Value-based Business Relationship Management: Part 2

This is the second 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.

In the first post in this series, I described what it means to realize business value and how business value can be influenced through the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role. I then examined the types of activities in which a BRM engages, and classified BRM activities into two types — Relationship-centric activities that depend upon the ‘customer-intimate’ nature of the BRM-business relationship — things that could not be achieved effectively without that relationship, and Process-centric 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.

How Do BRMs Allocate their Time?

I recently conducted a 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. Here is an analysis of 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. I have emphasized the Relationship-centric activities with bold type/Apple Casual font and Process-centric activities with italic type/Arial font. To the left is the reporting of current BRM time allocation and to the right is the ideal BRM time allocation as reported by the BRMs.

BRM Time Allocation Bar Chart

Key Observations

The top 3 activities by time allocation among BRMs in this sample are Business Support, Project Support and Communication. Note that the top two are Process-centric, and that BRMs spend over 50% of their time on Process-centric activities. Compare this with their 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.

Process-centric vs. Relationship-centric Activities – Why Is This Important?

The BRM role should emphasize Relationship-centric activities. It is essentially about the Customer Intimate value discipline — one of the three value disciplines articulated by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in the seminal 1997 book, “The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market.” The primary purposes of the BRM role are to strengthen the Business-IT relationship and through that relationship, shape and influence business demand and optimize solution usage in order to elevate the business value realized from information and IT,

By contrast, activities such as Business Support, Project Support, Service Management, etc. are best suited to organizations optimized for the Operational Excellence value discipline, where the emphasis is on robust processes and continuous improvement rather than strong relationships. Any time spent by BRMs on these activities not only detracts from the Relationship-centric activities, but may actually mask dysfunctionalities elsewhere in the IT organization.

The lesson? 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 the next post in this series, I will drill deeper into BRM time allocation and its relationship with business value realization.

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


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Value-based Business Relationship Management: Part 1

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.


A World Gone Social, by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt: Book Review

social-innovation-imageI’d selected several books to take with me on a recent family vacation at the Florida Gulf coast. I was frankly skeptical about A World Gone Social, by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt, published by Amacom.  The social media domain is vast and I was doubtful that any book could really do justice to the territory — what is happening today, why it is happening, how this will likely play out in the next few years, and, most importantly, what firms should be doing about it. But the book did not disappoint!

Subtitled “How Companies Must Adapt to Survive,” A World Gone Social does an excellent job presenting the case for the “social revolution.”  If you are not convinced that social media is part of a revolution, each of the early chapters will convince you that this is real, significant and worthy of the over-hyped term “revolution.”  It’s packed with well-researched anecdotes — the success stories and the failures — with lessons nicely extracted. From building the case to taking advantage of social media, the book offers plenty of intelligent, practical and pragmatic advice on how to become part of the social media-enabled revolution (or however that ends up labelled by history!)

The book covers all the bases:

  • Customer power and the “Here Comes Everybody” effect so powerfully articulated by Clay Shirky.
  • The social employee, and how social media is revolutionizing the company-employee relationship, including recruiting and engaging.
  • Viewing the social revolution as the next wave in the evolution from an agrarian to industrial economic model.
  • How social is transforming the importance of size and depth in business operating models.
  • How to lead your own organization into the social revolution, and the risks of of moving too slowly while your competitors seize the high ground.

A Wold Gone Social recognizes that this is not just about marketing, brand, or the customer experience.  It is all these and more.  Just as the shift from agrarian to industrial economies had a transformational impact on how and where we live, how and where we work and who we work for, so is social media having profound impact on organization structure and the very nature of “the firm” and “community.”

Organizational Implications of Social — the Emerging Holacracy

I was absolutely delighted to see a wonderful chapter entitled “Flat: The New Black” that presents a very compelling case for the impact of social media on management and how employee performance and engagement blossom in flatter organizations enabled by the social revolution.  This chapter discusses the concept of a Holacracy as an emerging organizational form.

This chapter particularly resonated with me. Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI) was very much a product of the social media revolution. If it were not for the social media revolution, BRMI would almost certainly not exist today. I co-founded BRMI with Aaron Barnes and Dr. Aleksandr Zhuk.  We’d been co-moderating a LinkedIn group that Aaron had created for Professional Business Relationship Managers.

