I’m the eldest of 3 boys, and all of us now with families and kids. Still to this day, when we are with our father walking beside him, he would sometimes still hold our hands.
This thought brings me way back to 2005 in Paris. I was fortunate enough to get him there with my mom and brother. I remember strolling by Champ-Elysees when suddenly he brought our attention to a grand hotel with an open window. He described that scene as very fortunate people enjoying breakfast in one of the finest in the world. I sensed the grandeur of Paris, the moment, the smiles, and the happy people.
He paused, gave us time to internalize the scene, and then proceeded to say, “there are those people in our small hometown in the Philippines, having simple breakfast with their coffee, but just as happy.”
It’s a lesson. It is not about where you are; it’s the moment and who you are with that matters.
My 10-year-old son came to my home office. He saw two books about leadership on my desk and immediately shared a blunt observation that stunned me. He said, “You are reading leadership books and yet you are not a good leader.”
Surprised by what he said, I began to probe what he meant to say. My son, who is a prolific coder at his age, amused me with his explanation. He said, “Dad, if you are a good leader, as CIO you should be coding with your team, you are more of a boss, because you just tell them what to do.” I got a good reminder on servant leadership!
That’s right, since I don’t get to code anymore, I am merely overhead unless I bring out the best in my team and develop leadership qualities in them. Leaders must find ways to have meaningful engagements with their team. I believe that leaders that engage their people get to know what they think. They have a finger on the pulse of the organization and can lead effectively.
A few years ago, in an annual performance calibration meeting, our CIO explained why a Business Relationship Manager (BRM) from my team should get an “exceeds expectation” rating. To drive his point, he went on by saying, “If this person asks the pilot of our corporate plane to turn around while in mid-flight, the pilot will turn around.” He was probably more figurative in his argument, but what he really meant to say was that this BRM established such strong and trusted business relationships that he has gained power of influence.
I believe that Power of Relationships is one the greatest factors in determining an organization’s success. “If the results are not there, I go looking at what relationships are broken,” said Darrel Popowich as he opened 2021 World BRMConnect. Relationships is “the state of connectedness between two or more people which dictates the manner in which they interact, communicate, and behave with each other in pursuit of a shared organizational purpose.”1
Smart vs. Heart
The breakout show of the pandemic has been Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso,” and it has gotten an additional boost from its multiple Emmys this year. Ted Lasso is an American college football coach who improbably finds himself coaching the fictional English football club AFC Richmond. The premise is that the owner hired an unqualified coach to spite her ex-husband who loves the team. The owner assumed that Lasso didn’t have enough “smart”, meaning knowledge of the game, strategy, and tactics to succeed as coach. The owner underestimated the “heart” of Ted Lasso. He ended up building a stronger and more cohesive team that brought the best in everyone. Ted Lasso led with empathy by letting each person he interacted with feeling cared for. He stayed grounded and humble to accept feedback and let others fill in where they could. More importantly, he built powerful relationships with the owner, front office, coaching team, team captain, players fans, media, and community.
One of the best explanations for this comes from another comedy sitcom from the 50s, I Love Lucy. Ricky, Lucy’s husband, came home and found Lucy looking for one of her earrings in their living room. Ricky then asked Lucy if she lost it in the living room. She replied, “No, I lost it in the bedroom. But the lights out here is much better.” “Most leaders prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they are more comfortable. And the lights are certainly better in the measurable, objective, data-driven world of organizational intelligence than the messier, more unpredictable work of organizational health.”2
“The power of relationships in an organization provides the groundwork for leadership and culture. In turn, leadership and culture provide the context for strategy, execution, and continuous development.
Begs the question: Why are there not enough leaders that embrace power of relationships?”
Leadership and Culture
Unlike management systems and processes that tend to be linear, “leadership requires a more nuanced view of the world because it involves people: what motivates them, what their interests are, and how engaged they become”.3 Leadership and culture involves deep understanding of the power of relationships that underlies the state of connectedness between people, their interaction, communication, and behavior in pursuit of a shared organizational purpose. It requires leaders to go out of their comfort zone (SMART) and embrace people leadership, and the power of relationships in pursuit or organizational health (HEART).
There are few universal competencies and behaviors associated with leaders, such as integrity, judgement, resilience, decision-making capacity, analytical ability, charisma, and communication skills. These timeless leadership competencies still apply today. As I reflect on the shift in leadership that is needed in today’s world, I examined other leadership competencies needed in the light of major changes we are currently experiencing. Leadership competencies that leverage connectedness, as well as drive agility. Competencies that bring more focus to HEART side of the equation.
Humble: An ability to accept feedback and acknowledge that others know more than you.
Adaptable: An acceptance that change is constant and that changing your mind based on new information is a strength rather than a weakness.
Vulnerable: Being vulnerable doesn’t make leaders weak, it allows them to show people their authentic self.
Engaged: A willingness to listen, interact, and communicate with internal and external stakeholders combined with a strong sense of interest and curiosity in emerging trends.
Leadership is the ultimate lever to evolving culture. An organization’s culture doesn’t just materialize, and it isn’t random. It reflects human behavior, which is why it is often defined using human traits. More specifically, culture is an echo of all the interactions and relationships between any people having anything to do with the organization, past or present. Leadership and culture do not exist as independent things, they overlap or combine. Those unseen connections (relationships) are fundamental ingredients and key determinants of everything. Thus, the power of relationships in an organization provides the groundwork for leadership and culture.
