My First 5 Tips for Using BRM to Rock Service Levels

Is your IT organization struggling to meet business expectations around service quality, support, or anything else? Then business relationship management (BRM) is for you.

BRM is all about maximizing the benefits of IT for the parent organization. Done well, it’s a capability that can improve relationships, support the overall IT strategy, and take IT services to the next level in terms of maturity, delivery, and value.

Having recently read the BRMI’s “Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge” publication, here are the first 5 of 10 tips (I realized it was too much to absorb in one blog!) I’ve extracted for creating a rocking BRM capability within your IT organization.

Tip 1: Understand the BRM Role

Put simply, BRM aims to maintain a positive relationship between you and your customers. It helps to identify the needs of existing and potential customers, and to ensure that appropriate IT services are developed to meet those needs.

The role of BRM in corporate IT organizations can include:

  • Connecting IT to the rest of the business
  • Orchestrating the right capabilities to help enable IT to drive value, understand demand levels, and shape its service provider roles
  • Jointly navigating IT and the business to the most value-centric service path

If your IT organization uses ITIL you can think of BRM as acting as a buffer between IT and the rest of the business, sitting at the strategy part of the IT service lifecycle – where it helps to ensure that the needs of the customer are captured, understood, and delivered into live production services.

Tip 2: Have an Operational Model from the Outset

A capability as potentially complex as BRM needs an operational model to underpin it, in particular to map out how an IT organization’s capabilities and resources can be used to deliver products and services (to end users and customers).

Such a BRM operating model should contain:

  • Processes to create and maintain the IT service provider’s deliverables
  • Initiatives to support strategy design and delivery, and drive to improvements over time
  • The organizational structures required to coordinate and control service provider roles and resources
  • Metrics to measure customer experience, service levels, process performance, and overall service provider success levels
  • Services, i.e. what’s delivered to both the business and, in some cases, external customers
  • Governance capabilities, including to allocate and support decision-making rights, i.e. who is empowered to do what in the context of the service provider and receiver relationship

Having a BRM operating model in place ultimately provides a more structured approach to your BRM capabilities, meaning that nothing is forgotten, left out, or glossed over. In short, it keeps everyone honest in the nicest possible way!

Tip 3: Build in Maturity

Begin as you mean to go on. The business doesn’t stand still, so neither should its IT organization.

Business requirements and deliverables will shift over time, so build maturity checks (see below) into your process so you’re not caught napping while the business is continually moving forwards.

Maturity checks, or models, in BRM are a way of calibrating business demand with IT provider capabilities. With maturity measured at three distinct levels:

  1. Support – which is about providing the basic levels of support required for the business to carry out its activities. This level makes sure that services are available, stable, and that the IT service management (ITSM) fundamentals are in place.
  2. Improve – which looks to build a shared infrastructure and IT credibility, improve service delivery, and establish an enterprise architecture.
  3. Innovate – which looks at continuous improvement, agility, and the convergence of IT and the rest of the business.

Both the business and IT organization (and partners) are responsible for their process maturity. For example, the business will be aware of opportunities and gaps in the market, and IT will be able to advise and supply the technology to meet those opportunities. It’s ultimately a team effort!

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Tip 4: Maximize Decision Making

Use a decision-making cycle to understand, assess, and improve the decision-making capabilities of the BRM capability.

Such a decision-making cycle should consider:

  • IT objectives – identifying opportunities, clarifying requirements, and presenting potential solutions.
  • Business partner questions – understanding and communicating requirements, and reviewing the options.
  • Decision steps – setting a strategy and agenda, identifying any gaps or problems, and selecting a solution.

Decision making is a key part of an effective BRM capability; and using a cyclical approach means that the IT organization doesn’t lose track of the business strategy and deliverables, and the business is aware of any relevant technology constraints.

Tip 5: Differentiate Between Strategic and Tactical BRM

When operating your IT organization’s BRM capability, you need to be aware of both strategic and tactical considerations.

Strategic BRM looks at initiatives that enact business high-level goals and objectives – making sure the overall business vision is reached. Whereas tactical BRM is all about maintaining steady-state IT services for both now and in the future.

It’s important to simultaneously look at both the strategic and tactical sides of the BRM coin:

If you only focus on tactical BRM activities:If you only focus on strategic BRM activities:
  • You lose sight of your overall strategy and vision
  • Your IT organization won’t improve over time
  • You just keep putting the same fires out over and over again
  • You lose focus on “the day job”
  • Small issues could spiral out of control

Be sure to get the right balance between the two!

Please come back soon for part two of this BRM blog, where I’ll cover shaping demand (for IT services), value management, and relationship improvement plans.

Have you started to exploit BRM good practice within your organization? How has it helped? Please let me know in the comments!

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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