In the first post I described what it means to realize business value and how business value can be influenced through the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role. In the second post, I classified BRM activities into Relationship-centric and Process-centric activities and discussed the results of my BRM Time Allocation Research which found that the top 3 activities where BRMs were actually spending their time were Business Support, Project Support and Communication, noting that the top two are Process-centric, and that BRMs spend over 50% of their time on Process-centric activities. I compared this with BRMs stated ideal time allocation, which would have the top 3 activities as Demand Shaping, Communication and IT Leadership, and in total, would have only 34% of their time on Process-centric activities. I went on to discuss why differentiating Process-centric and Relationship-centric Activities is important, with the punchline:
Don’t squander expensive and scarce BRM time (and the valued time of their business partners) on activities that don’t depend upon “relationship capital”!
In this post I will drill deeper into BRM time allocation and business value realization.
Key Takeaways from the BRM Time Allocation Research
- The BRM role is most effective when it focuses on the Customer Intimate Value Discipline for which it is optimized. Activities that are associated with the Operational Excellence discipline are better handled by IT Operations and Infrastructure, Service Management, Business Support, etc. In fact, when the BRM steps into these operational activities, they may be masking and compensating for deficiencies in needed and expected “Operationally Excellent” capabilities. Of course, the BRM must be involved in operational and infrastructural capabilities, but this should not represent the bulk of their time allocation.
- BRMs often move into their role from more operationally focused roles. With their operational experience, they sometimes fall back into their operational core competencies as their “comfort zone” and then protest that they don’t have the time to be more strategic. BRMs coming from an operational background must fight the tendency to step back into process-centric activities, and to keep their focus on the more relationship-centric outcomes that the BRM role was designed to serve.
- BRMs should collaborate with their business partners and IT key stakeholders in determining their most important activities and the expected time allocation for those activities. Clarity of the BRM role and expectations are critical factors in BRM success.
A Diagnostic Approach to Re-balancing Time Allocation
There can be significant value in a thoughtful analysis of where you spend your BRM time against an ‘idealized’ time allocation, and then taking deliberate actions to shift your time allocation towards a more ideal pattern. In fact, involving your business partner in this analysis can, in of itself, be revealing as to your partner’s needs and expectations, and relationship-building in working with your business partner in making the shift to a more value-focused time allocation. After all, it is not just your time you are optimizing — it also impacts your business partner’s effective use of their time. So, rule 1:
Engage your business partner in your time allocation analysis and reallocation.
Here’s a simple 8-step approach — don’t take it too literally — customize it to fit your situation.
- Review the BRM Relationship Activity Classification schema I presented in Part 1 of this series of posts. Customize these to fit your context and environment.
- Track you time by Activity for one month. Do this during what you believe is a “typical” month (e.g., don’t do this during a month that is budgeting-intensive or otherwise atypical.)
- Normalize the data for any seasonal, cyclical or special factors that you could not eliminate in your choice of which month to track.
- Rank order your activities by business value as determined by your business partner. This will, of course, be inherently subjective. In practice, it will be all but impossible to link realized business value with your activities during a given month, but simply engaging your business partner in a dialog about what activities were the most value to them can be highly illuminating and, again, inherently relationship building.
- Rank order your activities by time expenditure — what percentage of your time was spend on each activity?
- Review the biggest gaps between those activities that your business partner believes are most valuable and your time allocation. Why are you spending time on those activities that are seen to create the least value? How can you eliminate or at least reduce time you are spending on these low value activities? Of course, there will be some activities that your business partner will rate as low value that you cannot eliminate — administration or performance management of others, for example. But you may be able to find ways to reduce the amount of time you spend on these, or at least to help your business partner understand why these activities may actually be valuable to them.
- Validate your findings and conclusions with your Business Partner, and reconfirm the changes you plan to make to how you spend you time. Be careful — you are setting expectations, so make sure these are realistic and that you will be able to live by them.
- Execute your plan and monitor your time allocation against that plan. Periodically, repeat the exercise — say every 6 months or so — again, engaging your business partner in the analysis.