This culture pyramid derived from the book, Change the Culture, Change the Game, is one of the best frameworks to define culture. “Leaders create experiences. Experiences foster beliefs. Beliefs drive actions and actions delivery results.” The combination of experiences, believes and actions is the culture of an organization.
Most initiatives that are heavily biased on the SMART side of the equation tends to focus on the top part of the pyramid: actions and results. This is when leaders take the short cut when trying to improve results. By just calling the team to action: “sell more to increase profit”, “streamline production process to increase throughput” or “standardize processes to improve economies of scale”. I am not saying these are bad initiatives. After all, these actions deliver results that are tangible, measurable, and more predictable. However, it more likely will result in short-term progress or quick wins.
As early as 1990s, few thought leaders and authors were starting to write more about leadership than management that ruled the “Peter Drucker business world”. Change was becoming normal, and life was moving faster. This translated even more so in the business world with advancement in technology; where cycles of innovation and transformation led to the disruption of industries, and the creation of new ones. Unprecedented events in human history, like the current COVID19 pandemic brought the complexity of our world come screaming into view. It is changing the way we live and work.
Leaders who balance SMART with HEART will consider all the elements on the pyramid – company experience, employee beliefs and ingrained practices – and then ensure that what you change is sustained. The right experiences and belief foster powerful relationships between different people in the organization, that in turn build commitment and lasting impact. The actions then initiated by change initiative delivers results that is sustainable and resilient.
I have been CIO with Mark Anthony Group for barely three months and it’s been an amazing ride already.
My story as CIO is still being written.
In preparation to be a keynote storyteller I asked myself, how has Business Relationship Management (BRM) impacted my journey?
Well, let me tell you…
I began volunteering in 2013, the year BRM Institute was founded. It was my way of giving back and supporting the global BRM community. Little did I know, this experience would transform me as a technology professional, as an individual and as a leader. Through BRM, I found my purpose and built lasting relationships. BRM changed my mindset which ultimately strengthened my leadership capacity. Let’s dive deeper into the themes which have proven most important in shaping my story – purpose, relationship, mindset, and leadership.
After an unusual turn of events, I ended up in a technology career and, ultimately became a CIO. However, this was not supposed to be. When I was growing up, my dream was to have a successful career in finance and accountancy working for the biggest conglomerate in my home country, the Philippines. This company is the San Miguel Beer Corporation. As a kid, that was my goal. After high school, I was accepted to one of the best finance and accountancy university programs in my country and I was ready to get started on my dream.
In 1993, my parents went to the university in Manila to enroll me. In those days, you had to physically enroll at the university and my parents were doing this for me. Soon after, I got a call from my mom. She said, “We forgot your birth certificate at home and it’s a mandatory requirement for enrollment.” Long story short, I lost my accountancy slot which was a quota program and was relegated to Information Technology (IT). I went into the program thinking I’d shift to Accountancy the following semester, but here I am in IT 27 years later.
Ironically, my younger brother is a finance manager in San Miguel today. He is very happy, but I can’t imagine doing what he does. I am happily where I’m supposed to be.
Declare Your Dreams
At BRMConnect 2018 in San Diego, I shared a framework used to find purpose which is centered around reflection and actions within three concepts: story, beliefs and aspirations.
Story – is the context of who you are. It’s your personal journey. Your story evolves as you go through life and professional experiences. Your stories shape who you are. Beliefs – is what you believe in, your ideology will give you the compass you need to remain consistent and likeable over time. It drives your behavior and mindset. Aspirations – are what you want to be, it is the idealistic view of what you want.
Deep reflection and determined action toward one’s story, beliefs and aspirations are when purpose-finding becomes self-sustaining and powerful. Deep reflection can sustain inspiration for your purpose but without action, it can’t sustain itself; without action, the purpose is just an inspiration.
In San Diego, I called out my aspirations and my dreams to become CIO. Visualizing your goals and desires solidifies your intention. Solid intention opens your heart and mind to the people, resources, and the help needed to realize them. There is amazing power in visualizing your intention, it is the origin of action! For me personally, discovering purpose is accomplished through reflecting and acting on your stories, beliefs and aspirations. If you get lost, do it again and again.
Roughly 11 years ago, I started to venture into some serious blogging. At the time, I was working for CEMEX, a global building materials company, and I remember attending a townhall meeting hosted by CEMEX USA’s EVP, Ira Fialkow. After his talk, Ira came over to me and said, “Hey, I read your blog and I love it.” Ira was the boss of my boss’s boss so, you can just imagine what it was like for me. Our interaction started a mentor-mentee relationship which continues to this day.
Months later, I met Vaughan Merlyn, a sought-after management consultant online and one of the co-founders of BRM Institute. At first, we were just collaborating and engaging with each other through our respective blogs. Simple collaboration led to emailing, and to phone calls. One such call, Vaughan told me, “If you ever need anything or would like advice or talk about IT, you can call me anytime.” Through my relationship with Vaughn I found free consulting, a mentor and a friend.
