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

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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When Failure Is Or Not an Option

In innovation, you aim to introduce something new; make changes in anything established. You could go right or could go wrong. Of course you do all preparations necessary to go right every time, but if you don’t, you take the lessons learned and be better next time.

Romeo Siquijor is a good friend and compatriot. He now heads Information Security in CEMEX in Mexico while I found my way to Houston after several stints in different countries. We both started as young IT managers in the Philippines. Our offices were adjacent. The thing I remember most was Romeo repeatedly telling his IT Operations team that “failure is not an option” — like it was their mantra. I did not disagree with him, but it was not the same message I would tell my team.

I headed the IT Business Processes group at that time. My department’s task was to enable and support IT solutions. For us, the mandate was to find new ways to do things, to innovate, and to test new tools with potential application to our business processes. Of course, I wanted my team to succeed but on the other hand, I did not want to have the fear of failure limit their quest for new things. I believe that sometimes the cost of finding innovation is failure – finding out what does not work on your way to finding out what does.

Failure is not an optionWhile working with our commercial department, we implemented a sales automation tool using handheld devices. Unfortunately, it did not fly when we piloted the project and we failed. We did not get the buy in because the tool was not user-friendly and robust. The sales managers simply did not use it. We explored another innovation we called mobile selling. Romeo helped design a simple technical architecture to run it. At the time, in 2003, text messaging or SMS was already big in the Philippines. It was a phenomenon and the use of it quickly became part of our culture. Our goal was to incorporate the use of texting to our sales process. We developed a tool that would allow our customers to request orders using SMS and they did just that. In just a few months, 60% of our sales orders were coming from our mobile channel. We were open to exploiting the best technology at that time by applying it to our sales process but we were not sure how our customers will react. We were willing to fail and so we took a risk and gave it our best shot.

When mobile selling was already operating, it became a mission critical application. The system was hosted by the IT infrastructure that my friend Romeo manages. In that perspective, I loved it when he told folks “failure is not an option.” I did not want any service interruptions to impact my mission critical applications. Romeo values productivity, availability and reliability. He wanted no failure and no surprises. He wanted things done yesterday, done better, faster and cheaper today.

My goal is to show you two different perspectives from two different functions in IT. “Failure is not an option” is a good mindset for day-to-day IT service delivery. Although, I would argue that this does not apply to areas whose mandate is to innovate. In innovation, you aim to introduce something new; make changes in anything established. You could go right or could go wrong. Of course you do all preparations necessary to go right every time, but if you don’t, you take the lessons learned and be better next time.

Because it's #throwbackthursday, I am adding this old photo where Romeo and I were presenting in our CEMEX Office in the Philippines. We invited our families for the weekend to visit our office and tour one of our cement plant.

Because it’s #throwbackthursday, I am adding an old photo from 2004. Romeo and I were presenting to family members of all IT employees. We invited them to visit our office, see our data center and tour one of our cement plants.

Why IT Should Use Agile Approach to Project Delivery

Agile methodology is particularly advantageous if you are selling an idea or innovation or if you need a proof of concept, a pilot implementation and early wins before you get the approval for the complete project.

Are you used to doing large-scale IT projects that require enormous investment of time and money?  Normally, these projects are the ones that aim to deliver a “complete” business application package. IT managers start with the determination of project scope and feasibility, creation of a business case, blue printing, project planning, execution and delivery.  Depending on scope and scale, such a project (from start to finish) could take months to complete and require a lot of resources.

How do you manage such large-scale projects? Typically, IT managers resort to the traditional sequential method. In this method, you determine all the business requirements in the beginning, agree to sign off with the business and move on to a lengthy development cycle. This traditional approach is characterized by work wherein each stage occurs in linear order and lasts a longer period. What’s the risk of such a method? At the end of a project, a team might have built the business application package it agreed to build and deploy.  However, in the time it took to develop, test, fine-tune and deploy, business realities may have changed so dramatically that the product becomes irrelevant. In this case, the business has invested time and money to create a product that no one wants. Isn’t it possible to ensure that the end product is still relevant before it was actually finished? Isn’t it possible to divide the scale into smaller scope and deliver one product (smaller but value creating) at a time?

With the pressures of a limited budget and demand from internal customers for the immediate delivery of innovative solutions, one approach stands out– Agile Methodology. With Agile Methodology, you have a shorter delivery cycle and focus on delivering a “minimum value product”– the minimum scope that delivers the first set of products, functionality and value. You are not expected to deliver a complete solution with a host of value components. Agile development provides opportunities to assess the direction of an initiative throughout a defined roadmap. This is achieved through a smaller project cycle or iterations, at the end of which teams must present a minimum viable product.

Agile

The advantage of the Agile approach is the quicker visibility of results. This is particularly advantageous if you are selling an idea or innovation or if you need a proof of concept, a pilot implementation and early wins before you get the approval for the complete project. Also, you don’t have to request a huge amount of investment up front.  You create, deliver and sell one value creation at a time.  The challenge is to find the minimum scope that could deliver the first set of value and focus your efforts on delivering this first. Implement, test, evaluate and then move on to the next quick and responsive development cycle.

