Winter 2017 IT BRM/IT Business Partner Forum – Findings and Recommendations
IT BRM/IT Business Partner Forum
On Thursday 23rd of November the 6th IT BRM/IT Business Partner Forum took place in central London. We’re delighted to announce the event was the biggest yet with 60 individuals joining us for the day, the format of which was as follows:
8:30 Coffees and Networking
9:30 Starting Your Value Management Journey – Jon Baxter (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonbaxter/)
11:00 Break and networking
11:30 Life After BRMP® – Sarah Fogg (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahfogg1/)
13:30 The Value of Enterprise Architecture – Sally Bean (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sally-bean-48b184/) and Anil Piplani (https://www.linkedin.com/in/anilpiplani/) hosted by James O’Driscoll (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesodriscoll/)
14:30 Break and networking
15:00 Self Awareness – Dr Robina Chatham (https://www.linkedin.com/in/robinachatham/)
15:45 Crafting and Communicating a Value Proposition – Jon Baxter (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonbaxter/)
16:30 Wrap up, Feedback, Notices and Exclusive Offers
17:00 Opportunity for an Early Evening Social at a Local Pub
We’d like to thank all our panelists and delegates for their input in these sessions, which is summarised below.
Starting Your Value Management Journey
Jon Baxter kicked off the event with one of the biggest challenges facing IT BRMs/IT BPs today. A summary of the session is below.
Where do we want to be?
The mission for all IT BRMs/IT BPs should be to become Strategic IT Partners, where they can “help the organisation gain competitive advantage through IT business convergence.” In terms of convergence think of shared agendas, shared values, etc.
Where are we?
Based on our research conducted last year IT BRMs/IT BPs are not there yet, as demonstrated in the diagram below.
Why are we there?
In a nutshell, a negative feedback loop which is reinforcing negative behaviours.
The majority of IT BRMs/IT BPs are stuck in a cycle of negative actions where they are continuing to run around trying to fix problems which shouldn’t be an issue in the first place (think of a sticking plasters trying to fix a leak in a dam). This leads to a credibility issue with the rest of the organisation.
What does good look like?
The fundamental driver of Strategic IT Partnerships is trust. Trust is both an enabler and a symptom.
How do we start the journey to Strategic IT Partnerships?
IT BRMs/IT BPs build credibility. They get the house in order and they put the fires out. They’re consistent in message and action. IT BRMs/IT BPs deliver to the expected (and mutually agreed) business outcome.
The very first steps to break the negative cycle are:
- Define outcome
- Measure outcome
- Align business outcome to IT activity
- Root cause analysis on the gap
- Continuous improvement to close the gap
- Don’t just sit there! Call for help. Describe what you want to achieve and why (hint: one of your value propositions). Create a working party and ensure you involve people from IT and the business as any system or process transcends these boundaries. Focus on a pain point that everybody agrees is a pain. Attribute a lifecycle / process that provides the broader context of when and where that pain point occurs.
- Ensure business outcomes can be measured and clearly defined (in terms of the elimination of that pain point) and identify ways to measure that pain point – frequency, impact on business KPIs. Now you have your business case for improvement!
- Look at the many potential failure modes across the process / lifecycle. Rest assured in a corporate situation even the simplest services can rely on 20 steps / 20 individual people (lots to go wrong). Use value stream mapping to pinpoint where those failure modes have the most impact and frequency. (note: dramatically different from “finger pointing blame”). Then use “5 Whys” and Fishbone diagrams to establish the root cause of the biggest failure modes.
- Brainstorm improvement activities. Rank them in order of feasibility and cost efficiency. Implement the highest ranking ones first. Measure the outcome. Garner the lessons learnt. Adopt changes to the improvement approach to be more effective next time. Continue to the next set of improvement actions and repeat until the gap in delivery / expectations is closed.
- Celebrate success! Communicate the achievement. Then, find the next pain point and repeat the above.
- Be absolutely focused and determined to overcome the setbacks. There will be many. It will take time. Walls are broken down one brick at a time. Doing these activities, being consistent over time and demonstrating delivery builds credibility and creates a reputation (it also builds character and fortitude – great leadership qualities).