Vaughan invited me to join BRM Institute in 2013 as one of the founding members. A year after, I took on a role at Constellation Brands as VP BRM. The executive recruiter discovered me through BRM Institute with CEO Aaron Barnes’ recommendation.
This year, I found myself in countless calls with many of my mentors to explore the CIO opportunity with Mark Anthony Group. There are many others I learned from in my vast relationship network: Ibrahim Jackson, Sheila Smith, Arnie Weatherall, Roy Youngman, Peter Lijnse, Aaron Monroe, Sergio Zarate, Kip Fanta. The list is seemingly endless.
This is the power and value of my BRM community – which has been so good to me – manifested in the strength of my relationships. This is an example of accessing infinite value through relationships. If I take a moment and think about the best work relationships I’ve ever had and picture them in my mind, I think about these people. In a great relationship, individuals invest in each other. They become partners, mentors, friends.
Fortunately, before the pandemic, I was able to travel home to the Philippines to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. Before my trip, I reached out to the head of my hometown alma mater to pitch an idea. Spending time giving back to my old high school by speaking to upcoming high school graduates was something I desired to do. I spoke in an auditorium full of graduating students for an hour, sharing steps to a purpose-driven career. When the students spontaneously sang a happy birthday song for my father when I introduced him, was my favorite part of the day.
In the past, I’ve viewed leadership mainly as an exercise of power performed by particular individuals in leadership positions. To me, those were the individuals with the leadership traits and behavior.
Maintaining a goal-oriented, driven and focused mindset, I aspired to achieve those leadership positions. I pushed myself every step of the way, which got me to a certain point. Unfortunately, I became stuck for a few years. In fact, in 2009, I strongly considered investing time and money to attend a premium MBA program thinking it was a career booster or my way up the leadership chain. I seriously looked at several programs, researched options and did my financial analysis.
I remember consulting with my mentor, Ira. He immediately commented how I could be mortgaging my future by going in that direction. He said, “Knowing you, I believe you can achieve your goals just working out your strengths.” His advice struck me like a bolt of lightning. Immediately, I realized my mindset was wrong. Ultimately, what I needed to do was to expand my network, connect and engage. One way to expand your network is to give your time, to volunteer and to mentor others. By giving back you receive so much in return; you sharpen your knowledge by learning from others and you find mentors.
My renewed resolve to focus on others and add value to them inspired me even more. It eventually increased the energy of those I partnered with and the teams I led.
• I volunteered and led various teams at BRM Institute • I doubled down on mentoring others which energized me and I learned a lot in the process • I gave back where and when I could
Look for opportunities to give your time to others and volunteer. In my experience, the return will surprise you.
Instead of an MBA, BRM became my accelerator. I learned the most important shift anyone must make to become a leader is from a soloist to a conductor; from a soloist to an orchestrator; from a soloist to magic-in-the middle. You can be a successful person on your own, but not a successful leader. I aim to be a successful leader.
Now, I see the essence of leadership in a more practical way. I see leadership as a practice rather than residing in the traits or behaviors of particular individuals. I realize the potential in driving leadership that is convergent, collaborative, collective, and compassionate.
During my Philippine trip earlier this year, I jumped into the Ulot River, or Monkey River translated from the local dialect. So-called wooden torpedo boats powered by a 16-horsepower engine, cut through rapids at speeds of up to 160 kph. We got to a point where I could jump into the river and get swept away several hundred meters, eventually clinging to a rope which pulled me to safety. I did the jump twice!
You know the feeling when you’re determined to do something and you’re really excited about it, but you’re scared at the same time? You’re ready to act, but you keep finding excuses to delay because of fear.
Maybe it’s because you’re:
Telling yourself it might not work
Not confident about what you know
Afraid of what other people will think or say about you
Focusing on your previous failures
Every single one of these thoughts and feelings is driven by fear, or more accurately, your mindset around fear. If you are dedicated to understanding why you feel a certain way at any given time, you have the ability to shift your mindset for the better.
When I jumped into the Ulot River, I was scared. But I was also determined to jump. When I talk about breaking through fear, I don’t mean the absence of uncertainty. As a result, I’m able to (and you can, too) embrace the fear and break through it.
BRM taught me two ways to break through fear by changing your mindset.
1. Community – surround yourself with the right people 2. Language – Cultivate the right mindset
Surrounding yourself with the right people on your journey makes all the difference.
For me, it all began with a declaration in 2018 at BRMConnect, San Diego. There, I shared how I aspired to become a CIO. I believe visualizing your goals and desires solidifies your intention. Solid intention opens your heart and mind to the people, resources, and the help needed to realize them.
Having support is unparalleled, because when you feel like you can’t take that next step – when you doubt your capabilities and fear what you have to say won’t matter – my BRM community has been there in those moments to help me move forward and break through.
The language you use when you talk to yourself and others can shift how you think, feel and perform. It can be something so simple people often overlook it. For language is a lens into one’s behavior. Meaning, the words you use to communicate are a precursor to your actions. Through the process of advancing BRM capabilities and philosophies, BRM changed the way I “speak IT”. This internal shift in language usage began a mindset cultivation process which then caused my approach to life, business and leadership to change.
