success-failureThis is the third in a series of  posts about common failure modes I come across in the deployment of a Business Relationship Management (BRM) role and/or capability.

In Parts 1 and 2 in this series I discussed four common failure modes:

  • Failure Mode #1: Where the BRM is positioned as the “Single Point of Contact” between a provider organization (typically an IT organization) and their business clients. The Single Point of Contact role is often introduced in response to a common symptom—the business client is unclear who to contact for what. In other words, the root cause is lack of organization clarity, and the false belief is that by appointing a BRM (or whatever label you use) as a Single Point of Contact, the organizational dysfunctionality arising from lack of clarity will be mitigated.  This is not an effective remedy to the organizational clarity issue, and sooner or later, the BRM role will collapse under the weight of low value activities.
  • Failure Mode #2: BRM As “Dumping Ground” when the BRM becomes a “catch all” for requests that nobody else wants to deal with, or that people are not sure who is supposed to deal with them. Again, lack of organizational clarity is a root cause here, and the types of problems this leads to are very similar to those identified above due to the Single Point of Contact failure mode.
  • Failure Mode #3: Strategic BRM when a Tactical BRM is needed.  While it is possible to migrate from Tactical to Strategic BRM, it demands that the BRM has the competencies to be strategic, and it takes some skill and finesse to establish up front the medium to longer term vision for the strategic business relationship with the caveat that in the near term, the BRM will be part of the provider organization’s improvement efforts, and therefore mainly focused on essential, though tactical activities, such as service definition.
  • Failure Mode #4: Tactical BRM when a Strategic BRM is needed. It is very difficult to migrate a purely tactical BRM to a Strategic role. They will be unlikely to have the experience and competencies to act as a true strategic partner, or to be granted the executive level access they need to be successful in the strategic BRM role. The business partner will quickly conclude that the BRM is not adding value—only cost.

Let’s look at a couple of other common BRM deployment failure modes.

Failure Mode #5: Total Focus on the Business Partner at the Expense of Key Provider Stakeholders

This trap is easy to fall into, given that the new BRM sees their main “client” and focus of attention as their business partner.  After all, if they understand that their true mission is to help that partner increase the business value they are extracting from investments in the provider’s capabilities and assets, then this is where they should spend the majority of their time—right?  Well, yes—but…

  1. In many ways, to be effective, the BRM must act as a ‘bridge’ between provider and client (or, if you prefer, customer.) Bridges have to join both ends—otherwise you have one of the infamous “Bridges to nowhere.”  That might satisfy a politician pursuing pork for their constituency, but it’s not going to help the business partner drive value!
  2. Often, when the BRM role is first introduced, key stakeholders in the provider organization fear that they have been ‘disenfranchised.’  They might feel that their business facing activities are their most important (or enjoyable) aspects of their job and might (wrongly!) assume that those business facing activities are going to be curtailed (or even eliminated) by the new BRM role.
  3. The BRM must be an effective “navigator” through the provider organization, and an “orchestrator” of provider resources. These roles demand a strong partnership with key stakeholders on the provider side, otherwise the BRM is not going to be an effective bridge.

 Lesson #5: BRMs need strong relationships with key provider stakeholders.

Don’t focus on your business partner to the exclusion of your key provider stakeholders. Your mission is to first align, then converge business and provider capabilities. To achieve that, you need strong partnerships with both your business and provider stakeholders.

Failure Mode #6: Beware Consultants Bearing PowerPoint Decks!

I’m always reluctant to criticize my fellow consultants, but I’ve lost count of the number of clients I’ve worked with in helping them recover from another consulting firm’s poor work—and there are several large consulting firms and one advisory service that are guilty of this sin. The sin in question is delivering several hundred PowerPoint slides as the key deliverable from a consulting engagement intended to help the client design and deploy a BRM capability.

PowerPoint is an ok vehicle for raising awareness and even for educating—but it’s a lousy way to transfer knowledge.  And if you can’t express the important ‘essence’ of the BRM role in a couple of handfuls of slides, you probably don’t really understand that role!

Typically, the consultant comes into the client, conducts a few interviews, then goes into ‘death-by-PowerPoint’ mode, then moves on (after submitting a significant bill!)

The end result is confusion within the client organization, often accompanied by a sense of, “We must be idiots—all that consulting expertise and intellectual capital, and we still don’t understand how to make BRM real!”

Lesson #6: Check references carefully—not just the firm’s references but those of the individual consultant you will be working with.

Have they really helped clients deploy the BRM capability with successful outcomes? Do they have experience getting derailed BRM deployments back on track? Are they accredited to train and consult in the BRM space by the relevant authority, such as APMG-International? Are they active members in Business Relationship Management Institute?

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification courses are being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014 and 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.

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