Business Relationship Management and Build Strong Business IT Partnership by IT Team is one of the top success factors/principles in IT Strategy. IT Business Relationship Manager plays an important role to build the relationships and partnerships with businesses. How Information Technology (IT) can be a Business Technology Partner? Business and IT Relationship / IT Business Partnership is a complicated topic and how to establish strong relationships with internal and external stakeholders to create long-term competitive advantage. In today’s Digitalization Edge, it’s more important now to build a very strong relationship with Business to a collaborative partnership.
If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail. —Winston Churchill
Business Relationship Management
IT Service Strategy – The Process Function responsible for maintaining a relationship with the Business. Business Relationship Management usually includes:
Managing personal Relationships with Business managers. Providing input to Service Portfolio Management. Ensuring that the IT Service Provider is satisfying the Business needs of the Customers
Nothing runs without Information Technology (IT), In the age of digitalization, the partnership between IT and Business is more essential than ever, but the partnership is running into trouble and now more challenging. To better serve organizations, perform effectively, and meet emerging challenges, executives say that their IT organizations should collaborate as partners with the business, not as a service provider or supplier.
Business Relationship Success
Generally, your success depends on your relationships with others. Whether you are trying to drive results within your team, with stakeholders across your organization, or with your suppliers, your ability to create positive business outcomes will rest on the strength of your business relationships.
Partnerships begin with having a clear understanding of an organization what are the vision, goals, and strategies. In this article, we will see the stages of a business partnership and how to build a strong value-added relationship, in cooperation with your team and business partners, so that everyone has a clear picture of the value of IT, that will contribute to the organization.
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What is Partnership Versus Alignment?
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I have found that IT Partnership with Business will be one of the top priorities of the coming years and how IT can align with Business. This topic certainly gets a lot of attention and is often the source of many articles, postings, books, and presentations. Out of curiosity, I performed a search on Google, and it returned 3 million results on the topic.
Why many CIOs and IT Leaders struggle with alignment? The answer may be that they focus too much attention on aligning with the business rather than partnering with it. These are the two different words with different meanings. Let us have a look at the definitions of both.
Alignment and Partnership
Alignment is a state of agreement or cooperation. Partnership, however, is the state of being associates or colleagues. A partnership is about establishing strong relationships with internal and external stakeholders to create a long-term competitive advantage.
From the definitions, alignment is being an order taker, while the partnership is about people joining as colleagues in business—two very different relationships. Which relationship would you rather have with your fellow business leaders?
In successful partnerships, three common elements repeatedly and consistently emerge Impact, Intimacy, and Vision. Impact describes a partnership’s capacity to deliver tangible results. Successful partnerships increase productivity, add value, and ultimately improve profitability.
Intimacy is a challenging word; it conjures up images of people relating to an intensely close level. That is exactly what successful partners do in a business context.
Successful partnerships also have a vision: a compelling picture of what the partnership can achieve and, specifically, how it is going to get there.
How to Build a Value-Added Partnership with Business? IT Business Partner Engagement Model or IT Business Partner Model?
There are three stages of a Business IT Partnership: Earning the Trust, Setting the Priorities, and Creating Business Strategy. If you can achieve these stages, you will ascend from merely aligning with the business to being a valued business leader in your organization. Let us take a closer look at how it works.
Earning the Trust
Trust is a two-way relationship. The first stage in building a partnership is Earning the Trust. Relationships may be built, but trust is earned—and it is necessary for a true partnership. Once you have demonstrated that you can be relied on to deliver real value to the organization, you become a trusted CIOs or IT Leader or supplier of products and services. The more value you deliver, the more credible and respected you will become.
If you genuinely care about people and know them truly, you can earn the trust of the peoples. Trust is the most important characteristic of an influential and intimate relationship. To build the Trust, Transparency is critical to developing a trusting relationship between the business and IT.
In the context of a business relationship, trust comes from a sincere conviction in the hearts and minds of your colleagues that you are working in their best interest and that you know what their best interest is. Once you gain an understanding of what matters to the business, it’s time to come up with strategic responses to their issues.
As a transformational CIO, the importance of creating a governance framework and integrating IT into the decision-making process:
IT Business Partnership Model
I do not want to be in a situation where the business makes a request and I just react to it. I wanted our account managers or Business Relationship Managers to be integrated into the process and help to develop the concepts and ideas. Having a documented strategic plan helps establish the context for making decisions on specific projects.