Relationship-Centered Organizations are Equipped to Face any Challenge
When the collective knowledge on BRM was first assembled for the first Body of Knowledge in 2013, it centered around frameworks, processes and competencies to support BRM as a role and organizational capability. Looking back, I am in awe of how much those team efforts accomplished. The effort did not end there as BRM continues to evolve with the contributions and experiences from the single, global BRM community. The great thing about this community and its leaders is its openness and boldness to evolve.
As I reflect on the topic of my keynote, “how my CIO journey began with BRM”, it resulted in a realization which eventually became the theme: Through BRM, I found my purpose and built lasting relationships. BRM changed my mindset and strengthened my leadership capacity. I discovered what propelled my journey to become a CIO is embracing and advancing BRM as a philosophy. BRM is a mindset, a value system and a purpose-driver. I came full circle with BRM philosophy.
Business and organizational challenges have intensified due to the major impact of the global pandemic. When such challenges intensify, you may need to redesign strategies, merge or dissolve businesses, find new channels for your products, or reimagine work and go-to-market tactics. These big challenges have no easy answers.
Perhaps even more difficult, the solutions to challenges like these don’t reside only in the executive suite. Solving them requires the involvement of people throughout your organization accessed by leveraging employees’ collective intelligence and capability. This can be done through strength in relationships.
The year 2020 has been full of obstacles, tragedies and challenges. As we go through these unprecedented times, we find our resilience, our connections and our relationships are the best things we have. I think about medical workers, doctors, nurses and care givers who have been helping humanity face the emerging health concerns in the last several months. What they are doing is caring for their fellow human beings at their moment of greatest vulnerability. To me, it’s powerful and inspiring.
This is the time we need more relationship-centered groups of people, be it families, teams, or organizations. Take a moment and think about the best work relationships you ever had. Picture that person or team in your mind. Think about what you accomplished together, the fun you had, and the creative sharing and mutual growth. Now, imagine the same kind of relationship existed between you and everyone in your immediate team, your partners and peers. What could you accomplish? Nothing will stop you to evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value; satisfy purpose. This is the purpose of BRM.
Take a look at the full-length recording of Glenn’s keynote presentation given during BRMConnect Virtual 2020.
“There is no better time than now to reflect on your purpose and then act on it.“
Last January, I was in my hometown in the Philippines so I could be with my father to celebrate his 70th birthday. The craziness of 2020 had already begun. I almost did not make the trip due to the eruption of the Taal volcano, 30 miles from Manila. Before coming home, I reached out to the head of my hometown alma mater to pitch an idea. I wanted to spend time giving back to my high school, St Mary’s College of Catbalogan, by speaking to upcoming high school graduates. I spoke to them for an hour about creating tomorrow and sharing steps to a purpose driven career. My favorite part of that day was when the students spontaneously sang a happy birthday song for my father when I introduced him. I am so grateful I made that trip and connected with friends and families in Manila and my hometown Catbalogan.
We have done our fair share of reflective thinking during this pandemic. We watched as individuals and communities around the world changed — oh how it has changed. I believe that today, more than ever, the sense of purpose is important. It is important in individuals, in communities and even in businesses.
My wife, Ivy always tells me, “we are where we are supposed to be”. She means that, if we chose to go it’s because we were supposed to go. For those of you who know my personal story, I was supposed to be an accountant working for San Miguel Corporation. That was my ultimate dream growing up in the Philippines. I got accepted in one of the best accountancy programs in the country and ready to march on. Until…my parents forgot my birth certificate at home in the province when they were enrolling me in 1993. I lost my accountancy slot which was a quota program and was relegated to Information Technology (IT). I got into the program thinking I will shift the following trimester, but here I am still in IT 27 years after. Ironically my brother is a Finance (Accounting) Manager in San Miguel today. He is very happy, but I can’t imagine doing what he does. I am happy where I am, where I am supposed to be.
Through these twists and turns, I am fortunate to be able to discover my personal purpose. I found what really drives me. Simon Sinek said, “Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” In my reflection I discovered, it does not matter what I do, what matters is my purpose. My purpose is “To teach and be known to inspire others”. This translates to professionally (a) To be a thought leader in business and technology and at home (b) To guide my children to be the best version of themselves. When I was asked during my MBA admission interview what I am going to do if I am fully covered financially, I said, “I will be in a university institution or community college, teaching”. I still believe I will be teaching when I am done with IT. That will be fantastic!
During my talk last January, I talked to the high school seniors about Ikigai, a purpose framework to guide their reflective thinking. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. This helped me discover my purpose. If you find yourself struggling to identify what your purpose is and where you might discover personal and professional overlap, here is a simple self-inquiry by asking and pondering answers to these questions might help:
· What do I love? What am I passionate about?
· In my view, what does the world need?
· What am I paid for? (Can I be paid for what I am passionate about?)
· What am I great at?
By consulting this framework, you may discover your purpose at the intersection of your passion, mission, profession and vocation. There is no better time than now to reflect on this and then act on it. After all, you can’t just reflect your way into finding your life’s purpose; you then must act your way into it. Take a mental note from the Nike slogan and Just Do It. The more we act, the more we get clear on things. Reflect and act it out. Start taking steps toward your goals and start trying new things. This will help you get out of your own way. Many people struggle for years trying to find their purpose. Reflection with action will create a deeper sense of clarity.
