Business Relationship Management

My Director and line manager, John Ireland, and I completed the Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) foundation course last month. We worked together and used a course delivered entirely online with lots of videos, course notes and quizzes at the end of each module. The course was extremely interesting and it was valuable completing it with another member of our organisation as we had good opportunity to reflect on how its content was relevant and resonated in our own University and IT Services department.

The course syllabus is devised by the Business Relationship Management Institute and is accredited by APMG International. It is a modular course and starts with an introduction then closer consideration of the six main competencies of the BRM role. We looked at definitions and how the BRM role is about managing the relationship between Service Units (e.g. IT Services, HR, Finance etc.) and Business Units (e.g. academic departments, faculties and colleges in the Oxford context). BRM is different to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as that manages the relationship between customer and business unit (e.g. students, research councils etc. in an HEI context).BRM-CRM

We were introduced to the metaphors of Connector, Orchestrator and Navigator for the Business Relationship Manager and this certainly makes sense to me in my role as Head of IT Support Staff Services in IT Services in Oxford. Local IT Support Staff are our service delivery partners but they are also part of Oxford’s business units rather than its service units.

We noted that there is not yet a BRM standard but that ITIL mentions and describes BRM; COBIT5 recognises the important of BRM and recommends appointing one; and SFIA includes some of the required expertise for a BRM in some of the responsibilities for roles it describes.

We also learned about the core disciplines of BRM – Demand Shaping; Exploring; Servicing; and Value Harvesting. These are underpinned by the six core competencies: Strategic Partnering; Business IQ; Portfolio Management; Provider Domain Knowledge; Powerful Communications; and Business Transformation Management.

The next six modules looked at each of these competencies in more detail

Strategic Partnering
The core components of this module are
a. Business-Provider alignment: where we considered Strategic context, Environment, IT Strategy and IT Portfolio and their interactions.
b. Strategic Relationship Management: where process, business drivers, customer value hierarchy, diagnosing relationship quality, relationship value mapping are all used to work towards building an improvement plan.
c. Relationship Vision and Strategy and Building a relationship strategy on a page.

Business IQ

This is all about understanding capability of the business, road mapping it and determining the right enabling IT capabilities to enable the business capability at the right time.

We learned about value management and I was particularly interested in the causes of value leakage, namely: Misaligned values of service unit and business unit, missed opportunities, suboptimal design, and suboptimal deployment and implementation.

This unit also looked at the discipline of business value optimisation, recognising that in any organisation value is delivered by the business unit, with the enabling capabilities of the service unit.

Portfolio Management

This module looked at how portfolio management is the essential discipline of balancing investment mix and policy to ensure that objectives are met and that performance is balanced against risk. It is the key way that value is managed by a BRM.

We learned how portfolio management balances resource use in activities that are retireable, transactional, informational, strategic, and discovery-enabling. We looked at the Boston Square Model and the Weill-Broadbent portfolio management frameworks.

Portfolio Management is the process of balancing the selection of programs that are ongoing in the service provider and Programme Management manage groups of projects. In the order Portfolio Management – Programme Management – Project Management planning information flows left to right and executive information flows right to left.  We noted that programs deliver business outcomes, projects deliver services or capabilities and portfolios deliver central business strategy.RACI

This module also looked at Business-IT governance – a framework that ensures rights
and responsibilities are correctly assigned to support business outcomes. We looked at the Responsible-Accountable-Consulted-Informed(RACI) model and noted that a common failure of IT Governance is just to consider new resource expending proposals and to fail to keep ongoing resource use under review.

Business Transition Management

I think this was the most interesting module for me as it looks at the people-centred side of business changes, something I think a lot of technical providers could do a lot better. It’s about understanding the drivers for change and overcoming some of the myths about change like the “if it makes sense to do it then people will do it” misconception. We learned about the need to build urgency for change and the need to build an effective business transition network consisting of stakeholders, an instigating change leader, sustaining change leaders, change agents and advocates. We learned about change black holes caused by gaps in the change leadership chain and the risk of change leaders not being visible enough to be perceived as supporting the change. I was struck by the importance of leaders needing to visibly support the journey as well as the goal involved in a change as the former is often the harder bit.

Provider Domain Knowledge

This unit is all about understanding the services available from the service unit and understanding how service management works. We reinforced the important difference between products and services in that products are “things” that have intrinsic value (think car, house, computer, television) whereas services only yield value as they are used to achieve business outcomes for the customer.

We reminded ourselves that services have to have both utility (i.e. being fit for purpose) and warranty (being fit for use) before they can create value for customers. We noted that while value can be measured in terms of business outcomes it is also important to consider the value as perceived by the customer. BRM can address this second aspect by being an advocate for the service and adjusting the customers’ expectations so they are satisfied.
We considered the eight key questions that a service definition needs to answer and they are: What is it? How do I get it? How is it delivered? How do I use it? How do I get help with it? What does it cost? How is it supported? What does support cost?

Powerful Communications

This module was another one I particularly enjoyed because it relates closely to a lot of my current work. We firstly reminded ourselves of how important good communication is and then considered the art of listening and learned six aspects to that including: be present; shut up; notice tone; validate; empathise; spot ideas behind words. All great techniques that I think we all use to a lesser or greater extent at least some of the time.

Persuasion was also an important aspect of this unit and we considered how a good persuasive argument needs to appeal to ethos, pathos and logos for people. That is we need to have credibility, appeal to emotions and make logical and reasonable points that the person(s) being persuaded will share.

I liked the method of framing a proposal that we looked at. It includes agreeing shared goals or concerns, establishing the current facts, stating each side’s point of view and recognising constraints and limitations.

Practice and exam

brmp cert redactedThe final module of the course was preparation for the exam. In addition to the quizzes, one at the end of most sections of each module, there was a mock exam paper which we both sat. This enabled us to complete the course.
Last week we both spent some hours revising the material and then did the real exam, provided by the APM group and done through the ProctorU service. This enables exams to be taken anywhere and needs a webcam and microphone so that exams can be properly invigilated online. Doing an exam this way was a good experience and enabled immediate provisional results to be delivered immediately and verified results and certificates after just a few days.

I think the BRMP qualification is an excellent thing for IT professionals in HEIs to gain as it effectively and efficiently crystallises and categorises how the relationship between IT Services units and academic units in Universities should work and how staff can strive to keep it on a path of continuous improvement to maximise value realised in return for investments made.

While it was good to train with someone directly related to my work it was quite hard work using videos as there was a lot of information to gather and it would be fair to say we both spent three days furiously making notes. A real person would slow down their speaking a bit if they observed an audience doing this, and would speed up if the audience was looking like it knew the particular part of the material. Videos don’t do this so we did have to do quite a lot of pausing and rewinding. That said, it was an efficient way to learn a large amount of material over quite a short time and without any need for travel or hotel accommodation and with the ability to do it at a time that suited both of us.

tony presenting

 

Post by Tony Brett
Head of IT Support Staff Services
IT Services, University of Oxford
September 2015

2 thoughts on “Business Relationship Management

  1. Russell Moffatt

    Tony,

    Congratulations to you and John on passing the exam.

    I too gained my BRMP through the online route and found it to be a challenging but very beneficial course.

    Regards,

    Russell

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *