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Category Archives: IT Management

Book Review – Business Relationship Management for the Digital Enterprise

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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.

2019-10-07 22_51_22-Business Relationship Management for the Digital Enterprise_ Strategies for manaThe 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.

My Conclusion

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.

Vaughan Merlyn

Learning “Future IT” from Digital Natives

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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 native culture 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 Transformation

Digital is “a Way of Doing Business”

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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.[1] 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.[2]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!

Digital Manufacturing

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.

[1] http://www.misqe.org/ojs2/execsummaries/MISQE_V14I4_Mockeretal_Web.pdf

[2] https://news.aetnafoundation.org/press-release/aetna-releases-aetna-story-2014-building-healthier-world

Changing Business Context, Driving Business – IT Convergence

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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.

 

BRM Role Clarity

 

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
  • Powerful Communicators

An Invitation

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.

Start with Why! Personal and Business Approach to Inspiring Others

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“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.

iFly

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!

BRMConnect

BRM and Virtuous Cycle of Trust Between Business & IT

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Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. ― Stephen R. Covey

I have been working in the field of Information Technology for 17 years. I remember that a decade ago, when I showed my business partners simple tricks, shortcuts, and cool functionalities in systems or devices – I was able to impress them. Those interactions were engagement starters for me that somehow lead to long-term relationships and multiple joint business-IT ventures. This approach will rarely work in today’s world, where our business partners, like us, are tech savvy users. On many occasions, business users are the ones approaching me about apps they are probing, about cloud-based solutions on trial they are analyzing or new devices and tools they have seen in conferences they just attended.

Technology is developing at a much faster pace. This exponential development makes 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. IT-business alignment is no longer adequate where business formulates strategies and IT aligns later. In today’s world, this is a reactive process. Business and IT need to work together to bring engagement upstream and convert solution based conversation into value and business based conversation. Business technology convergence is a journey that will take time and after a repetitive positive cycle of engagement between IT and business. The strategic speed of this convergence depends on three drivers: clarity, unity, and value creation. These are the components of the virtuous cycle of trust.

BRM Virtuous Cycle

Clarity

Senior managers in business and IT should spend time improving the clarity of their strategies, purpose, and operating model in order to achieve a shared direction. Clarity means being able to answer the question: “Where are we going and why?” We should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who does what, when? – Role Clarity
  • How do we drive responsible, value creating behaviors around the use of products services? – Clarity of business outcomes
  • How do we engage each other? – Clarity of rules of engagement
  • How do we develop needed competencies – Clarity of talent development and continuous learning
  • What is our operating model? – Clarity of the level of business integration and standardization

Unity

Strategic success is going be tough to achieve if leaders and work teams won’t cooperate for the greater good. You’re dreaming if you expect this cooperation to happen all by itself; patterns of conflict amongst people and organizations occur naturally but aren’t eliminated naturally. There must be a concerted effort to achieve unity. Unity means that once business and IT are clear on where they are headed, they agree wholeheartedly on the merits of that direction and the need to work together to move ahead. The emphasis should be on openness, alignment, and collaboration. If these are the main drivers of unity, leaders need to foster a culture where internal competition, mistrust and turf wars are discouraged. Organizations can achieve unity of effort through (1) shared common objectives and vision, (2) a coordination effort to ensure coherency and common measures of progress and (3) ability to change course if necessary.

Value Creation

Value creation is about business performance and results from a dynamic balance between business demand and IT supply. To succeed, IT organizations need to cultivate a culture of value management. Start by engaging your business partners in clarifying how you can contribute value. Being a good BRM means that you have an intimate knowledge of how your company creates value. How does you company make money? What does your company value? How does your company compete? The virtuous cycle of trust between business and IT spins faster when value is being realized and intended outcomes are met. The best way to measure value is combination of two metrics “time to value” and “value over time.”

For example, one belief that I try to dispel many times at work is that a comprehensive platform of services is a prerequisite for creating value. I don’t believe it is necessary to “go big” in order to achieve anything of value all the time. Sometimes, depending on the business initiative, it can be smarter to start small and act fast. On the other hand, you also have to look at sustainable value over time and have to balance both. Especially in large investments, value over a long period of time has to be expected.