Vaughan Merlyn’s new book Business Relationship Management for the Digital Enterprise is a very important book for a strong BRM advocate, IT leader and practicing BRM like me.
I am honored to get an invitation from Vaughan Merlyn to review his new book because:
I admire Vaughan as a mentor and a good friend. I am one of the early followers of his blog – IT Organization Circa 2017. I met him through virtual collaboration in blog space. He eventually introduced me to Business Relationship Management. What I learned from Vaughan transformed my IT career and allowed me to transition to the IT leader that I am today from an IT manager.
I like that Vaughan is so humble and generous with his knowledge and wisdom. He willingly imparts them to a global audience through his blog and eventually through the BRM Institute as a co-founder and through this new book. I have benefited from learning from the master. If the content from his blog is any indication, this will truly be a remarkable book, full of insights to help BRMs, business and IT leaders navigate IT changing landscape.
This book is very timely. Digital transformation offers IT organizations the unique opportunity to create value by becoming digital change agents for the enterprise. I believe BRM is the key lever of strategic speed for IT organizations and business. BRMs are “the oil to the machine” that reduces organizational friction and allows new culture and digital enterprises to flourish.
Why behind BRM
What a way to open the book with an explanation behind how IT management approaches are shifting and requiring Business IT convergence. “The revolution in computing platforms inevitably leads to changes in approaches to IT management”. Vaughan has captured the reason for the shift by explaining how advancement in computing platform is driving the evolution of IT and IT management.
The exponential development of technology has also made technology easier to use and more accessible. We have gone from an era where only a few people have access to technology, to one where it is virtually in everything we do. In business, this results in IT capabilities becoming more embedded into business capabilities. In the new digital landscape, IT is no longer just a service and a support function; it is a fundamental building block of the business. This is the reason why “Business-IT Maturity is essential for business to evolve”. This maturity model is one reason enough to get a hold of this book. I have seen the Business-IT maturity model many years ago from Vaughan’s blog and listened to him explain it on many occasions in webinars. It is one of the models that opened my eyes to BRM and how important it is to have BRM capability and discipline to advance value creation from IT. This model is essential to explaining the why behind BRM.
IT Leadership for the Digital Business
In his new book, Vaughan was able to present how technology has moved to the center of every business and a critical capability required to today’s competitive landscape. “As the nature of IT changes, roles that were formerly the domain of the IT professional are migrating into the business.” On the other hand, roles that were business focused are being assumed by IT groups: “Portfolio Management, Business Change Consultancy, Business Capability Roadmapping, Demand Management and Business Value Realization”.
Digital transformation offers IT organizations the unique opportunity to create value by becoming digital change agents for the enterprise. But first, we must understand that traditional operating models from the past will not be enough to reshape ways companies exploit technology for competitive advantage. What does it take to have an effective IT leadership for the digital business? In this book, Vaughan shares IT operating models that aim to achieve Business IT Alignment versus a Business-IT Convergence. I have seen no one in the IT management consulting space who has used operating models as brilliantly as Vaughan in providing leadership frameworks that support the ever-changing business landscape. He provides frameworks and practical advice on how to take on leadership role in digital enterprise.
BRMs Stepping into the Digital Leadership Void
Digital transformation is not just about technologies. Existing digital technologies are accessible to all companies. The key is using these technologies to find value at the new frontiers of business. Being digital means not being afraid to use emerging technologies to solve business problems. Being digital requires being innovative and pushing the boundaries even on areas where success is not guaranteed the first time. BRMs have the unique opportunity to step into the digital leadership void because they have a deep understanding of the business, its ecosystem, and the competitive landscape.
Digitization brings with it an important shift in IT leadership challenges, with the BRMs becoming more of a catalyst for digital transformation. This book provides BRMs with a guide to competencies needed to become an effective catalyst: Driving Value Realization, Understanding the Business Environment, Closing Gaps Between IT and its Key Stakeholders, Managing Relationships, Facilitating Organizational Change, Facilitating Major IT Programs, and Providing Financial Expertise. If the BRMs have these competencies, he/she can be an effective management consultant to the business applying different tools and techniques that Vaughan richly covers in his book.
In this book, Business Relationship Management for the Digital Enterprise, Vaughan Merlyn is spot on about how BRM role and capability will be depended on by today’s emerging digital enterprise in order to demolish barriers and facilitate business IT convergence. This book is a must read for all BRMs, those aspiring for the role and organizations considering introduction of BRM. This is also a great book CIOs, Business executives and IT leaders. On a personal note, this is well worth the read for me as it gave me new perspectives of Vaughan as a musician and artist and how he has use it as inspiration in his work.
Digital transformation offers IT organizations the unique opportunity to create value by becoming digital change agents for the enterprise.
Early in my career as a young technology professional, I asked why our IT organization often changed. It changed more frequently than other functions within the company. Every other year, new methods emerged and new ways of working. Business requirements of technology capabilities evolved as well as capabilities of newer technologies that impact every aspect of the business. And of course, the usual pendulum swing between centralizing and decentralizing management and control of IT, then to shared services and then to outsourcing. Change is still the norm today, only the rate of change is accelerating and intensifying. Exploration of disruptive business models driven by digital capabilities will no longer be the exclusive domain of digital natives but will become the aspiration of traditional companies as well. As a response to unrelenting forces of disruption, many companies are embarking on this journey. A company’s long-term survival in this new reality relies on digital excellence as the new norm.
