Business Relationship Management for the Digital Enterprise


Chapter 6. Driving Business-IT Convergence though Business Relationships


This Chapter examines what the future may hold for Business Relationship Management and the BRM role in fostering Business-IT convergence, stimulating business innovation and powering the digital enterprise. It examines BRM time allocation today and compares this to what BRMs believe their time allocation should be going forward. It looks at the notion of the BRM team and shares some thoughts on measuring BRM impact.

I conducted research into BRM time allocation to find out where BRMs spend their time and where they believe they should be spending their time. The chart above illustrates an analysis from 100 BRMs located around the globe.  Process-centric activities are shown in italics and relationship-centric activities are shown in plain text. On the left side of the chart is how BRMs reported their current time allocation and on the right side is the ideal time allocation reported by BRMs.  Note the desire to reduce process-centric activities in favor of increased relationship-centric work, for which the BRM role is intended and optimized. 

To gain insight into the future of the BRM role, consider the acting mega-trend forces:

  1. The BRM role reflects the need for an efficient, effective, value-driven bridge
    between a service supplier (e.g., an internal IT organization) and its business partners. BRM acts as a window in the wall through which IT-speak and business-speak are translated, with the result that there is congruency between business demand for IT services, and the supply of those services based upon the potential for business value realization.
  2. The consumerization of IT, and the availability of cloud-based services for software, infrastructure, and platforms (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) are breaking down Business-IT barriers.

These forces were, in many ways, predicted by author and futurist Alvin Toffler who wrote about the separation between production and consumption that helped fuel the industrial revolution. Toffler suggested that the technologies of the Third Wave would heal that breach with a rise of prosumerism—the integration of production with consumption.  When applied to the IT provider-consumer relationship, this shift can be thought of as the convergence of business and IT.

Some would say that the purpose of the BRM role is to improve alignment between business and IT. This is a flawed notion. The alignment issue has been present since the earliest days of computing, and the problem can’t be fixed by trying to close the alignment gap. Instead, resolving the alignment issue requires a very different perspective—one of driving Business-IT convergence. (To paraphrase Albert Einstein: Today’s problems can’t be solved with yesterday’s thinking.)

Broaden BRM influence, not the BRM Team

I was leading a BRM class and got into a discussion about how many BRMs are needed. This is a tough question because the answer begins with, “It depends...”

I suggested a thought experiment: Imagine your BRM team is doing amazing things. Business value realization has significantly increased and  executives recognize the achievement which they attribute to BRM and their tools, techniques and skills.  The question is: Should you increase the size of the BRM Team because they are so effective? Or should you decrease team size because you no longer need as many?

A participant responded, “You should work to broaden your influence and reach rather than expand the BRM team.”

Perfect!  Successful BRMs work hard to eliminate the need for the role.  People who work themselves out of a job always develop in their  competencies and rise up through the ranks.