BRM Levers

In summary, I believe Business Relationship Management is the key lever of strategic speed for Information Technology organizations and the business. Business Relationship Managers are “the oil to the machine” that reduces organizational friction. Fast is not always about pace. It is about people and shared perspectives. When all areas or teams are working harmoniously, because rules and directions are clear, it is amazing how much potential value it can create. In faster and successful IT groups, the emphasis is on strategic partnership, flexibility, openness, innovation and continuous improvement as well as taking the time to reflect and learn. These are functions BRMs are expected to do in both the business and IT sides.

A Complicated Way to Explain the Importance of a BRM Role in an IT Organization

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Don’t tell me I did not warn you. The only thing I can promise is that you’ll learn a thing or two from this one, so please read on.

I came across a predictive validity framework called the “Libby boxes”, popularized by Cornell Accounting Professor Robert Libby. This framework is used to examine the distinction between underlying constructs of strategic objectives and their proxy measures to illustrate causal models related to some objectives in an organization.  Another definition of “strategy” is as a hypothesis about the cause and effect of your objectives. Predictive validity allows you to measure and analyze how well the execution of your objective (cause) predicts your desired performance (effect).

Simple Business-IT Strategy

Now, to illustrate the importance of a Business Relationship Management (BRM) function in an Information Technology (IT) organization, let’s start by picking a Business-IT strategy to dissect. Let’s call it “Strategy A”.

Strategy A: “Create business value through better use of technology.”

Let’s start it simple and take an approach to illustrate cause and effect depict Strategy A using the model. We are going to be taking a very logical approach. The strategy here is— you believe that if you use technology better, you create business value. Let’s assume that technology is comprised of infrastructure and applications that enable the business or enterprise.

Simple Business-IT Strategy

Observe that Strategy A is too simple—or maybe exceedingly simple. Can we really say that if IT provides better technology, we create business value, in the form of profits or savings? Yes, no, maybe. How about this – it is because of better use of technology, we improve business processes of the company and therefore we create business value. In this predictive validity framework, the middle action is called, mediating variable. It stands between two variables and it is an effect of one variable and the cause to another. This brings us to iteration to our business-IT strategy. Let’s refer to this improved business-IT strategy as “Strategy B”.

Strategy B:  “Create value by improving business processes through better use of technology”.

Business-IT Strategy

So how do you interpret this strategy? As an IT organization, your goal is to provide the business with the technology, infrastructure and applications to enable efficient business processes. This will result to business value creation through optimized cost, profitability and strategic advantage. Whew! Follow all that so far?

I think this business-IT strategy works. If you run this, you have a good chance of successful outcomes. But your aim is not to be just good. Your aim is to be great. Your goal is to differentiate your IT department and to support your enterprise to be the best performing company in its industry or to be the best performing company (period!).

The Missing Component to be great

So there is a missing component to your strategy, a moderating component—a component that will have a multiplying effect from certain causes and effects coming out from the collective work that you do. In this predictive validity framework, it is called the moderating variable.  The moderating variable is a variable that determines how big an effect you get from a certain cause.

To illustrate, let’s say you want to improve your performance at playing basketball. By practicing basketball, doing drills and shooting, for sure it will improve your performance. This is a very simple causal model. You practice more and that, in effect, will improve your basketball performance. But think about this, is there a certain amount of practice that will allow you to be like Mike (Michael Jordan)? Most likely, no. Talent and perhaps physical capacities are the moderating variables here.  Sure, practice will improve your performance, but if you have a lot of talent, a little bit of practice goes a long way and will make you much better. If you don’t have that much talent, you’ll have to practice a lot to get just a little better. Talent in this case is a moderating variable.

Basketball Strategy

Now that you understand what a moderating variable is, let’s go back to our Business-IT strategy. Think about an organizational capability equivalent to talent that can potentially transition your IT organization from good to great—it is business relationship management (BRM).

Strategy with BRM

BRM in this case is a moderating variable. The BRM capabilities moderate the effect of improvement of business processes and enablement of new business capabilities on performance, making it bigger (due to converged business-IT strategy) or smaller (in cases where it is lacking). Improved business processes and enablement of new business capabilities doesn’t cause BRM capabilities, it just moderates the effect. How? BRMs (1) facilitate Business-Provider convergence, (2) ensure that use of Technology that drives maximize value and (3) facilitate productive and connections and mobilize business-IT projects and programs.