What is your business’ toughest challenge? Shifting markets? Stiffening competition? Combined pressure from digital savvy and restless customers? When such challenges intensify, you may need to redesign strategies, reimagine other business possibilities, models, go-to market tactics and outcomes. In recent years, we have seen the effect of Amazon on retail giants like Walmart. In recent months, we have seen healthcare companies like CVS and Aetna looking to merge in order to redefine themselves and combine their capabilities to become stronger. Healthcare companies like CVS and Aetna know that Amazon already has many of the core competencies needed to compete in healthcare, including ready access to capital, a massive distribution infrastructure, a strong technology base, a robust data analytics capability, and a deep, talented executive bench. Companies respond by transforming themselves to abate competition from digital native companies like Amazon. In the future, the question will not be how we transform to become digital natives, as this will be the norm even for traditional companies. How to get there and survive is the tough challenge of today.
Digital transformation offers IT organizations the unique opportunity to create value by becoming digital change agents for the enterprise. But first, we must learn from digital native companies about how to reshape the way our companies manage and exploit technology. What does it take to transform to be the next digital leader in your space? Apart from understanding where you are today, it is also advantageous to investigate blueprints of success. The IT leadership team in my current organization did just that when our CTO Ricardo Bartra took us to Silicon Valley and San Francisco last month to visit Facebook, Google, CISCO Meraki and Salesforce.
At Facebook, we saw how the digital nativeculture looks like in a campus setting supported and enabled by its facilities, people, and ways of working. When Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg filed for the company’s initial public offering in 2012, he wrote that one of the sayings he and his employees live by is, “The riskiest thing is to take no risks.” “We encourage everyone to make bold decisions, even if that means being wrong some of the time,” he wrote.
At Google, we saw that the challenge is not that technology evolves faster but how visionary companies like them understand and capitalize on them by innovating early and often and converting them into a competitive advantage. I saw their pursuit for bleeding edge technology and always looking for what is next. Google strives for continual innovation, not instant perfection. The presenter told us the story of how GMAIL came to be, from a series of prototypes to a subsequent release of a beta version that quickly took off.
Walking around the halls of Meraki’s office, you’d be hard-pressed to guess you’re on a Cisco campus. It still feels like a start-up! At Meraki, we saw how employee experience is increasingly dependent on technology. How DevOps teams and engineers can quickly spin off capabilities to support employee experience by enabling applications eliminating the need to buy.
At Salesforce, we saw what agile transformation looks like driven by top management. How salesforce has managed its organization transformation focused on agile culture and ways of working, transforming organizations to empowered teams with clear missions. They provided an environment where their employees become more comfortable and develop expertise in navigating fluid structures made up of teams formed from diverse skills and experiences.
IT functions have historically been built based on the context of specific expertise, IT standards (ITIL), Operating Models and proven BPM and BRM approaches. I spent my first 15 years as an IT professional with a global building materials company and understood how to leverage the power of technology. I learned to recognize the importance of process methods and goals in ensuring harmony between processes and technology platforms, speeding up solution deployments, and enabling continuous improvement and innovation; to understand the impact of IT processes in integrating a large acquisition; and to recommend an appropriate model for integrating an acquisition. Much of what I learned from my first 15 years still applies and I believe will apply to the next 15 years. But I also realize that I need to evolve and be “bi-modal”, embracing digitization and agile thinking. This is my focus today and I am happy that this is also the journey my current IT organization is undertaking. I want to be an IT leader that will be adaptive and dynamic in pulling together capacity and competency from a broader range of sources—traditional and future capabilities such as AI, robots, IoT, cloud, blockchain and alike.
Digital is a fashionable word today in the context of the use of “newer” technologies. In the conferences, webinars and meet ups that I have participated in the last two years, digital has been the buzz word around many presentations. For the longest time, to many of us in technology and engineering, digital simply meant data expressed as a series of the digits 0 and 1, typically represented by values of a physical quantity such as voltage or magnetic polarization. If you ask the question “what is digital” to several people you engage with in business and technology, chances are, you will get varying answers and perspectives.
In the SAPPHIRE technology conference of SAP that I attended this year, the company unveiled Intelligent Suite. They presented a roadmap that did not resemble the roadmap to which we are accustomed. The presenter said that many of their partners have started building industry digital business blueprints that can be applicable to different industries. More often in the past, when software companies launch something, typically they are in the form of or focusing on software packages, applications and platforms. Here the focus is the digital blueprint. I will use this to point out the meaning of digital as it is being implied today. Digital is not the application systems and not even a platform. Digital is not a “thing”, it is not a role, it is not a program– digital is a way of doing business.
