risk_failure_940x470This is the fourth and penultimate 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, 2 and 3 in this series I discussed six 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Failure Mode #5: Total Focus on the Business Partner at the Expense of Key Provider Stakeholders.  The key here is to not focus on your business partner to the exclusion of your key provider stakeholders—you need strong partnerships with both your business and provider stakeholders.
  • Failure Mode #6: Beware Consultants Bearing PowerPoint Decks! Validate that your chosen consultant REALLY knows how to help you deploy a BRM capability that is sustainable.  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?

Let’s look at one other common BRM deployment failure mode.

Failure Mode #7: Failure to Convince Senior Management of the Value of the BRM Role

This is the “fail before you really even get started!” situation, and it is very common. People see the dysfunctionalities between their IT organization and their business clients, come across some example of or reference to the Business Relationship Manager role, and unsuccessfully wage a campaign to “sell” the need for this role to the CIO (or perhaps fail to help the CIO sell the role to the CEO or CFO.) There can be a couple of root causes behind this mode of failure:

  1. The person who developed the business case has failed to develop one that is compelling to those who must approve the role.
  2. The person “selling” the business case has failed to deliver the case in a convincing way.

Either way, this raises questions about the competence of those creating or selling the case to be a BRM. Of course, they may be trying to sell the role without any expectation that they will be among the BRMs, so their lack of competency to put together and communicate an effective case might be forgiven. And the lack of people with the competence to build and sell a compelling business case may be symptomatic of the need for BRM competencies—but that still leaves you in a “Catch 22” situation—you need BRM skills to sell the BRM role!

Do More With Less!

IT organizations are under constant pressure to do more with less. Staff, especially senior resources, are a large part of an IT budget, and headcount is a closely watched metric. Often this means that hiring a handful of BRMs (or moving a handful of people into a BRM role) implies that people filling other roles must be replaced or backfilled.  After several rounds of downsizing, or “rightsizing”, there’s no “fat” to be trimmed, and nobody wants to give up on current roles and positions.

But one clue to successfully “doing more with less” can be found in previous recessions. With over 30 years of management consulting under my belt, I’ve been through several major recessions.  During these periods, much consulting activity is about taking cost out of the IT budget.  I’ve learned several lessons through this work:

  1. Conversations about cost lead to more conversations about cost—ad infinitum!  IT will never be “cheap enough” if all you do is focus on cost. The key is to shift the conversations to value.
  2. Conversations about business value realization have a huge impact on demand—low value demand can be suppressed, making room for higher value possibilities. In any portfolio analysis, there will be some variation on the Pareto Principle—80% of IT projects will deliver 20% of the total realized business value. Reducing activities on low value demand is a wonderful way of freeing up resources and budget for higher value activities.
  3. Business value conversations beget more value conversations.  Freeing up resources that are working on low value activities makes space for higher value activities—and that is exactly what the BRM role is about—surfacing, shaping and satisfying demand based upon business value.
  4. Many costly IT assets are underutilized. The pursuit of the “next shiny object” tends to add significant IT cost, often without creating significant new value. Better leverage of an existing, funded asset is a great way to create value without adding significant cost.

So, what does a compelling business case for BRM look like? Please tune in for the next and final post in this series.  The easiest way to do that is to click in the right hand panel on Subscribe in a Reader or Get this blog emailed to you.


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.