agile-post-116-managing-scope-changesThis is the first in a short series of posts I will be writing about business value realization and the role of IT, and in particular, the role of Business Relationship Management.

Much of my 40+ year career in information technology, management consulting and multi-company research has focused on the relationship between Information Technology (IT) and realized business value. And when I say realized business value, I mean:

  • The executive management team fully recognizes IT value contributions, and invests in IT infrastructure and capabilities with confidence about the return they will experience on those investments.
  • They recognize that the value is real and integral to business success, even though not all that value will show up directly in traditional accounting systems. They understand that not all business value is visible through Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP).
  • They understand that business value is often a function of multiple initiatives, sometimes connected via a program management structure, but other times seemingly unrelated, with complex and often opaque cause and effect relationships.
  • They appreciate that IT infrastructure investments typically do not create realized business value in of themselves, but enable other investments that do create value. They treat them as options from an investment and value management perspective.
  • Most importantly, the executive team understands, embraces and actively engages in the management of IT value realization. They share a vision of, and a passion for business-IT convergence.

Value Through Relationships

In most organizations, IT activities typically ‘belong’ to an organization of IT professionals, while business value is realized in the “business of the business.” (I don’t recall who first used the term “business of the business” but I find it apt.) Yes, I know that many IT professionals protest that they are “part of the business.” While this is a noble position to take, and an appropriate aspiration, it is generally not the reality seen by those in line profit and loss positions.

We are seeing the emergence and formalization of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role — a hybrid of Business Line Professional and IT Professional — with the emphasis on Business. Primarily intended as a means of bridging the gap (in some case, the chasm!) between IT organizations and their business partners, and better linking IT costs with business value, the BRM role comes in many variations. From a relatively tactical and operational focus to one more strategically and business value focused.

From my experience, the BRM role is more sustainable and has a greater positive impact on business value realization when it is strategically focused. That said, if IT supply maturity is low (unreliable IT services, poor customer experience with IT), then the tactical and operationally-focused BRM provides an essential foundation on which to build the more value-based roles and capabilities.

Relationships Through Activities

We all have many types of relationships, from casual and informal (FaceBook friends and LinkedIn connections, for example) to intimate and formal (spouses, employer-employee, for example). These relationships are instantiated and developed through activities — posting status to a social media site, celebrating an anniversary, asking for a raise, etc.

In the case of the BRM and her business relationships, activities can be categorized into two major types:

  1. Relationship-centric Activities — activities that depend upon the ‘customer-intimate’ nature of the BRM-business relationship — things that could not be achieved effectively without that relationship.
  2. Process-centric Activities — activities that depend upon robust processes, such as Project Management, Program Management, Service Management and those associated with process frameworks such as ITIL and COBIT.

Relationship Activity Classifications

Relationship-centric Activities

  • Demand Shaping — Identifying, surfacing and assessing possibilities for using IT services and capabilities. Includes strategy formulation, business/technology research, consulting, and raising business savvy about business value realization through technology.
  • Communication — Proactively informing key stakeholders about things they need to know, and being informed by key stakeholders about things IT needs to know.
  • IT Leadership — IT Leadership team meetings, leading or participating in key internal IT initiatives (e.g., process improvement, transformation).
  • Vendor Management — Working with external vendors and service providers.
  • Education and Training — Time spent in formal training (not in training others).

Process-centric Activities

  • Business Support — Responding to requests, supporting day-to-day needs associated with “running the business” and the IT capabilities that support it. These activities tend to be reactive and largely unplanned, and while necessary, often create little new business value. They exist due to IT Service Management weaknesses.
  • Service Management — A key input to Service Management regarding service strategy, design, delivery, operations, or improvement.
  • Project Support — Activities associated with specific business-IT projects (funded initiatives).  Effective Project Management processes should reduce the amount of Project Support needed from BRMs.
  • Administration and Professional Development — Activities such resource management, time recording, professional development of others (supervision, coaching, training others, performance management).

From Activities to Time Allocation

I recently conducted a small research project on BRM time allocation — I wanted to find out where BRMs spend their time, and where they believe they should be spending their time.

My next post will examine the preliminary data collected in late September, 2014  from 40 BRMs globally, over 75% of whom have over 1 year experience in their role, and 1/3rd have more than 3 years experience.

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification course is being held across 3 Tuesdays—November 4, 11 and 18 . For details, please click here.