If digital is a way of doing business, then what does digital transformation mean to a company. For some businesses, digital allows consumers to have a personalized experience by touching, feeling and understanding products and services. This means understanding customer behaviors and being closely attuned to how customer decision journeys are evolving. USAA did this by using their customers’ life events as the basis of its business architecture design. By integrating its previously separate insurance, banking and investment products around customer life events, USAA was able to deliver a superior customer experience. Essentially in this digital transformation, USAA was able to change their business model from a provider of insurance and banking services to an omnichannel business. They can “own” the customer relationship and create multiple products to address life events. USAA needed more knowledge of the customer as a key capability for this new “way of doing business” to work.
Another company who successfully transformed their “way of doing business” is Aetna. Aetna’s digital transformation allowed them to be a full-service destination for its customers using an integrated platform approach. This allowed the company to shift from a B2B health insurance model to a complete solution.“When we have an integrated, functional health care system that focuses on the chronically ill, on promoting wellness and on payment reform, we will have a system that works and we will have a healthier world,” Aetna Chairman, CEO and President Mark T. Bertolini said.Essentially, Aetna transformed themselves from a healthcare insurance provider to a healthcare platform. By doing this, they became the destination of choice using superior customer experience. From 2009 to 2014, Aetna increased its revenue to more than three times the industry average.
The new “way of doing business” may require transformation in other areas of the business and not just in frontline customer facing capabilities. The advent of digital manufacturing, machine learning, blockchain, intelligent supply chain, and artificial intelligence (A.I.) allow consumers to personalize the design of the products they want based on current trends. As brands in the future will be mainly shaped by consumers, digital as a new way of doing business puts the customer as the point of focus. I personally have difficulty buying shoes that fits me comfortably because I undoubtedly have wider feet than most people. Thanks to NikeiD Custom Shoes, I can now customize my shoes online and have it delivered to me. It is not only the size of the shoes that I can customize, I even have my name on it!
How digital is changing “way of doing business” is but a logical consequence of what is happening today in modern applications and emerging technologies.
Digital transformation is not really about technologies. Existing digital technologies are accessible to all companies. The key is using these technologies to find value at the new frontiers of business. Being digital means not being afraid to use emerging technologies to solve business problems. Being digital requires being innovative and pushing the boundaries even on areas where success is not guaranteed the first time. “Learn fast and then just move on and find a different way to solve the same problem”, says Bharti Airtel’s Global CIO Harmeen Mehta, winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO. Innovation and transformation are the means to achieve a digital business model using existing and emerging technology platforms. Digital is a shared responsibility between business and IT. There must be convergence of business and IT to drive successful and sustainable digital business transformation.
There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo
Vaughan Merlyn started working on the concept of Business Relationship Management (BRM) in 1993. BP engaged Vaughan to develop a training program for their new BRM role with Profs. Michael Earl, London Business School, Chris Edwards, Cranfield University and Neo Boon Siong, Nanyang Business School, Singapore. I was introduced to the concept of the BRM role in 2009 while collaborating with Vaughan through our blogs. The time of the BRM idea, nurtured through the years, has come. Many companies are deploying the capability in recent years largely due to the effort of the BRM Institute co-founded by Vaughan, along with Aaron Barnes and Dr. Aleksandr Zhuk in 2013. The BRM Institute has created the BRM Body of Knowledge (BRMBOK) that has since been used as standard for BRM role certifications worldwide. I had the privilege to work with Vaughan, along with other BRM pioneers globally to publish the first version of the BRMBOK in 2014.
Changing Business Context
I was working with a global building materials company at its operations in the Philippines when I started my career in 1997. We deployed a website in 2002 so that our customers can order Cement online. We faced major hurdles in convincing our customers to go online to order. One day, I drove with one of our sales representatives and accompanied him on sales visits. It was on one of our interactions with a customer in a small business location that one store owner asked: “Why can’t I just text my cement orders, why do I have to go online?”. This was the question that led to a simple mobile selling application that we built and deployed later that became more successful than the website. This solution eventually processed around 70% of customer orders. With this crude B2B solution, we also pushed payment reminders to customers and sent warm birthday greetings. As additional context to this successful deployment, during the early 2000s, SMS or Text Messaging became a phenomenon in the Philippines. Literally everyone was texting. The use of SMS technology became pervasive.
Today, we are doing beyond SMS. Information technologies (IT) such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), mobile computing, data analytics, 3-D printing, virtual reality, and robotics are transforming industries, economies, and lives around the globe. The number of formerly successful companies being driven to obscurity by agile, tech-savvy competitors and substitute products grows daily. This exponential development of technology also made technology easier to use and more accessible. We have gone from an era where only a few people have access to information and technology, to one where it is virtually in everything we do. In business, this results in IT capabilities becoming more embedded into business capabilities. Organizations seeking competitive advantage need to learn how to harness that potential. Business leaders who want to compete in today’s market, and well into the future, have to lead their companies toward a true business and technology convergence.
Critical Role of the BRM in Business and IT Convergence
From my experience, the BRM role is one of the hardest roles to explain contextually. When I was interviewing for my current job four years ago, one of my interviewers, a senior vice president of the company told me later that he selected me from among candidates because I was the only one that explained the BRM role clearly to him. The most critical role of a BRM is to facilitate the convergence of business and IT. Because of this context, the BRM role performs responsibilities with the business organization and with the IT organization. The BRM diagram attached in this article is the most effective way I have been able to convey the clarity of the BRM role from my personal experience. I realized that the best way to explain it is to provide perspectives of the BRM role from the two converging sides. It is important to note that concepts in this diagram was derived from two of the earliest frameworks we worked on at the BRM Institute: BRM DNATM (Develop, Nurture, Advance) or the BRM Competency Model and the BRM Metaphors.