Setting the Priorities
After becoming a trusted partner with the business, you can raise the ante and seek to become part of the priority-setting process at the operational level with Business — the second stage of building the partnership. The key here is to get your lieutenants to have a voice in the priority-setting operational committees. This stage helps you progress from order taking to priority setting leader.
A best practice is to create committees for each of your major business processes, such as sales, customer service, and accounting. These teams should consist of individuals from across the company rather than being monopolized by corporate stakeholders.
Assign an IT Relationship Manager to each of these committees to partake in discussions to help set priorities related to Business Processes. The IT Relationship Managers should have a full vote on proposals presented to the committees—accept nothing less. IT is in an excellent position to judge proposals, given its breadth of exposure to all major business processes and priorities.
Maintaining a productive relationship with your business partners through frequent contact points appears to be an effective method to align on priorities for technology-enabled business initiatives.
It is important to ensure that every project in your portfolio has a measurable business case and is aligned with company goals. The committees can also be effective bodies for developing long-term strategic plans that represent the key objectives for each process area.
Creating a Business Strategy
The final and most coveted stage in the Business-IT partnership is for IT to be viewed as a venerable part of the business. At this stage, IT and the business converge and are indistinguishable. To achieve this step, the IT leader in your organization needs to sit on the steering committee responsible for creating the vision, goals, and strategies for the business.
Getting a seat on the steering committee is not always easy, since IT still has an image problem in many organizations. IT must get out from underneath the oppressive rock of being viewed as simply a service provider and transform into a true business partner. This is accomplished by demonstrating success with partnering and consistently delivering on the objectives defined by you and your peers.
Remember, trust is earned—it’s an achieved privilege, not an entitlement. Once your CEO sees that you can be counted on to deliver value consistent with the organization’s core vision, you will begin to earn your rightful seat at the table.
CIO’s or IT Leader’s job to leverage technology to enable the business, and the best CIOs discuss opportunities and challenges in business terms, not technical terms.
CIOs Priorities to Build Strong Business Partnership
CIOs need to be comfortable with both ends of the spectrum. At one moment, they may be working on a disaster recovery project with their team, and in the next moment, they could be sitting next to the CEO working on the business plan. What people don’t often realize is that success with the low-profile projects, such as higher network bandwidth, helps you earn the trust and credibility needed to gain a seat at the table with the rest of the business executives.
Establishing a governance framework helps IT to identify and prioritize projects across major business initiatives and processes. Due to the very nature of their jobs, CIOs inherit many projects because of partnering with their business peers. Documenting the objectives in the form of a strategic plan will help you describe how IT contributes to organizational strategy. IT should be more integration focused rather than re-inventing the wheel with most custom development that takes place.
Reimagine the Future – Business-IT Partnership
In the organization, when IT acts as a Business Partner, rather be a Technology Consultant or Supplier of IT Services, the benefits are encouraging to the organizations.
According to the latest Business Technology survey, When IT organizations play a partner role, actively collaborating and co-operating with the business to shape an overall Business Strategy and effectively leverage Technology. Perform better on several dimensions, including the delivery of core services and the creation of a healthy organizational culture from both the business side and the IT function, believe the IT organization should be a partner to the business, that IT should play that role today.
This will also increase the pressor on IT with the growth of external IT Services such as Cloud offerings and Infrastructure as a Service) and digitalization is the top priority now. With digital initiatives, when IT plays a very important role are further along in both implementation and achieving Business impact and co-create the Business Value. In this case, IT should re-shape the governance model and re-structure the organization to have an efficient partnership with the business and play the key important role today.
Does Business executives believe that IT works as a Business Partner?
In one of the recent survey, I found some opinions from responders as below.
- Partner – In a recent survey, 27 executives say that IT actively collaborates with Businesses to shape overall strategy with proactively leverage technology.
- Consultant – 22 executive says that IT Provides input on plans for Business as part of regular discussions on supporting business objectives through technology.
- Supplier – 49 executive says that IT is treated and managed by business as a supplier of Technology Services.
What are the benefits of partnership especially in Innovation, Culture, and Performance Management?
- Implementing bottom-up implementation ideas and convert into demands and projects/changes partnership with Business
- Creating an effective and healthy IT culture to work as a Business Partner
- Measuring IT Performance and KPIs on multiple dimensions such as Strategy, Design & Build and Operations
- Bringing ideas for new IT solutions to Business to improve the Business Performance and achieve the vision
- Partnership with Business to develop new capabilities supported by Technology
- Proactively engaging with business leaders on new ideas or enhancement to existing systems
- Introducing new technology faster and/or more effectively than competitors
- Working with Business Leaders to improve existing systems when asked to be updated always
- Delivering new projects or enhancements on time and within budgets
- Digitalizing Business Processes
What are the differences between IT and Business Executives on IT Priorities especially on cost-cutting?
