bigstock_Frustration_1067467-smallThis is the 2nd in a 2-part series on the barriers to Business Relationship Manager success.  In Part 1, I discussed my theories as to why the Business Relationship Manager Role is Gaining Traction.  I also discussed 3 common traps that can derail BRM success:

  • The Service Management Glitch.
  • The Solution Delivery Gulch.
  • The Maintenance and Break-Fix Gotcha! 

In this post, I want to cover the more subtle traps BRMs can be prey to.

The Subtler Sources of BRM Failure

  • Will the real master please stand up!  The general rule is that the BRM represents the business to IT and IT to the business.  It’s a ‘bridging’ role.  Sounds good, makes sense. But, when push comes to shove – which it will sooner or later – where does the BRMs allegiance really stand?  Not an insurmountable challenge, but one that will test even the strongest of relationship skills and nerves.
  • Which Business Unit really rules?  Typically, there are several, sometimes dozens and occasionally a hundred or so BRMs each representing some business unit or process or geography – or even a mix of these.  So the BRM is not only balancing business and IT issues, they are collectively balancing issues among and across business units, capabilities and processes.  In theory, business-IT governance as a tool of a robust enterprise strategy and architecture does the ‘heavy lifting’ in terms of balancing these forces.  In practice, however, there is the ever-present company politics and the inevitable forces of self-interest, survival and ‘noisy wheels’. The BRMs ability to surface these disconnects and manage the executive sponsors regarding clarity of enterprise strategy becomes key.  This role may best be executed by the CIO, who is, in effect, the “Enterprise BRM.”
  • So, you want me to get involved in the labor union negotiations?  Being a successful BRM tends to bring a healthy (or unhealthy?) dose of “be careful what you wish for!”  They are seen as a valued member of the business leadership team (as well as a valued member of the IT leadership team). Sooner or later, they will be expected to get involved in things way outside their scope or domain of expertise.  On the one hand, it’s a sign that they’ve arrived.  On the other hand, arriving provides many opportunities to set out on plenty of other journeys – and not all of them will make sense.  Just saying “no” wears thin quickly – and seats at the strategy table can be lost much more quickly than they can be earned!  So picking and choosing opportunities to participate, and having a graceful and constructive way of deflecting those requests that really don’t make sense, becomes a new core competence for the successful BRM to sustain that success.
  • You’ve ‘gone native!’  At some point the risk surfaces that you are disenfranchising the rest of the IT organization from the business, rendering them “commodities.”  This is the corollary to the “BRM as the Single Point of Contact for IT” mantra, which is common but ultimately, inaccurate and dangerous.  The BRM can “own” the key business relationships, but that does not require them to be the single point of contact.  I’ll expand on this point in a future post.

What have you seen as potential ways BRMs get derailed?  What have you been able to do to avoid or recover from these?

Image courtesy of denise o’berry