/project, service management, business strategy, etc. – more people in organizations who are required to articulate strategy clearly and bring it to life are looking for smart techniques to do this and embed it in their workplaces.
Strategic BRMs manage the transformation funnel and, in the process, need to ensure people understand the value the organization needs to derive.
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Simon Kent
Towards convergence: how to overcome silo working in IT
Managing change at work