Taking Business Partnering to The Next Level

Business Relationship Management

Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter

The BRMIConnect conference in Amsterdam was the 4th and final international BRM conference in 2016.

This article is the first part of two  that discusses the outcomes of the BRMIConnect,written by Paul Wilkinson, owner and director of Gamingworks, a Baxter Thompson Partner who licences the "Grab-a-Pizza" Business / IT simulation.

The conference kicked-off, in my mind, with a refreshing approach of actually asking the audience what they wanted to learn in the conference so that the speakers could align their messages to meet these needs. Delegates pondered over ‘Current challenges that keep them awake at night’.

It was interesting to see that many were struggling with how to raise BRM from being an ‘Order taker’ to becoming more a ‘Strategic partner’. Vaughan Merlyn presented what to me were very worrying results of the exercise, which showed that 50% of delegates were new to BRM, struggling with the clarity of the role, the organizational confidence in the role, and organizational readiness to embrace the BRM capability. Whilst the remainder were predominantly ‘buried’ in tactical issues and struggling the get the Business Partner to think strategically, let alone the BRM role to be a strategic partner.

Why is this very worrying? Business & IT-Alignment (Convergence) is still a top C level concern according to surveys. With the growing interest and focus on ‘Digital Transformation’ the BRM capability is becoming increasingly important. We have a long way to go! Jon Baxter who presented at the conference also revealed that his surveys show that ‘Value Management’ is one of the lowest scoring capabilities, which requires a shift in maturity for both Business & IT. 

What was offered? 

GamingWorks (working together with Baxter & Thompson Associates) was delighted to be asked to perform and [email protected] simulation as a final workshop to try and focus on the desired learning and outcomes of the event.

Input for the [email protected] workshop came from the following sessions (I apologize I was not able to follow ALL sessions and ALL speakers):

  • Mark Smalley presented findings from his global workshops. One of the desired behaviors needed from IT ‘Acquire business Acumen’, one of the desired behaviors from the Business ‘Give clarity of business outcomes’. 
  • Peter Lijnse performed a behaviour related exercise, one of the key behaviors identified was ‘saying YES to everything even if it does not have Value’. 

One of the things that stuck in my mind from Robina Chatham’s interactive exercise around decision making was that only 2-3% of decisions are based on facts, 97-98% are based on perceptions, opinions, politics…

An interesting formula for ‘Recognizing value’ was presented by Stephen Hinde from Cargill ‘Recognized value = understood value x created value x communicated value‘.

A conclusion from the Panel discussion held with 3 new BRMers revealed that ITSM is crucial. It is the foundation upon which strategic BRM is built. As Vaughan stated ‘ITSM is fundamental otherwise BRM will fail, if the BRM does the ITSM role BRM will still fail’. Not having ITSM capabilities is ‘the fastest & most efficient shortcut to fail BRM role’. BRM should bring the business element (IQ) INTO service management.  BRM is NOT a fixer, it is an orchestrator and connector. BRM must have a ‘mandate’ from above.

Elka Schrijver facilitated a workshop on ‘Introducing a BRM capability’ – one of the risks and critical success factors identified by the teams was ‘gaining buy-in for the role from the Business & IT partners’. 

Jon Baxter  and Barclay Rae both stressed the need for ‘Communication’ and the ‘ability to influence’ being core competences for the BRM, especially if they have no formal power and must somehow orchestrate collaboration. 

An announcement made by Jeremy Byrne from the BRMI Council may give some hope to delegates and may be a good reason to become a BRMI member, as the council is working on some new deliverables ‘What to do when IT provider lacks credibility.’

A further hope for BRMers was presented by Derek Storbakken, this being the latest CBRM certification which covers much of the ‘how to’ skills required. 

Richard Pharro presented a future in which technology will be reshaping organizations and the way that business is done. BRM is a core capability and the BRM role is critical for the future…..if we can solve the challenges we face.


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