- Don’t just do a business case and then forget about it once it’s approved. It’s your principal shield and weapon. Use the value described in it and the difference in measurable outcome as a rallying cry for continuous improvement. Use it to hold people to account and to help reflect on how we can do things differently next time.
These techniques are not rocket science, IT BRMs/IT BPs all know the tools to a greater or lesser degree, it’s just joining them together in a coordinated approach and then acting on them that makes a difference. If the IT department and business peers are all serious about wanting to become Strategic Partners, then in the first instance they will be passionate about the improvement of services. So then they will commit the time from staff to work on this.
Life After BRMP®
Sarah Fogg presented her insights into what she took away after successfully achieving her BRMP® qualification and applying into her workplace, with a particular focus on establishing IT BRM/IT BP functions. Sarah broke her insights down into the five Ps.
IT BRMs/IT BPs are generally born and not made however to help ensure you can undertake the role as effectively as possible, soft skills training with a focus on what impact it has with your stakeholders (such a MBTI) and the BRMP® training course (as long as there is a real life focus) are both very worthwhile.
In any IT BRM/IT BP function the following processes should be defined in a collaborative approach with your IT BRM/IT BP team, IT colleagues and the wider business colleagues, and then implemented.
- Stakeholder engagement
- Demand shaping
- Business case management
- Budget planning
- Project initiation
Once implemented we must ensure the processes are fully understood by all stakeholders. Roadshows can help here, as can using whatever communication tools are relevant to your organisation.
Having a professional qualification such as BRMP® demonstrates credibility to both IT colleagues and the wider business. This was particularly useful when establishing an IT BRM/IT BP function and/or implementing new processes for the function as best practise can be demonstrated. Why would the organisation not want to use best practise?
The IT BRMs/IT BPs function should own the portfolio and they are ideally placed to build and prioritise the pipeline of work. By owning the portfolio, IT BRMs/IT BPs can also manage change controls more effectively and gives them more credibility.
The IT BRM/IT BP role is becoming more relevant and understood. It is a role that can make a difference, especially as they become more strategic.
However, IT BRMs/IT BPs mustn’t forget what they’ve learnt on the BRMP® course and should continue to use the material as a reference point.
Questions and answers
Once the presentation was completed the delegates had a number of questions, the outcomes of which are summarised below.
This can be achieved by scoring each project in three areas:
- Strategic intent – how does it fit with the overall strategy of the company?
- Complexity – e.g. how big was the project, how many business units does it involve etc.?
- Financial check – e.g. MPV, internal rate of return etc.
Financial checks largely hold the most weight with the business. So it is the role of the IT BRMs/IT BPs to push the ones with more strategic intent and less financial weight. Using “firm” benefits can help with this (i.e. not hard e.g. revenue nor soft e.g. employee engagement) such as risk avoidance, efficiency savings etc.
Can IT BRMs/IT BPs own strategic demand?
This is very difficult as most stakeholders only think three to six months in the future. Workshops with senior stakeholders can help, as can one to ones.
How IT BRMs/IT BPs cope with the velocity of change?
The key here is to spend more time at the start of the project. By undertaking more up front work before the project kicks off, the steps should be more clearly defined and therefore the downstream activities should be faster and quicker.
IT BRMs/IT BPs should also ensure more checks are undertaken on the downstream activities and need to keep abreast of what is going on and not just when an issue is escalated.
The Value of Enterprise Architecture
This panel session focused on the outcomes of a survey commissioned (http://bit.ly/2DhxL8l) with Sally Bean and Anil Piplani providing their own thoughts and observations. This was followed by a Q&A session with the delegates. This session provided a number of recommendations, which are summarised below.
