Nov082016

Business Relationship Management (BRM) isn’t a new idea, but it is cropping up in conversations more frequently than ever.  Simon Kent of Sollertis explains why BRM is likely to be the talk of the ITSM town next year.

The groundswell of interest in Business Relationship Management (BRM) grows at every ITSM event I attend.  Take the recent (excellent) IT in the Park in which the first trend identified by Paul Wilkinson during the opening panel was BRM.   This set the tone, with Barclay Rae quoted several times talking about the importance of people and relationships to solve ITSM challenges:

Frameworks are important but the biggest buzz word is people” and “the best way of getting things done is person to person contact, it doesn’t matter what we call it.” (For more quotes and analysis from IT in the Park, look at Vawns Murphy’s review here.)

These words hold huge significance for BRM and IT service management, for several reasons:

  1. Barclay is a hugely respected consultant and ITSM industry commentator and so his words carry weight.
  2. Barclay is currently helming the itSMF – an organisation known for its close allegiance to the ITIL framework and championing the importance of processes.  Therefore, for him to speak so strongly in favour of people – traditionally an area that itSMF has been less vocal about – indicates a significant shift in thinking.
  3. Acknowledging the importance of people and the power of relationships, and understanding they can’t be improved by building yet more processes, is crucial to the success of BRM.

Another hugely significant session saw Tim Ingham of the University of Lincoln promoting the importance of BRM, but going further than rhetoric by explaining how the University had managed to embed BRM thinking throughout the organisation.

The view that BRM is crucial to fixing the problems with business technology is becoming more prevalent. The conversations I’m having reflect the growing realisation that people and relationships have been inexplicably overlooked within ITSM, and that until these areas are addressed, progress will not be made. For this reason, I fully expect that BRM will feature regularly at the upcoming itSMF Conference and the SITS17 seminar programme and conversations ‘on the floor’ will continue to elevate the importance of this topic.

Why is the time right for BRM?
BRM isn’t new.  It was first mentioned about 10 years ago, as part of the ITIL framework in Service Strategy.  The book was widely derided at the time of release for being too radical, but now increasingly looks like a critical addition to the library because it addresses the weaknesses of ITIL: namely the lack of guidance relating to people and relationships.  (For a more precise description of Business Relationship Management and its importance within ITSM, read my intro to BRM guide here.)

However, it is my belief that BRM as defined in Service Strategy can help the IT/business relationship take maturity to level 3 (defined as Service Provider), but will take them no further.  It is the strategic BRM principals that will lead the maturity through to level 5 (Strategic Partner) – the holy grail of IT service management.  This distinction is critical – it’s not enough to simply facilitate conversations and track dialogue between stakeholders.  To become ‘strategic partner’, the principles of BRM must run much deeper and become an integral part of how the business operates.

Combining these principals in a practical (tool-based) way offers an opportunity to let the service desk and service management see for themselves what the elusive business value and business convergence (what we used to refer to as alignment) really means.

How does BRM benefit IT service delivery?
The primary benefits of strategic BRM/ITSM convergence is:

1. Increased Business IQ.  This is the ability to embed core business process and business outcome data inside IT processes to drive the correct business-led behaviours and priorities. Ivor Macfarlane expands on this point in his blog about IT in the Park and the University of Lincoln story.

2. Service Delivery Business Value.  Service delivery has traditionally been poor at marketing its value. Business Relationship Managers have by definition great knowledge of the IT service provider domain.  This means they are well positioned to promote service provider success stories to business partners in the language of business outcomes and business value.

3. Essential to CSI. Business Relationship Managers are the bridge from business partner to CSI leaders, ensuring that CSI initiatives drive business value and can be prioritised according to the business value they deliver.  Yet again underlining how talk of BRM is permeating so many ITSM conversations, take a look at Vawn’s review of Ian MacDonald’s presentation at IT in the Park on CSI.

I’ll be explaining this in more detail on SITS Insight over the coming months, and you can learn more by looking at the excellent guidance and resources offered by the BRM Institute.

Simon Kent is chief innovation officer at Sollertis.

 

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