The industry sector that I work in has been badly hit by financial problems in the past couple of years. Obviously that affected IT funding especially on projects in a huge way, impacting our capabilities to deliver the same innovative outcomes from previous years. But the challenge for IT manager is managing the demand from the business partners who continue to request new IT solutions for their business. A lot of them obviously focuses now on innovation addressing how to win in this tough financial times, like profitability, process efficiency, and differentiation in customer experience.

It used to be easier to sell a huge multi-process, multi-business line and multi-year projects, for as long as you can prove the business value of your initiative– not anymore. What we do is sell an idea in a form a roadmap and focus on delivering the first minimum viable product– that’s when truly embraced agile methodology to project delivery.

Agile Methodology does not only apply to IT projects. It could apply to any other project with a large scope that potentially can be divided into small iterations of delivery. Some examples that I can think of are infrastructure projects and product development.

Why does IT avoid BYOD?

If you’re not sure about security and reliability, it is better to play the safe side rather than succumb to the trend. You have to weigh in the risks versus the benefits. In the end, the decision to go BYOD or not should be driven by doing what’s best for the business.

Failed Experiment

I succumbed to the fad of the moment two years ago when I purchased my first tablet to “bring my own device” and see if it works for me. I used it at first for personal stuff — to read and write blog posts and books, organize schedule and to do lists, etc. Later on, I tried to utilize it on some work-related activities like taking notes in meetings, writing email, updating and showing documents and presentations.  In the end, I found myself abandoning the experiment and chose instead to go back to my old dependable PC, company-issued Blackberry and, yes, old reliable pen and notebook. As far as mobile phones are concerned, of course I would prefer an iPhone, but my current issued Blackberry is adequate enough. So why bother? Why spend my own money for another phone?

I am not saying that BYOD does not work. But it did not apply to me, not for the work that I do, and not at this time. I am not sold on the current trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), at least not yet. I know that currently, companies tend to give in to the strong demand for BYOD. This demand usually comes from executives who want to use their tablets, smartphones and other devices for work.

Others may argue that they are more productive with smartphones and tablets of their choosing. I would not be surprised if people working in sales who are road warriors and executives who survive on emails, meetings, and phone calls find BYOD highly beneficial.  Technology companies may also benefit from BYOD through encouraging innovation and productivity. To me, the decision driver should be if it makes sense for the business.  It is not what employees want; it is what they need in order to best serve their customers.

BYOD Promised Benefits and Options

On the other hand, one of BYOD’s supposed benefits is the reduction of IT costs. That cost is mostly associated with the cost of mobile devices itself and the monthly recurring data charges. So if you are a company looking for cost reduction as leverage for going BYOD, make sure you make your employees seriously cover the expense.

Another alternative to BYOD is to provide employees with options, however limited. One example is to provide both IOS and Blackberry (without having to endorse either one). This will provide employees with choices without worrying about crafting agreements for security. The company is also in control of support for these devices because they know the platform as it is part of their service set. IT can also open dialogue with other business units on where mobile technology can be of value to the business process and develop mobile applications that are secure and integrated to the company’s platform.

Argument Against BYOD

The other reason why IT is not rushing to embrace BYOD is the challenge of managing support for the devices. While those devices are easy to use from the user standpoint, they’re not so easily integrated into corporate IT. It takes time to train IT personnel to learn the platform and be able to sufficiently support it. As it is, IT is already burdened with limited resources focused on critical projects and operations. This makes it harder to venture into new areas.

However, the biggest argument against BYOD is information security. There is a very real risk of loss of informational assets and vulnerability to expose company data to outside the company walls that could cause undue harm to its customers and stakeholders. It is obvious that company information is probably less secure if it is on a device that the businesd does not have exclusive control over. If you are a bank, a medical institution, a tech company etc., information security is something that you can’t compromise.  If you are not sure about security and reliability, it is better to play it safe  rather than succumb to the trend. You have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. In the end, the decision to go BYOD or not should be driven by doing what’s best for the business.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

Internal Customer Concept for IT Organizations

Silo Mentality

One of the most difficult problems organizations face today is silo mentality. This is when an organization’s culture dictates non-sharing of knowledge and information between departments or groups. Imaginary walls hinder departments from working together for a shared purpose. There is a certain level of distrust that exists between departments that hamper cooperation. Silo mentality reduces efficiency and can be a contributing factor to a failing corporate culture.

Internal Customer Service Breaks Silos

Silo mentality is a big NO for IT organizations. In fact, IT needs to be the exact opposite – ingrain a culture centered on the internal customer concept. What everyone in a company does can be reduced to one of two functions:  “to serve the customer or someone who does” (W. Edwards Deming). IT organizations in firms rarely serve external customers directly; it means that most IT people only work to serve internal customers. If IT is unwilling or unable to satisfy their internal customers, the organization has very little chance to achieve value creating activities. Take pride in helping your internal customers; enjoy your role in sharing information, enabling processes and providing services that help others get their jobs done.