- Alignment of IT change programmes with the business strategy remains a shared responsibility between the IT BRMs/IT BPs and EAs, thereby leading to overlap between the two roles. Both need to align on the priorities, principles and deliverables to set the right expectations, to help avoid such duplication and ensure the relationship is far more effective.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs and EAs need to work together to ensure a consistent and easily understood message when engaging the stakeholders – both within the business and the IT functions.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs should learn to use models produced by the EAs more. They can provide a useful big picture tool to senior stakeholders, especially when in the requirements definition stage of a project. One delegate suggested that if very complicated, IT BRMs/IT BPs should consider using consultancies/research organisations such as Gartner to help translate them, if the EAs are unable to perform such a task. Others suggested companies such as Visual Meaning (http://visual-meaning.com).
- A “city plan” or end-to-end business operating model that highlights which systems/solution providers are used today, and which systems/solution providers it considers likely to be considered in the future has been found to be a useful tool by some delegates.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs should use more anchor models/capability models. The concept of capability models has evolved over time and there is no single universally-accepted definition and structure for capabilities. The IT BRMs/IT BPs and EAs should focus on developing a commonly agreed framework, which is aligned to the language, terminology and culture of the organisation. This will ease the engagement with stakeholders across the organisation and enable quick adoption of a common canvas among business and IT stakeholders.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs need to help educate EAs in terms of how they present their ideas/models, especially when engaging executives and senior business managers. Instead of using architecture notations such as UML or Archimate, EAs should be guided to use commonly understood models such as a capability model.
- A wide variety of specialist Architect roles and titles such as Solution Architect, Technical Architect, IT Architect, Business Architect etc. can cause confusion on the boundaries and responsibilities of each position. IT BRMs/IT BPs need to help the organisation navigate through these specialist roles and ensure the right Architect is engaged at right time and in the right forum.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs need to work with EAs to ensure they use language, models and terminology that their stakeholders can understand. It is worth reminding EAs they don’t need to offer a crash course on architecture terminology to stakeholders. It’s not their job to understand architectural complexity and both IT BRMs/IT BPs and EAs should focus on simplifying the message and make clear what support, input and decisions they do require.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs need to be very conscious that whilst EAs ideas and concepts might be difficult to understand, the value of understanding them is vast especially when designing a large transformational programme.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs need to understand that architecture decisions are fundamental in nature and can be difficult to reverse. They should allow EAs sufficient time to absorb business requirements and explore potential design options before choosing what is the best fit, not just for immediate business needs but long term IT strategy. IT BRMs/IT BPs need to ensure that EAs have this time and information and are not pressured into making a quick design decision.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs need to ensure EAs don’t just focus on the end goal. They need to ensure EAs also consider where they are now and where they are going (transition steps).
- It is not uncommon to experience situations where EAs want to establish a solution that is 100% fit with established architecture principles and architecture vision. IT BRMs/IT BPs need to educate EAs to strive to develop a tactical solution which meets the immediate business needs and timelines but also enables them to establish a transition architecture, which is closely aligned to EA principles, vision and target state architecture.
Any other business
- Once a solid relationship has been established, IT BRMs/IT BPs need to ensure EAs are involved in the relevant senior stakeholder meetings, at an early stage. Such involvement will allow them to design better systems.
- Business capabilities and customer journeys. Both are useful discussion points with the stakeholders if EA function is not working as it should.
- IT BRMs/IT BPs should consider using architectural capabilities from a business perspective when talking to stakeholders.
- EAs can bring the most value when involved in a major change programme.
- EAs and the overall architectural function have their own challenges which is summarised in the diagram below (thank you Anil). IT BRMs/IT BPs should always be conscious of these challenges when working with EAs.
Dr Robina Chatham introduced the delegates to a need for self-awareness of self and others in becoming better at managing relationships. She also explained the theory of personality type and how to tailor your communication style to the preferred language of the receiver. A high level summary of the presentation is below.
How do we perceive the world?
As we know, everyone is different. In terms of perception there are two main categories:
- Sensor – detailed focused, pragmatic but can come across as a little dull and critical
- Intuitive – big picture, forward thinking but can come across as over complicated and erratic
IT BRMs/IT BPs need to align their own behaviours to suit a situation i.e. if your preference is more intuitive and you are meeting someone whose preference is more sensory then make a conscious effort to not come across as being too over complicated and erratic, which is how the other person in this situation may see you as being.