Value of BRM Role

 

For many years, IT organizations responsible for deploying technology systems to enable business capabilities have had one goal in mind – namely, to assure business-IT alignment. Today, however, as IT capabilities become more and more embedded in business capabilities, and given the pace of technological change and the pervasive nature of IT, alignment is no longer sufficient. The goal today, therefore, is “convergence”. This has given momentum to the growing emergence of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role, which, according to the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI), is about “stimulating, surfacing and shaping business demand for a provider’s products and services, ensuring that the potential business value from those products and services is captured, optimized and communicated.”

BRMs Fuel Faster Innovation Cycles

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More and more companies rely on innovation as a central factor to successful business outcomes and the only reason to invest in its future. In today’s slow growth market, tougher global competition and commoditization, pursuing innovations more often is the only way to keep customers happy and their competitors at bay. One type of innovation that has been very instrumental to many businesses is through the use of technology – let’s call it technology innovation. 

Others might think that technology innovation means always having the latest and greatest systems available in the market, or having the fastest computers and networks. This is a myopic view of technology innovation. Most large companies have now implemented a digitized platform using well-established ERP software, like SAP and Oracle. Further developments of those ERP platforms are available to those who have them as foundation systems. If those companies are in the same industry, there is a big chance that they will pursue the same business processes and best practices in order to offer similar product and services to the same group of customers. How do companies then differentiate?

The reality is that, it is no longer true that simply having the right digitized platform is a determinant of sustained success. It is how you use technology to transform your business capabilities in a fast and agile manner that gives companies competitive advantage. Success on these technology innovation initiatives relies on a person who has both technology and business knowledge to navigate and orchestrate shaping and execution of innovative technology and business ideas. Those individuals that fuel the cycle of technology innovations in the enterprise now have a name – Business Relationship Managers (BRMs). Companies’ focus on innovation has given momentum to the growing emergence of the BRM role and discipline. According to BRMI, Business Relationship Management (what BRMs do) is about “stimulating, surfacing and shaping business demand for a provider’s products and services, ensuring that the potential business value from those products and services is captured, optimized and communicated.”

Innovation Cycle

Peter Lijnse, an IT management consultant, wrote the following in his blog entitled BRM is about innovation.

 “IT Service Management people are often good at stating, ‘We need to talk to the business.’ But very few understand the business they work for.”

This is so true. One essential competency of a BRM is business IQ and that’s assuming the BRM is already a technology expert. Many BRMs tend to come from a supply organization, and therefore, they have IT background, but it is not always the case.

Innovation is relevant only when it creates value to the customer, hence the importance of customer insights as input to the innovation process. Another common misconception about innovation is that it means new things – new platform, new functionally, etc. Not all the time. Innovation can be about new business value, not necessarily new things. Hence, it is the important for BRMs to understand the business to which they provide services. BRMs are key facilitators of technology innovation and they fuel faster innovation cycles and better business outcomes.

This article was first released as part of the BRM Update- a Monthly newsletter of BRM Institute to its members. Follow @BRMInstitute on Twitter.

The Art of Business Relationship Management: Shaping Business Demand for Your Services

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I am delighted to share this article I co-authored with Ibrahim Jackson about the Art of Business Relationship Management. This was published today in the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network Website.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

For many years, IT organizations responsible for deploying technology systems to enable enterprise processes have had one goal in mind – namely, to assure business-IT alignment. Today, however, as IT capabilities become more and more embedded in business capabilities, and given the pace of technological change and the pervasive nature of IT, alignment is no longer sufficient. The goal today, therefore, is “convergence”. This has given momentum to the growing emergence of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role, which, according to the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI), is about “stimulating, surfacing and shaping business demand for a provider’s products and services, ensuring that the potential business value from those products and services is captured, optimized and communicated.”

Let’s examine Business Relationship Management from two perspectives: the functional and the organizational role. The BRM function provides the framework for how the IT organization interacts with peer business functions and departments. The BRM role is made up of an elite leader or group of technology managers that assume accountability for all technology solutions and services end-to-end – whether for a business area, brand, region, channel or division, depending on organizational design and technology capabilities. This role can be facilitated by an existing Chief Information Officer (CIO) in smaller, less complex organizations. For large enterprises, you may see multiple levels of BRM — BRM Lead, BRM Manager or BRM Analyst. Each role may vary in responsibility and all are accountable for the strategic alignment with the enterprise or organization.

BRMs, on a day-to-day basis, deal with technology, people and relationships. As such, Business Relationship Management is more an art than a science, expressing the “art” via application of knowledge, interpersonal skills and creativity. How a BRM best connects to his or her business partners varies, based on the BRM, their client, the business scenario, level of previous engagement and the rapport established with each relationship. Trust through confidence is the secret to success.