Photo courtesy of Rawich

Leveraging the Cloud – What is driving businesses to the cloud | Part 2/3

September 24, 2011 4 comments

This is the second of a three-part post on how cloud computing can be leveraged by businesses. In the first post, we defined cloud computing and discussed the ongoing shift to the cloud by many sectors and industries, including the US Federal Government. I think cloud computing is in its early stages but there are strong signs that the tipping point might be just around the corner.

IT organizations are increasingly seen as service providers rather than developers of business solutions and keepers of infrastructure. The relationship between the CIO and business leaders is becoming more collaborative and there is more natural focus on improving the “business of IT”.  This relationship, coupled with capital-constrained times, is fueling changes to IT funding models. One of the reasons firms turn towards using cloud computing is that it gives them a simpler and more straightforward way of funding IT. If you have been involved in pushing for the IT projects budget or are familiar with how your company is controlling IT costs, you know what I am talking about.

Simple Pay-As-You-Go Approach

Is cloud computing cheaper than what traditional IT provides? Some would argue that over the long haul, software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service will cost you more than running the applications in-house. I think it will be a long time before really reliable measures of the costs and benefits of cloud computing for corporations are available. What is driving business to the cloud is not about overall total cost comparison. Businesses want a cash flow friendly approach to IT funding. Cloud computing solutions offer that with its simple pay-as-you-go approach. You pay only for what you use; costs are directly proportional to your requirements. The ability to perform charge-backs to business owners based on their utilization of IT services is greatly simplified with the cloud model. This is difficult to imagine in enterprise software models where multimillion dollar, up-front capital expenditures for IT infrastructure is required.

Consumer IT and Business IT Convergence

Another major reason for the business move to the cloud has something to do with consumer IT. Information technology for the consumer world means eBay, Facebook, iPad, etc. IT was once the exclusive realm of the IT professional, but today, consumers have taken on many of the same roles. Vaughan Merlyn calls this “The Convergence of Consumer IT and Business IT” and he discussed this extensively in his blog. True, there is a big difference between consumers and IT organizations on the use of technology and the challenges that brings. However, technology today has brought IT literacy to many people and changed the way consumers communicate and work. Consumer familiarity with new technology that comes out everyday makes them more knowledgeable with technical tasks. This is the new reality for IT managers — having to pay attention to what users (IT consumers) want. This is where cloud computing becomes a tempting choice for IT. At this time of capital constraints, cloud computing provides an on-demand solution with more options and less implementation time. Perhaps, like me you are also wondering: when is the best time to venture to cloud computing and where do you start? I think the answer to the first question is NOW. As to the second question, let me quote Vaughan’s suggestion on this that came as a comment on my previous post:

“Don’t look to the cloud to do things you are already doing, but do them cheaper. Rather, look to do the things your business wants, but you haven’t had the time to do! That’s where the big wins are to be found!”

Has you IT organization or company ventured to using cloud computing for some of your IT and business needs? What has driven your business’ turn to the cloud? Share us your comments, questions and experiences here. 

Photo by Hinnamsaisuy

Leveraging the Cloud | Part 1/3

September 9, 2011 6 comments

“You know a major shift is coming when even software giant Microsoft is putting its old, reliable and profitable Microsoft Office in the cloud with the Microsoft Office 365.”

Let’s say you are in-charge of your IT business office. Your main responsibilities include making sure that all employees have the right hardware and software needed for their job. Before even talking about enterprise applications that enable business processes, you start with the basics— computers and office tools. You need to buy computers and software licenses to give employees the tools they need to do their job. Whenever your company brings new employees on board, you have to buy more software or make sure your existing software license agreements allow another user. Not only is it difficult to get the budget to pay for software but it is also difficult to administer, install and support it. If you have more than 5,000 users in your area of responsibility, imagine the amount of investment, money and time you need just to give employees their computers and basic software. What if someone told you that you could provide your users with the software they need without the usual hassle? What if someone told you that on top of having to do less work, you will require less capital expenditures from the business? If you figured out where I am heading, then you will understand why there is so much buzz about cloud computing. “It’s become the phrase du jour,” says Gartner senior analyst Ben Pring.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud denotes the “Internet” and when combined with “computing”, the definition becomes even more complicated. There are a lot of definitions out there, but I like this one because it attempts to cover the 3 forms of cloud computing.

“Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.” [Definition from techtarget.com]

The areas where organizations are increasing focus on virtualization are in applications that include web, database, email, calendar and office tools. Critics of cloud computing are concerned about security, disaster recovery, and encryption. The loss of physical control of data and fear of hijacked accounts are giving IT executives some reasons not to move enterprise solutions to the cloud.

I think cloud computing is in its early stages but the tipping point might be just around the corner. There are obvious signs that the shift that is underway. Former United States CIO Vivek Kundra set a target of 25% of the federal government’s $80 billion dollar yearly budget to the cloud. This data is from the “2011 Federal Cloud Computing Strategy Report”. The cloud may represent a bigger transformation for IT organizations—even larger than “e-business” in the 90s and “social media” today. Is your business ready for this transformation?

The next questions are: What is driving the turn toward the cloud? What are the underlying business issues? Find out the answers on my next post.

Photo courtesy of Idea Go.

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