As a rule of thumb, if your stakeholder is more sensor then give them the details and work through each step sequentially and if they are more intuitive start with the big picture, don’t bore them with details and ensure you only give them three key facts.
How do we make decisions?
Again there are two main categories:
- Thinking (problem = solution). People who are thinkers will try and tell you want to do. They are logical and objective but can come across as overly critical and insensitive.
- Feeling (problem = person in distress). People who are feelers will resolve the distress, which then allows the person to solve the problem themselves. They are empathetic and collaborative but can comes across as hyper sensitive and illogical.
As a rule of thumb when dealing with thinkers be business like, focus on results and be direct and when dealing with feelers be personal and acknowledge their feelings, but don’t be critical.
If IT BRMs/IT BPs can understand both how a particular stakeholder perceives the world and makes decision, their ability to influence that stakeholder is far greater, assuming the communication is tailored. If you join the two categories of both perception and decision making, IT BRMs/IT BPs have four main types of influencing strategies and tips, which are as follows:
Pragmatists (Sensing/Thinking e.g. IT colleague) – Use proof, evidence and data (but not too much data). Ensure your figures are right. Use bullet points.
Sociable (Sensing/Feeling e.g. Nurse) – Use personal stories that bring things to life. Sit down and have a genuine two-way conversation over coffee. Talk about specific people.
Idealist (Intuition/Feeling e.g. Creative Designers, Marketing Colleagues) – Use pictures and passion. Show the big picture, your vison and dreams. Don’t give too much detail or data (three maximum).
Theoretical (Intuition/Thinking e.g. CxO) – Show the big picture only and use models. Don’t present them will a full conclusion but give them your opinion and let them think it is their idea. If they feel you lack credibility they may go into the detail, just to check you out. Be aware of this and have back up slides/data when presenting.
Obviously if there are more than one person in the room at the same time, a focused influencing strategy will not work. Instead IT BRMs/IT BPs need to calculate which types are in the room and alternate their own communication style on a regular basis to ensure all types of individual remain engaged.
Crafting and Communicating a Value Proposition
Jon Baxter finished off what was a successful day looking at another key challenge for IT BRMs/IT BPs, role clarity. This session provided an introduction into the subject and suggestions concerning developing a value proposition, which is summarised below.
What is a value proposition?
- It is a simple, complete statement that helps stakeholders understand what benefits IT BRM/IT BP brings, which ultimately creates the desire for your stakeholder to engage with you.
How do you define a value proposition?
- Identify which stakeholder(s) you are targeting for this specific value proposition (it is likely you will have different versions for different stakeholder(s) groups).
- Draw up a list of what you think is important to that specific stakeholder(s).
- Investigate those suggestions by asking your stakeholder(s) open ended questions.
- Assuming the stakeholder(s) agrees with some/all of your suggestions, you’ll have some understanding of what values are important to them, which is then the basis of your value proposition.
- Before having a final version consider the pain points that you’ll resolve with the value proposition.
- Plus, make sure it is specific and relevant to that specific stakeholder(s) (e.g. who is it for, what is the activity, what is the outcome, why choose the IT BRM/IT BP to provide it, what is their credibility).
Further details of all presentations, videos of the day and photos of the outcomes of the workshops can also be found here – http://bit.ly/2nxU1Yf. Please note you’ll need to a member of our online community to have access and please ensure you are logged into your account before clinking on the link.
If you are not a member of our online community yet, you’re more welcome to join. To simply register your interest please complete the online form found here – http://bit.ly/2uN2Xb7.
Due to the continued success of the sessions more are planned, with the next event taking place in the summer (venue and content to be confirmed). If you are interested in joining this session, please get in touch with James O’Driscoll from Gilbert Scott Associates or Jon Baxter from Baxter Thompson Associates.
To keep up-to-date with everything IT BRM/IT BP and information on upcoming forums, please join the Gilbert Scott Associates IT BRM/Business Partner LinkedIn group (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8415985).