Putting the 'B' in BRM

How can you have a business relationship management program that doesn't include input from the business units?

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The challenge: Justify to the senior management committee the expense of business relationship management (BRM) within the IT function.

Now, there are many ways to do that. All the tools for assessing value can be drawn upon. There's the balanced scorecard, ROI, maturity models (with key performance indicators) and assessments against them, surveys, IT investment ratios, IT productivity over time. All very plausible, given the right circumstances.

But as CIO, I knew that I had to do more than show that BRM made compelling sense from a stockholder perspective. I also had to show how its success would be measured over time.

My team and I realized that we had to be ready to answer two questions:

1. What strategic corporate value was there in spending money to create a non-technical unit within IT that would be filled with people who were, all at once, IT marketers, two-way communicators, the voice of the customer, involved business-unit partners, trusted account managers, and advocates for shared IT services?

2. How would we know if this new IT unit's activity was successful?

Question No. 1

The best argument for the first question was that BRM would do much more than increase business-unit demand for IT services; it would also improve both business and strategic performance. We could back this up by noting that:

* Unlike nearly every other corporate expense, IT assets do more at less cost every year.

* Using IT assets effectively avoids cost, improves service and increases revenue.

* The corporation has invested significantly in IT assets, and increasing the use of those assets would improve their productivity and lower IT unit costs for the business units.

* If it is true that increasing the demand for using IT assets is beneficial, then increasing that demand should not be left to chance; however, the IT function was purpose-built around a technical skill base to supply IT services, not to create demand for those services. That requires a completely different skill set.

* Business units need to have a clear understanding of the business value of IT and be actively involved with the IT function in finding new ways to use it to improve productivity and growth.

* The primary reasons for establishing a business-oriented BRM function are to help business units understand the IT value proposition; make sure the IT function is directly responsive to business-unit needs; help business units introduce beneficial change; succeed in improving their business and strategic performance; provide a framework for linked-destiny cooperation, collaboration, joint achievement and recognition; and generate demand for effective IT services.

* It is time for the IT function to move beyond being a reactive cost center to become a proactive value adder to the business units it serves.

Question No. 2

How to know whether the BRM function was successful was a harder question to answer. It would take time for business units to go through the stages of awareness, trial, adaptation and full acceptance of the BRM team as a true partner in helping them achieve their goals. Until we reached that final stage, measuring success wouldn't really be possible. In the end, we decided that the following would be indicators of success:

* The more knowledgeable, involved, trusted and proactive a BRM function is, the more successful BRM is.

* The more BRM helps IT's clients improve their business and strategic performance, the more successful BRM is.

* The more demand increases for the strategic use of IT assets, the more successful BRM is.

One More Question

We had done our homework well enough to get the funding we wanted from the senior management committee to establish the BRM role if we could answer just one more question: "What are the risks associated with implementing this BRM role in corporate IT, and how would we deal with each of those risks?"

Next section: Proposed BRM Mission

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