BRM Processes and Frameworks should be characterized by flexibility and a high variability of actions performed within the underlying processes. Within the BRM function, there is an inherent value to that variability. The nature of relationship management is fluid, dynamic, genuine and human.

Dr. Aleksandr Zhuk, Co-Founder of the BRM Institute, sums it up: “No one has ever defined a process framework that assures success in relationships. Think of marriage.”

You can read the full article by following this link: http://www.ssonetwork.com/business-partnering-customer-service/articles/the-art-of-business-relationship-management-shapin/

Business Relationship Management Process Context Diagram

Business Relationship Management Process Context Diagram

Business Relationship Management Frameworks – BRM Organizational Pyramid and BRM Process Groups and Competencies

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I joined the professional group Business Relationship Management Institute in April this year. My friend, Vaughan Merlyn, is one of the Institute’s founders. Vaughan and I share a common interest. We are both active in the blogosphere and we write about IT, processes and technology management.  Last month, within the BRMI collaboration space, I shared the BRM Process and Competencies Framework which I created. I got a note from Vaughan today that he will use it in his upcoming BRM Professional training. The framework has been a hit since I posted it in the BRMI collaboration space. I received notes that private and public organizations are already using it in their workshops. I am delighted about this and I would like to share this framework with all the readers of this blog as well.

Business Relationship Management Defined

Before I share the framework, let me first give you a background about Business Relationship Management as a role and competency. According to BRMI:

“Business Relationship Management is both an organizational role and a competency–one that can be held by business and service provider professionals whether or not they are assigned to a Business Relationship Management role. The concept of Business Relationship Management (BRM) is related to and employs the techniques and disciplines of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) that focuses on all aspects of interaction an organization has with its customer. However, while CRM most often refers to a company’s external customers, the BRM typically deals with a company’s internal customers or an internal provider’s products and/or services. The BRM is a crucial role that bridges a service provider and the business that depends upon that provider’s services. The most common BRM represents an Information Technology (IT) organization, but BRMs can also serve Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Facilities and other shared services functions.”

BRM Framework – Competencies and Processes

The BRM competencies published by the BRM Institute inspired me to work on a framework that lays out the processes that are important to the operative function of the BRM role. The purpose of this framework is to identify the processes performed by the BRM role while matching them with the needed competencies.

I started by identifying the processes that are performed by the BRM role in the organization. The process groups are: (1) Aligning (2) Consulting (3) Enabling (4) Servicing & (5) Evolving.

Next, I identified the sub-processes or activities in BRM that are associated with the core processes identified. I must say, since my background and experience has been in Information Technology, this framework is defined based on this field.

Please click the picture to better read texts in the diagram

Please click the picture to better read texts in the diagram

BRM Organizational Pyramid

I thought that the Process and Competencies Framework  was effective in laying out processes that are important to the operative function of the BRM role but did not clarify the overall context of the role from the perspective of the business. It only focuses on conveying the actions performed by the role and the needed competencies. So, I came up with the organizational pyramid.

The BRM Organizational Pyramid is the overview of the BRM Process-Competencies Framework. This framework will help:

  • To have a context diagram showing the foundational relationship of the BRM processes all the way to the business strategy. I chose the pyramid structure to convey the interconnectedness of the foundation activities with the over-arching business objective.
  • To highlight other support elements that help enable the BRM function. The previous framework mapped the processes with the competencies. I reckon that there are other support elements that are equally essential for the BRM in the performance of its role, such as: organization, knowledge base, methodologies, and tools/ systems.
  • To show the hierarchical relationship from top (strategy) to bottom (processes). Before you perform the BRM role you start with strategic partnership, by aligning the role with the business strategy. The next level shows the structure of the partnership in a form of a business service partnership agreement and corresponding key performance indicators.

BRM Organizational Pyramid

The aim of the pyramid is to clearly show the relationship of the five process groups to the Business Value Alignment (strategy), and then to the Business Service Partnership (structure) that defines the manner in which BRM is expected to be performed within set performance parameters. The support layer represents the enablers of the role– much of  these are what the BRM Institute provide to its members.

I hope you find both these frameworks useful in creating, developing and improving a BRM function in your organization. If you wish to access more materials and collaborate with other BRMs, the BRM Institute is the right professional group for you.

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