Business Relationship Management – What is it and why do we need it…

Why Now?

I remember my first Service Desk placement after maternity leave in 1996 – beautiful iconic building in West London, great company and lovely place to work. What struck me as I was writing this blog about Business Relationship Management (BRM), was that way back then as we established a new multilingual support function and all the fun that entailed, there was a very tall, middle aged chap with great presence who used to walk the floor between the Service Desk and the technical support teams quite regularly.

One day someone asked our manager, ‘who is that guy?’

“He’s the Business Relationship Manager.”

Wow, we all surmised how he must have the easiest, most well paid job in the world – walking around being nice to people all day-compared to working on the front line Service Desk with all that stress.

For me the thought highlighted two key issues:

a) We don’t see the world as it really is – but as we are. It’s all about perspective.

b) This role has been a known and identified requirement for over 20 years – so why is it now becoming so popular and so visible on the IT social media & education agenda?

What is it and why do we need it?

If you consider the 3 key elements of the BRMI framework®, it includes the BRM role, disciplines and organisational capability of Business Relationship Management. Its purpose is to serve the interests of the business. To act on behalf of, represent and translate between the provider of service to that business (in this case IT). To manage not only the relationships, but demand, strategy, portfolio roadmaps and capabilities (to name a few) to ensure the services provided meet the overall business objectives.

From an IT perspective, the maturity model within the framework has 3 levels – level 1 being support for Business Efficiency which is the basic siloed approach to automating administrative and clerical functions, data used for tactical analysis and demand also siloed into departments or geographies.

If an organisation works on maturing IT Service Management capabilities from a people, process and technology perspective it will, by the very nature of Continual Service Improvement, evolve to the next level of BRM maturity where the focus is on Business Effectiveness. This level of maturity is moving towards a more holistic approach of services across the enterprise (e.g. HR, Facilities services are automated as part of the IT Strategy). The data shifts from purely operational to management information and focus shifts from transaction processing towards business process improvement and re-engineering.

Either way – moving up these levels of maturity (ITSM or BRM requires a shift in mindset and methods). One of my favourite quotes is that ‘continuous improvement of the candle did not create the lightbulb’. You also need to change and innovate.

What got you to where you are today– will not be what gets you to where you want to be tomorrow.

Level 1 BRM maturity is focused on Supply Management. From an ITSM perspective, this relates directly to provision of supply so may involve work on Service Level Agreements for example.

IT has to be able to deliver the basics to the business to gain credibility and mature in line with the business it provides services to. Ultimately, it’s about a holistic view – where focus is not on technology or data or process alone – but by how to achieve the objectives identified deliver against the business strategy. It is now key for all providers to ensure they remain relevant.

Outside of the Business Provider maturity levels, the maturity of the relationship also identifies characteristics that indicate where improvement needs to be made. The lowest level of maturity for relationship management could be demonstrated by the following characteristics:

Unmanaged demand, unclear rules of engagement and no formal channel for communication between the two parties resulting in no clear demonstration or understanding of service cost or value – this scenario is usually where the business sees IT as unprofessional, disorganised, expensive or reactive…

So where do you start?

I would recommend considering the following three questions:

1. Consider whether your organisation has any BRM in place – it may go under a different name, but whether there is any formal liaison and relationships in place between the business and IT?
2. How does the IT strategy align to the what and how of stated business objectives?
3. If you can relate to the statement above ‘where the business sees IT as unprofessional, disorganised, expensive or reactive…’ then perhaps a review of ITSM performance is required too?

If you recognise any of these challenges or want to know more, give us a call to discuss our Consulting services and BRM Professional course.

Also keep an eye out for our upcoming interviews and events focusing on ITSM related subjects, where we will explore these important topics with a range of industry experts – if you want to be added to the mailing list to be notified of these events – let us know and we will keep you posted!

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