Facilitate Business-IT Convergence (BRM as Navigator) – BRM supports business leaders in the facilitation of business technology strategy and business capabilities road-mapping. In turn, these business / technology strategy and roadmap will guide Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio and Program Management.
Drive Value from Provider Services (BRM as Connector) – BRMs as connectors are responsible for optimizing business value of IT. Value creation is about business performance and results from a dynamic balance between business demand and IT supply. BRM is not limited to IT Demand Management but rather Demand Shaping by raising IT Savvy of the business.
Orchestrate Key Provider Role (BRM as Orchestrator) – With the business organization BRM is the single point of focus in mobilizing programs and business technology roadmaps. This is very different from the old paradigm of single point of contact. From the IT organization, BRM can also play key provider roles. For example, in my current organization, I also play the role of Business Process Management. This provider role may vary based on business need.
Now the question is, how can a BRM perform this role effectively to drive business IT convergence? The answer starts with the BRM Competencies Model. This six BRM competencies describe the knowledge, skills and behavior needed for successful performance of the BRM Role. The following are the key BRM competencies:
Masters at Strategic Partnering
High Business IQ
Excel at Portfolio Management
Excellent Knowledge of the Provider Domain and Service Management Discipline
Skilled in Organizational Change Management
I believe Business Relationship Management is the key lever of strategic speed for Information Technology organizations and the business. BRMs are “the oil to the machine” that reduces organizational friction. Fast is not always about pace. It is about people, shared perspectives, shared risk and rewards.
If you want to know more about the BRM role, there is an upcoming opportunity for us to engage. I am excited that Vaughan Merlyn, BRMI Co-founder, and I are hosting the first of the #IamBRM series this Feb 22, 2018. This will be the first in a series of webinars leading up to BRMConnect 2018. We will talk about two core models, BRM DNA™ and House of BRM™, that underlie the Business Relationship Management role, discipline and capability. I collaborated with Vaughan Merlyn and the BRM Institute years ago when we started developing these models! Please register through this link to join us in this webinar sponsored by the BRM Institute.
“Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” – Simon Sinek
A couple of weeks ago, our office had a team building event at iFly. Most of us signed up to experience our first indoor skydiving and I did so with hesitation. At iFly, we had a short 30-minute instruction session and then, we put on safety gears. I made my dream of flight a reality! It was so amazing that I thought of bringing my 6-year old twin boys to experience it the following day.
It was Friday so I went to pick up my sons from school. I told them we were going to iFly so they can experience indoor skydiving. They were not interested at all and both said no emphatically. I showed them how iFly does it through a video. They saw kids flying upward the wind tunnel. I said, “Isn’t this fun?” They looked somewhat convinced but a bit frightened. They responded no again with hesitation.
At such a young age, my boys like to read and learn astronomy. They know their solar systems, galaxies and black holes. Very often, I hear them talk to each other about becoming an astronaut. They went to NASA summer camp together last year. I wanted to convince them to do iFly, so I told them that one other way astronauts train with weightlessness besides being under water is indoor skydiving. Their eyes lit up and we jumped into the car. They experienced iFly and went to tell friends about it with their hand upwards as if in flying motion.
Why didn’t I communicate with WHY (to be an astronaut) from the very beginning? Instead, like most people, I started with WHAT (indoor skydiving) and the HOW (video). Simon Sinek’s TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action is about the idea that most people communicate by starting with the WHAT. By explaining his Golden Circle, Simon spoke about how transcendent leaders like Martin Luther King and innovative companies like Apple begin instead with WHY.
At the BRMCONNECT Forum hosted by BRM Institute at the PepsiCo headquarters in Dallas, this was my story. I was asked by Aaron Barnes, CEO and Co-Founder of the institute to tell other BRMs the story of how I formed my team and what we do. I started my storytelling by sharing the Why. The vision and purpose of my team: To Be Strategic Leaders Driving Competitive Advantage. This is a shared vision with the rest of our IT organization. In the beginning, this seemed a lofty goal. To me personally, this Why is the reason why I get up in the morning fulfilled to go to work!
We started with the Why but if we are going to be strategic partners with the business, our next challenge was the HOW. How are we going to put ourselves in the middle of business conversations and drive more strategic engagements? We turn to Business Process Management (BPM) as a means to foster business relationship. We created our Business Process Architecture (BPA) Framework and Process Assessment Methodology (PAM). We equip ourselves with an effective How.
Now when business partners come to us with a seemingly tactical request to deploy a specific application system, we have the means to ask “what business problem are you trying to solve?” and “what strategy are you enabling?” And then the invitation, let’s partner and do a Process Assessment. With three phases of PAM– Align, Discovery and Solution, we end up proposing a business initiative or technology project or both.
According to Simon Sinek every organization has a Why. “Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why you can inspire others.” I realize there are effective use of this approach or concept in everyday — both in our personal lives and in business. Start with Why!