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The Business and IT Love Requires Lubrication

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This article was contributed by Peter Lijnse, Managing Partner and IT Management Consultant at Service Management Art Inc.

For years we have been talking about Business-IT alignment and to be honest limited organizations have successfully accomplished that. In most organizations the relationship is “dry”, which causes friction. We are getting to the point where we need to realize that the love between the Business and IT requires more than just alignment… we need to make sure that the fusion between business and IT is well lubricated to avoid friction.

(Note: any weird images in your head are yours and yours alone).

Focusing on the Business Relationship Management capability in the enterprise will help the Business-IT Love, but just focusing on the capability is not enough. We see relationship management in different levels in the organization:

Peter Lijnse

Peter Lijnse

  • Service Desk
  • Technical Analysts
  • Project Managers
  • Program Managers
  • Business Analysts
  • IT Executive Team
  • Enterprise Architects
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • etc.

Most of these roles are focused on the IT organization. The problem is there are pockets of IT in the whole enterprise, examples are:

  • Shadow IT groups (to use a new buzz word)
  • Technology that supports the primary business process
  • Super Users that represent a department
  • etc.

On an operational (and tactical) level in the IT Service Provider we often have roles in place that talk to the business, but is it often unclear how this is done on a strategic level.

The consumerization of IT and the business becoming increasingly technology savvy and self sufficient, drives the need to the convergence of the Business and IT. When we talk about Business IT alignment, we need to align all these groups… to make the overall enterprise successful.

The BRM Role

The role of the strategic Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role is a connector, facilitator, and orchestrator. I like to translate that to “lubricator” to make the connection between the Business and IT working smoothly. This role needs to be assigned in organizations. Not assigning the role in the organization leaves the relationship with the business mainly focused on a tactical/operational level. Or the activities are executed with other roles (like for instance the enterprise architect), which often means they are not able to focus on what they should be doing.

This role is accountable for the ensuring that the strategy of the business and IT are aligned and work smoothly. The BRM represents the business to the IT service provider, and the IT service provider to the business.

The purpose of the Strategic BRM Role is to stimulate, surface and shape business demand for a provider’s products and services, and facilitate the capturing, optimization, and communication to maximize business value captured from the provider’s products and services (as defined by the BRM Institute).

The activities for the BRM can be categorized in four main groups (processes).

Demand Shaping

Aligning the business expectations for demand with the service provider offerings and portfolio. The stakeholders in both the Business and the IT Service provider are defined, these stakeholders will help shape demand and influence the supply capabilities. The BRM plays the role of facilitator.

Example questions to focus on:

  • How does demand enter the value chain?
  • How are decisions made when demand exceeds supply?
  • How do we handle demand changes?
  • How is the backlog of demand tracked?

Exploring

These activities focus on identifying and rationalizing demand. The BRM role helps apply business and technology trends to facilitate discovery and demand management.

Example questions to focus on:

  • What demand is not on the radar and should be?
  • How much can we invest in exploring?
  • How do we break down demand in workable initiatives?
  • How can we innovate while operating the current services?

Servicing

As orchestrator, the BRM ensures engagements that shape business demands and then translates them into effective supply requirements. During the servicing process, the BRM facilitates business strategy and road mapping with the business as well as facilitating portfolio and program management for the provider organization.

Example questions to focus on:

  • How do we ensure that through use of the services the value is realized?
  • How do we ensure the service provider understands the value of the services they deliver?
  • How do we maximize business value, while taking into account risk and cost?

Value Harvesting

The value harvesting process also includes activities to track, review performance, identify areas that increase value of business outcomes and initiate feedback that triggers continuous improvement cycles. This process provides stakeholders insights to results of business change and initiatives.

Example questions to focus on:

  • Where do we see waste in the value chain? How do we reduce waste?
  • How do the stakeholders participate in realizing value?
  • How is value measured and monitored?

NOTE: As seen in these activities, there is a requirement to have Portfolio Management in place. This is where we see the requirement for making sure all parties work well together. In the Program and Project part of the IT Service Provider we often see a Portfolio – a list of opportunities that clarifies the demand. In the Service Provisioning side of IT Service Provider we start seeing Service Portfolios. Capturing what is in the pipeline (link to the project portfolio) and what is currently in production. It is key for a BRM to have access to both Portfolios… and hopefully have a consolidated view. 

Introducing the BRM role in your organization will help with shaping the opportunities for the business and aligning it to the IT’s ability to deliver.

This article was contributed by Peter Lijnse, an IT Management Consultant with over 20 years of IT Management and Leadership Experience. He has in-depth knowledge of IT Service Management and IT Governance in different industries. Peter is also a accredited ITIL, COBIT, BRM trainer. You can read his personal blog here.




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