But more importantly, beyond its social media roots, BRMI is deliberately shaping itself as a Holacracy — a model we felt ideally suited to our non-profit status, and as an entity formed by a community of 3 who shared a passion for business relationship management, and wanted to collaborate with and serve a growing community of professional business relationship managers. Our vision and design parameters meant that management overhead had to be kept to an absolute minimum while active membership engagement would fuel future growth.  As such, we not only leveraged the common social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, YouTube, etc.) but we also leveraged social tools — Atlassian’s Confluence wiki in particular as the engine for collaboration and for housing the BRM Interactive Body of Knowledge.

Implications for the Business Relationship Manager

A Wold Gone Social is a ‘must read’ for BRMs — there are direct implications for how the BRM can engage with key stakeholders, but more importantly, for the advice, vision and leadership the BRM can bring to her business partner regarding the potential for social media to impact every aspect of the business and its market.

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


Social Innovation Word Cloud courtesy of The Digital Doctorate

How Do You Optimize IT Capabilities for Business Value?

Value Disciplines

In their groundbreaking book, The Discipline of Market Leaders, published in 1997, co-authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema argued that companies that have taken leadership positions in their industries have typically done so by focusing their strategy on one of three value disciplines, and optimizing their business operating models accordingly. They don’t ignore the other two value disciplines — they must meet industry standards in all three disciplines. But they lead in, and optimize for one value discipline, be it operational excellence, customer intimacy, or product leadership.

If we think of an internal IT organization in business terms, it becomes clear that IT infrastructure and operations are optimized for Operational Excellence, and that enterprise architecture and solutions delivery should be optimized for Product Leadership. This begs the question, what of Customer Intimacy?

How Can an IT Organization Achieve Customer Intimacy?

Many years ago (and even today in some companies) business leaders achieved Customer Intimacy with their IT capabilities by establishing their own, dedicated IT organizations. Over the years, as IT became an increasingly large chunk of business budgets, IT organizations transformed to gain advantages of scale by consolidating their IT capabilities into centralized shared service organizations. These tended to be optimized for Operational Excellence, consistent with the “lowest price and hassle-free service” promise associated with the business case for centralization.

For many such centralized, shared service IT capabilities, however, the Customer Intimacy value discipline was subsumed under the pressure to take out cost and be operationally excellent. The business customer of the IT organization could have anything they wanted, as long as it was consistent with the enterprise IT infrastructure and drew from the portfolio of standard enterprise solutions. In other words, as long as one size fits all! As business leaders stepped up to the competitive plate, trying to get ever closer to their customers, their IT organizations, in the name of defensible cost structures, were moving further away from their customers!

Enter the Business Relationship Manager!

In today’s leading IT organizations, the Customer Intimacy value discipline is being restored through the emerging role of Business Relationship Manager (BRM) — charged with driving business value from information and IT by getting close to their internal (and external) customers and, to paraphrase Treacy and Wiersema, by “delivering what specific customers want” and by “anticipating needs.”

All well and good — as long as IT infrastructure and operations live up to the Operational Excellence value discipline. When Operational Excellence is lacking, internal customers are typically reluctant to engage their BRMs in strategic exploration while basic operational issues (metaphorically, “lights on and training running on time”) are disrupting business operations. So, what is the BRM to do?

Plug the Holes, or Call for Improvement?

With many BRMs transitioning into their role from other IT disciplines, including Service Management and Project Management, there is often a strong temptation to step up to the plate and compensate for the deficiencies in Operational Excellence. There are several traps inherent in this strategy:

  1. When the BRM steps into an Operational Excellence role, they are taking time and energy away from their Customer Intimacy role — they tend to become part of the problem their role was established to address.
  2. When the business partner sees their BRM in an Operational Excellence role, the BRM may have a hard time either establishing or sustaining a relationship based upon strategic insight.
  3. By ‘masking’ the operational issues, the BRM is essentially ‘colluding with dysfunctional behavior’, potentially weakening the forces for operational improvement.

A Better BRM Approach for Addressing Operational Issues

Rather than falling into the ‘collusion’ trap, an effective BRM leverages their influence and persuasion skills and their competencies in organizational change management by stepping to the role of Change Agent for improved IT operations and infrastructure. They fearlessly call out process issues by:

  1. Gathering and presenting data that highlights process issues and their implications — always focused on the process, rather than the people.
  2. Offering to help fix the process issues — volunteering their business customer perspective, facilitation, process management, organizational change management, or whatever competencies they can bring to the table.
  3. Creating synergistic “foxholes” with their IT colleagues by establishing (or reinforcing) shared goals, common enemies (such as poor process, rework, dissatisfied business customers) and mutual dependencies.

Know and Lead With Your Customer Intimacy Value Discipline

When you get sucked into operational issues, you may find yourself in a role that is inconsistent with your main mission — it might feel good, heroic even — but it’s not what the BRM role is really about. Operational issues should be solved in those organizational entities that are optimized for Operational Excellence — IT infrastructure and operations.


Note: You can learn more about the techniques discussed here — and much more in my next on-line BRMP Certification course. This is being held across 3 Tuesdays—November 4, 11 and 18 . For details, please click here.


How Can Business Relationship Managers Redirect Their Efforts for Increased Business Value?

Time-is-Money2_reneequim.com_This post is for those with a substantial Business Relationship Management (BRM) role — i.e., at least 50% of their job is BRM.

I am part way though a research project that is examining where BRMs are spending their time, and where they think they should be spending it. (If you would like to be part of this research, and receive a free copy of the research report “BRM Time Allocation Patterns and Ways to Improve Them” please respond to the survey. The survey will stay open until October 1, 2014.)

I will be reviewing the research in an upcoming free webinar entitled, “A Day in the Life of an Effective Business Relationship Manager” to be held on October 3, at 11am ET. For details, please click here.

Preliminary Results – BRMs Want to Change Their Time Allocation!

Of all roles, the BRM seems to be most prone to being dragged into directions that are not seen to be valuable. There are several reasons for this:

  1. “Urgency” always seems to trump “valuable.” If you have not contracted with your key stakeholders around how the role can and should work in order to deliver the highest business value, then your day will be largely spent dealing with operational and largely tactical issues. You might feel like a hero at the end of the week, but you business partners and key IT stakeholders will likely not see you that way.
  2. Without explicit outcomes defined, any activity seems worthwhile. We easily confuse “busyness” with “effectiveness.”  In the heat of the moment, these things can feel the same — but they are not!
  3. Under stress, we fall back on our core competencies. If we were successful project managers before we were BRM’s, getting “dragged into” project management activities is an easy trap to fall into. I wish I’d had $10 for each BRM that has told me, “I don’t have time to be strategic — the tactical demands consume all my effort and energy!” Deeper assessment and reflection usually reveals that the lack of time to be strategic is self-inflicted — worn as a ‘badge of courage’ to display how important one is to ‘keeping the lights on and the trains running on time!’
  4. BRMs sometimes feel compelled to ‘collude with dysfunctional behavior.’ For example, Service Management might be poorly implemented, with a result that services are not clearly defined, service levels are erratic, and there is insufficient transparency into how the services work and the customer experience those services create. Rather than act as change agents to upgrade Service Management discipline, the BRM steps in to ‘mask’ the poor customer experience, or respond to service failures. This ‘enabling’ behavior might feel good to the BRM, but tends to make things worse over the longer term — and limits the time available for the BRM to take on the more valuable activities.

So, What Can BRMs Do About Changing their Time Allocation?

The first thing they must do is to classify and be aware of where there time is going, and compare that with where they and their key stakeholders believe the time should be going. This will be the key focus for my “A Day in the Life of an Effective Business Relationship Manager” webinar to be held on October 3, at 11am ET (for details, please click here) so I’ll leave this as a teaser for now.

Calls To Action

  1. Please participate in the research, and get yourself on a track to higher performance effectiveness — respond to the survey
  2. Please join me for the webinar — and be part of the change you would like to see – sign up for the webinar


Image courtesy of At Your Service Concierge

Business Relationship Management Research – Where Does the Time Go?


