Business Relationship Management for the Digital Enterprise

foreword to the book

By Aaron Barnes, CEO and Co-founder of Business Relationship Management Institute

This is a book about the evolution of  IT – evolution in the ways that people, information and technology are both led and leveraged, and evolution in the nature of organizational change itself.  These topics are brought to life through the lens of a fifty-year career in IT, thirty years of that in research and management consulting.  Twelve years of blogging have focused and strengthened that perspective and shone a spotlight on IT leadership, IT operating models and the emergence of Business Relationship Management as a catalyst for a new approach to managing IT.

Evolution associated with IT has been with us since the earliest days of computerization.  But most of the direct impacts of that change have been felt by the IT professional, who has had to learn new programming languages, new methods and tools and new ways of engaging the so-called ‘end user’ of IT. Today, when we talk about the digital enterprise, we are referring to changes that have far reaching impact—well beyond the IT professional.  In some ways, the end user is becoming a proxy for the IT professional.  

This is a very different form of IT transformation from those that we have experienced in the past. It is not simply evolution of the IT organization – it is evolution that permeates every corner of business and industry and that reaches far into marketplaces and ecosystems. To coin a phrase, “This is not your grandfather’s IT transformation!” 

In April 2019, McKinsey’s Global Survey on digital and analytics transformations across the business landscape found that about eight in ten respondents said their organizations had begun digital transformations but that just fourteen percent had made and sustained performance improvements.  Just three percent reported success at sustaining their change. Clearly, while digitization can offer substantial benefits, digital transformations present unique challenges that place these benefits out of reach for many enterprises.  Vaughan takes time to address some of these challenges and how they can be mitigated.

While others have documented aspects of the IT management journey, or have postulated about emerging management models, none have approached the subject with the breadth of context, depth of analysis and the focus on the digital enterprise you will find here. Richly illustrated with anecdotes from the author’s illustrious career in IT, the book is both illuminating and entertaining.

To give you a bit of our history, I first became aware of Vaughan through his blog, “IT Organization Circa 2017,” and subsequently through his engagement in and contributions to the Professional Business Relationship Managers LinkedIn group I started in 2011. Vaughan accepted my invitation to co-moderate the group later that year. I subsequently engaged him to spend a day with my BRM team, providing a briefing and an open discussion about the BRM role and capability. 

As the Professional Business Relationship Managers LinkedIn group continued grow, there was an organic request from the group to make BRM real, to create the standards and certifications, and bring to life a single global BRM community where the members could network and help each other grow. From all that, Business Relationship Management Institute, Inc was founded as a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring, promoting, and developing excellence in Business Relationship Management across the globe. 

This book sets the stage by describing the shifts in the IT landscape over the last fifty years and how changes in computing platforms led to the evolution of IT management models. It introduces and explains the genesis of the Business-IT Maturity model—a tool that is central to an understanding how business demand for IT increases in quantity and quality as IT supply matures. 

Here you will find a framework for understanding the forces behind digitization and the tenets of IT operating models, and what these must accomplish in the age of the digital business.  It introduces the role and capabilities of Business Relationship Management and describes how these can accelerate the convergence of business and IT to forever eliminate the notorious business-IT alignment gap. 

Vaughan differentiates IT management from IT leadership and discusses the nature of IT leadership that is necessary for the digital enterprise. He poses provocative scenarios about alternate IT realities and raises profound questions about reactive and proactive approaches to IT leadership for the digital enterprise. He explains the differences between Business-ITalignment and Business-IT convergence, why alignment was never an appropriate goal, and why convergence is becoming the reality behind successful digital enterprises.

Vaughan introduces us to Business Relationship Management as a role, discipline and capability, and describes how BRM is an organizational innovation that can accelerate the shift from IT as a means to solve problems to IT as a driver of opportunity creation and value realization. He shares his research into BRM time allocation and how BRMs can rebalance their activities so as to be a more effective catalysts for Business-IT convergence and the transition to the digital enterprise.

He develops this theme to illuminate the ways that Business Relationship Management can be the key to creating a Business-IT converged operating model—one that is optimized for driving business value. He examines the implications of the converged operating model for today’s IT organization and offers new ways to think about diverse IT capabilities as dispersed and distributed throughout the digital enterprise, and in so doing, bringing shadow ITout of the shadows and into the light. 

In his discussion about transforming the IT operating model, Vaughan drills into the nature of operating models, and the components and characteristics of a high performing operating model.  A key to the emerging digital IT operating model is organizational clarity, a concept Vaughan explores in some depth, and one that he connects back to IT capability maturity.  He not only examines the ways an IT operating model must change for the digital enterprise; he also examines how digital capabilities allow new ways to design and transition to digital operating models.

Vaughan takes on the challenging topic of organizational and cultural evolution and shows us how much of the conventional change management wisdom is deeply flawed in today’s organizational context.  He examines a new collaborative model for change —one that is far more natural, less disruptive, and designed with the digital business in mind – both as a target of organizational change and as a means of achieving it.


Playing to one of his greatest strengths as a storyteller and drawing on his vast array of life experiences, Vaughan entertains and enlightens the reader with “Leadership Lessons from the Performing Arts”. He draws from his experiences in amateur dramatics and as a rock and roll musician. This chapter reinforces the importance of taking time away from the job to explore hobbies while being mindful about the many connections between leisure activities and work. In his music, Vaughan finds lessons about team building, organizational change, active listening, multi-tasking, learning and risk taking. He even drills into motor cycling and scuba diving as sources of wisdom that can be applied to many aspects of work and life.