What is Business Relationship Management and why do we need it?
If you consider the 3 key elements of the BRMI framework®, it includes the BRM role, disciplines, and organisational capability of Business Relationship Management. Its purpose is to:
- Serve the interests of the business.
- Act on behalf of, represent and translate between the provider of service to that business (in this case IT).
- Manage not only the relationships but demand, strategy, portfolio roadmaps, and capabilities. Ensure the services provided meet the overall business objectives.
Business Relationship Management Maturity Model:
From an IT perspective, the maturity model within the framework has five levels:
Level 1: Ad Hoc State
At this level, the relationship between the business provider and the service provider is based on unmanaged demands. There is a lack of clarity in the rules of engagement, and no understanding of what sort of activities count as the true value for the two sides. For the relationship to mature to the next level, the business owners must accept the limitations of their organisation. The service providers must also demand a clear framework of rules of engagement. From an ITSM perspective, this relates directly to the provision of supply so may involve work on Service Level Agreements for example.
Level 2: Order Taker
Although not dealing in absolute chaos, the business provider and the service provider continue to develop mistrust among themselves due to the lack of correct information and evidence. The course of action is still reactive than proactive. Prioritising tasks also happens based on insufficient or inaccurate data, as a result the most pressing issues often get ignored. To evolve to the next level, the business needs to accept the importance of Business Relationship Management and embrace service management.
Level 3: Service Provider
At this point, the BRM has risen from low-level maturity to mid-level maturity. Routines have been set in place and services are stable. However, the relationship still lacks the quality of innovation and is inconsistent. Moving on to the next level would require encouraging innovation, and implementing strategic thinking. The service providers must follow Portfolio and Transition Management excellence.
Level 4: Trusted Advisor
This stage is considered to be the transitional stage from mid-tier maturity to the highest level of maturity. The business and the service providers now share a relationship that is being guided by innovation. The decision-makers can choose from possible ventures based on accurate data in order to expand their services. There is a mutual understanding of needs and capabilities. At this juncture, the financial business value becomes an important metric. In order to proceed to the final stage, continuous improvement should be practiced and successful business cases must be created.
Level 5: Strategic Partner
The Business provider and the service providers become more than just trusted advisories. They become strategic partners. The common goal for both sides is to maximise financial business value. There are shared risks rewards. Innovation becomes the norm and new business decisions are made on the basis of reliable data.
If an organisation works on maturing IT Service Management capabilities from a people, process, and technology perspective, it will – by the very nature of Continual Service Improvement – evolve to the next level of BRM maturity where the focus is on Business Effectiveness. This level of maturity is moving towards a more holistic approach to services across the enterprise. For example, Human Resources, and Facilities Services become automated, as part of the IT Strategy. The data shifts from purely operational to management information. The focus shifts from transaction processing towards business process improvement and re-engineering.
Either way, moving up these levels of maturity requires a shift in mindset and methods. One of my favourite quotes is that ‘continuous improvement of the candle did not create the lightbulb’. You also need to change and innovate.
Business Relationship Management In The IT Sector
IT has to be able to deliver the basics to the business to gain credibility. It must mature in line with the business it provides services to. Ultimately, it’s about a holistic view. The focus should not on technology or data or process alone. It should also be on how to achieve the objectives identified deliver against the business strategy. It is now key for all providers to ensure they remain relevant.
Outside of the Business Provider maturity levels, the maturity of the relationship also identifies characteristics that indicate where improvement needs to be made. The lowest level of maturity for relationship management could be demonstrated by the following characteristics:
Unmanaged demand, unclear rules of engagement, and no formal channel for communication between the two parties resulting in no clear demonstration or understanding of service cost or value – this scenario is usually where the business sees IT as unprofessional, disorganised, expensive or reactive.
Why Should We Focus On Business Relationship Management In 2022?
I remember my first Service Desk placement after maternity leave in 1996 – a beautiful iconic building in West London, great company, and a lovely place to work. What struck me as I was writing this blog about BRM, was that way back then as we established a new multilingual support function and all the fun that entailed, there was a very tall, middle-aged chap with great presence who used to walk the floor between the Service Desk and the technical support teams quite regularly.
One day someone asked our manager, ‘who is that guy?’
“He’s the Business Relationship Manager.”
Wow, we all surmised how he must have the easiest, most well-paid job in the world – walking around being nice to people all day compared to working on the front line Service Desk with all that stress.
For me the thought highlighted two key issues:
a) We don’t see the world as it really is – but as we are. It’s all about perspective.
b) This role has been a well-known and well-identified requirement for over 20 years – so why is it now becoming so popular and so visible on the IT social media & education agenda?
Are You Struggling To Get Business Despite Having Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
According to the Journal of Services Marketing, University of Swansea, the quality of service provided by various competitors plateaued in the 1970s. Therefore, in the 1980s, the kind of relationships shared between the company and the customers became the new differentiator in order to gain a competitive advantage.
The problem that now arises is that in the last four decades, the relationships themselves have become very generic. After all, there are only a definite number of ways to build good relationships with the people who pay you for a service and all the companies have already exhausted them up.
Thus, the next step of gaining a competitive advantage in a highly saturated industry is to focus on the experience. Experience is the differentiator in the 2020s. Firms that are successful or on their way to achieving market dominance have realised the importance of customer experience in the present and the future.
In today’s economy, where millennials and younger make up half of the workforce and money is no longer the major motivator, many people consider their possible experience with a firm when deciding whether or not to apply for or accept a job offer. They want to know that a firm will look after them and their utilisation of corporate resources and technology.
The same is true with the customers who are even willing to pay extra money if they are ensured a minimum level of experience while using the services from a firm. This is why Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are quickly being replaced by Experience Level Agreements (XLAs). If you wish to be a leader of the evolving times, contact us and we could help you get there.
Also keep an eye out for our upcoming interviews and events focusing on ITSM related subjects, where we will explore these important topics with a range of industry experts – if you want to be added to the mailing list to be notified of these events – let us know and we will keep you posted!