If you have a role as a Business Relationship Manager (BRM), I’d love to engage you in a very quick research study — and I will share the results and analysis with you!

The Context

I recently published a post called When Business Relationship Managers Collude with Dysfunctional Behavior.  I’ve had a lot of comments about this post (as usual, mostly via email – people continue to be shy about posting comments to a blog!) and a request to deliver a webinar for Business Relationship Management Institute. So, I’m developing a webinar entitled “A Day in the Life of an Effective Business Relationship Manager.”  The webinar will examine:

  • Time allocation patterns for Business Relationship Managers
  • A diagnostic approach to re-balancing time allocation for increased business value
  • Addressing Provider dysfunctionalities without becoming part of the problem

The webinar will be held on Friday, October 3, 2014, 11AM-12PM EDT, and is free. If you miss the webinar, BRMI members can download a recording of the webinar about 2 weeks after the actual event.  Non-members can purchase a copy of the webinar recording for $65 USD.

A Research Opportunity

In preparation for the webinar, I have decided to run a small research study, looking at how BRMs spend their time across 10 classifications, and asking them how they would like to see their time allocated in order to realize the optimum value from their role.

If you spend at least half your time in a BRM role, I’d love for you to participate in the research.  In return, I’ll be happy to share the research results and analysis with you.

Simply click on this link and you will be taken to the research survey.  Completing the survey should take less than 10 minutes.

Thank you!

Does This Mean the End of the Business Relationship Manager?

endoftheworldToday, it seems that the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role is gaining prominence, recognition and momentum.  I witness this daily through the incredible interest in and membership of Business Relationship Management Institute and through the lens of no less that 4 LinkedIn groups dedicated to the BRM role.  I also see it directly through requests for BRM training and certification, and for demand for consulting in the BRM space.

All This is Great — But What of the Future of BRM?

To gain insight into the future of the BRM role, we need to think about the past, the current state and the two ‘megatrend’ forces acting on the BRM role:

  1. The BRM role is a result of the need for an efficient, effective, value-driven ‘bridge’ between a service supplier (often an internal IT organization) and its business customers/clients.  After 50 years or so where the IT organization and its business customers lived either side of a virtual brick wall, the BRM acts as a window in the wall through which IT-speak and business-speak are translated one into the other, with the result that business demand for IT services and supply of those services is aligned based upon potential business value realization.
  2. The so-called “consumerization of IT” and the availability of cloud-based services for Software, Infrastructure and Platforms (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) are another force that is breaking down business-IT barriers.

These forces were in many ways predicted by author and futurist Alvin Toffler, who wrote about the cleavage between production and consumption that in many ways fueled the industrial revolution, and that the technologies of the “Third Wave” would heal that breach with a rise of “prosumerism”– the combining of production (the IT organization) and consumption (the business customer of the IT organization.)  I’ve referred in previous posts to this shift in the IT provider-consumer relationship as “convergence” of business and IT.

Is the BRM Role Permanent or Temporary?

If you think through these three forces, you might be drawn to the conclusion that the BRM is a temporary role–one that over time, in conjunction with forces such as cloud computing and the consumerization of IT, tends to eliminate the need for itself.  Of course, predicting the future is always a dangerous proposition, but I personally believe that the most successful BRM’s will approach the role as though it is temporary, following a “teach them to fish” philosophy, rather than “catch fish for them.”  From my experience, when a role such as BRM is approached in this way, it tends to stay relevant and valued for a very long time.

Mutual Understanding Results in Business-IT Alignment

When there is excellent mutual understanding among the key stakeholders, businesses and their IT organizations become aligned. But the forces acting on both the business and the IT organization impact the dynamics of mutual understanding and over time it is all but impossible to keep business and IT aligned.

Empowerment Results in Business-IT Convergence

When the business is empowered with information and IT through a robust infrastructure coupled with the knowledge and skills needed to drive value from IT capabilities, the type of alignment thus gained is not only lasting, it actually strengthens and deepens over time. The BRM is key to ensuring that the information and IT infrastructure is fully appropriate and properly leveraged, and that the necessary knowledge and skills are in place.

The Moral?

Approach your BRM role as temporary–and it will be forever valued!


Image courtesy of A New World Society