By Jason Stevenson
“We be takin’ care of business–every day–every way!”1 At least that’s what we choose to believe in IT. Unfortunately, the reality is often far from it. The business would likely sing a much different tune — something closer to “It’s the work that we avoid. We’re all self-employed. We love to work at nothing all day.” 1 It sounds harsh, but more often than not, IT does avoid the real work of business, acting as an entity in and of itself, accountable to no one, focusing on putting out fires.
Now more than ever, the business has real choices in information technology. An internal IT department is no longer the only show in town and must provide measurable business value to compete with external solutions, particularly innovative solutions such as Software (SaaS), Infrastructure (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). IT must meet the business needs without clinging to old ways, regardless of whether that means developing solutions in-house, brokering services from appropriate providers or a combination. Regardless of the solution, IT’s focus must be squarely on making business success easy, so positioning the IT organization as using an Information Technology as a Service (ITaaS) approach is paramount. The foundation of this business-centric, service-based approach is business relationship management (BRM).
Who is the customer?
IT provides services to both customers and users. A customer is someone who pays for the service, while a user receives the service. In many instances, the customer and user are not the same. Service desk functions and processes like request fulfillment and incident management focus on the user. In contrast, business relationship management focuses on the customer. Often there are multiple customers in an organization including officers, executives, directors and their delegates.
What is business relationship management?
The purpose of business relationship management is to establish and maintain a strategic connection between the service customer (business leadership) and the service provider (IT representative). Process activities include:
- Communicating: Sharing ideas and information and coordinating communication channels between the customer (business) and service provider (IT).
- Understanding: IT comprehending what is important to business; business realizing IT capabilities, value, and implications of changing technology.
- Matching: Correlating business wants and needs to IT services within the portfolio to set clear expectations.
- Navigating: Guiding business through IT organization and engagement of the project portfolio.
- Prioritizing: Ranking IT services and projects and mediating competition for resources.
- Tracking: Documenting customer opportunities, issues, compliments and complaints and translating desired business outcomes into service packages or solution roadmaps.
- Escalating: Taking corrective action as needed.
- Assessing: Continually soliciting customer satisfaction.
When and where do we engage the customer in business relationship management?
Often the means we use to facilitate business relationship management will change, depending on the participants and the length and quality of the relationship. Technically savvy customers may prefer to use a service web portal, while senior executives and officers may prefer the informality of golf or other social activities. A large organization may require a symposium to accommodate many (potentially geographically dispersed) customers. The approach and frequency should align with customers’ positions within the organization, their personalities, and what works culturally and historically within the organization. At a minimum, IT representatives should engage customers in a conference quarterly unless specified otherwise by the customer.
How do we provide business relationship management?
Transparency and trust directly relate to our human nature and are only accomplished through good old-fashioned communication. Both verbal and written communication create opportunities for IT to market how its commitment to an ITaaS approach to service provisioning benefits the business and how it drives business-focused IT decision-making. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with tips for building transparency and trust in your organization.
BRM: The Foundation
In summary, business relationship management is the foundation for ITaaS. Think of business relationship management first as a guide and translator then as a partner for the business. By balancing wants and needs with funding, we gain understanding of the business and translate that understanding into traceable business outcomes. Through integration with service and project portfolio management, IT representatives submit business outcomes in service packages to IT through an ITaaS services web portal after using multiple communication means with the customer. Now, the inner workings of IT are engaged to evaluate business value and risk and subsequently refine priority, which is then confirmed with the customer. Ongoing communication and reporting continually reinforce the relationship between the customer and IT, resulting in greater transparency and trust.
The following diagram illustrates the summary of these concepts.
There you have it, critical success factors for ITaaS BRM. Give it a try! “Chances are you’ll go far if you get in with the right bunch of fellows.” 1
Jason Stevenson is a Transformation Consultant with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.
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1 Quote from Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Takin’ Care Of Business