By Jason Stevenson
In my last post, I touched on the idea that in the business relationship management process, nothing is more important than good communication. IT representatives must be prepared to both listen deeply and communicate transparently to ensure the relationship stays healthy and achieves business outcomes. Communication provides IT countless opportunities to market how the commitment to an ITaaS approach to service provisioning benefits the business and how it drives business-focused IT decision-making. It’s critical to ensure IT representatives are well trained in all forms of communication.
Transparency and trust through verbal communication
Business relationship management uses verbal communication to build transparency and trust. This includes marketing IT services and innovations, enabling continual service improvement, soliciting translating feedback into action, discussing desirable business outcomes, quantifiable business investment, customer/IT commitment, and risk.
Non-verbal communication such as professionalism and demeanor play a significant part in building transparency and trust. Though IT may choose what level of the business to engage, ultimately it is unable to choose its customers. However, IT can choose who will represent it. Good IT representation is based not only on understanding of IT organization, processes, and services but also alignment and affinity with the customer.
Transparency and trust through tools using written communication
Business relationship management uses written communications to supplement and reinforce verbal communication. Written communications include presenting reports on successes associated with opportunities or issues and compliments or complaints log as well as dashboards for services (cost, priorities, levels, and satisfaction), projects (time, resource and scope constraints and priorities), high-risk changes, and integrated customer and IT calendar.
Transparency and trust through process
In addition to oral and written communication, another key element in securing transparency and trust is the use of a consistent process. The following illustration provides four simple steps to initiate business relationship management.
These initial steps include identifying points of contact within the business to populate a customer portfolio, then selecting the appropriate service provider representation from IT to correspond to each customer within the portfolio. The ratio does not need to be a one to one; however, adequate thought must be given to the number of customers an IT representative can handle before quality becomes a concern.
The simple act of communicating between customers and IT representatives will foster transparency with insight into what each organization is doing. As more information (such as plans, dashboards, and calendars) is shared, the organization becomes more transparent. Often, the more frequent the communication between the organizations, the more trust is built, taking care not to become an annoyance to the customer. With some transparency and trust in place, real discussions around what IT currently offers the customer can mature into a greater discussion of how IT can support current and future wants and needs within the business. With this understanding, IT representatives working with their customers can begin to prioritize and categorize customer wants and needs with corresponding IT services or projects based on volume, size, value and risk.
Jason Stevenson is a transformation consultant with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.