There are some differences between IT and Business Executives where sometimes businesses have different opinions. These are the areas but not limited to.
- Improving the effectiveness of Business Processes
- When required to reduce the cost for IT Headcount or IT Services
- Improving the cost efficiency of Business Processes
- Creating new Business processes and/or Services
- Providing manages with information to support planning and decision making
- Ensuring compliance with regulations
- Managing Business and IT Risks
- Entering into new markets
Digital Initiative Accountability is much appreciated when IT acts as a partner with the business
The Role that IT functions play in Digital-Business Initiatives, which are the opinion of business executives and how they should be acted.
- Business alone is accountable for identifying and delivering digital initiatives while Business and IT should build a Digital Council to prioritize the Digital Projects keeping the vision in mind of the organization.
- Business is accountable for digital initiatives, and IT functions support them as a supplier of IT Services.
- IT functions and Business collaborate on digital initiatives and both groups are accountable, this is the most ideal scenario to work IT as a Business Partner.
- IT Functions alone is accountable for digital initiatives, and business is not involved, this approach will not work.
Technology Executives IT Operating Model problems and lack of clarity about IT role as causes for the functions shortcomings
These are the estimated root causes of IT functions shortcomings.
- Weaknesses in IT Operating Model like how it’s structured, run, and managed
- Lack of clarity on IT Priorities and/or organizational role
- Suboptimal Technology and Architecture
- Poor discipline in Delivering IT Services
- Talent Issues
- They don’t have the ideas about what are the problems, even they don’t know.
IT Talents need to continue to be Analytics and Joint Business-IT Expertise
These are the estimated areas where IT Talents need to be most pressing over the coming years.
- Analytics and Data Science
- Joint Business and IT Expertise
- Cloud and Distributed Computing
- Mobile or online development
- Cyber and Information Security
- Enterprise Application Architecture
- Data Architecture
- Agile Development
- World-Class Project/Program Management
- Partner and Vendor Management
Business-IT Partnership – The Cloud, Technology, and Business Transformation
The world is changing very fast in the era of Digitalization now. Cloud, Social, Mobile, Analytics, and the Internet of Things are changing and emerging competition. Customers demanding personalized services, and expectations to engage through social and mobile channels.
New business models are emerging. Companies are getting faster, smarter, and more efficient. If an organization doesn’t lead digital innovation, then a competitor will.
Organizations want to turn technology into business transformation, but sometimes struggle to leap. In many organizations, the move to become digital has resulted in a cacophony of inconsistent, disconnected, and incompatible activities. Organizations have multiple initiatives and vendors, which often don’t work together.
Business Executives must keep in mind that business transformation comes from leadership, not technology. To create real transformation, CIOs must partner with the business and participate actively in the conversation about becoming digital. Business and IT should build a Digital Council to lead the Digital Initiative under the Member of the Board leadership.
What are the emerging roles of CIOs post COVID-19?
According to the CIOs after the pandemic, their role has changed and placed as a Cross-Functional Business Leader during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s discuss, there are some other ways the role of CIOs is evolving now.
- Business Partnership can’t be a part-time job and now CIOs need to be connected with Business Leaders to understand Business Challenges and take a lead to resolve them with Technology Solutions.
- Business Continuity should be driven now by CIOs. CIO’s need to have collaborated with Business Leaders and drive the Business Continuity and related services and help to Business to run smoothly. CIOs need to be more collaborated now to understand the Business Risks and how Technology and Business Process optimization can resolve them.
- IT Leaders or CIOs now co-own the customer experience and employees to understand how remote work can help to businesses and employees to work effectively and resolve the challenges and issues to increase productivity and efficiency.
- New Customer Experience should be driven by CIOs – CIOs or IT Leaders should be collaborated now in real-time with Sales, Supply Chain, and Operations to understand the real challenges and requirements faced by customers and provide the resolution with Business Goals and Customer Strategy.
- The CIOs need to be now the strongest bench in the organization having an effective IT leadership team who can develop service quality, meaningful relationships with other business units is critical. Those leaders need a seat at the business table and to be involved in strategic prioritization from the start.
- Agility is the most important and essential for CIOs or IT Leaders – Following the Business Priorities, the IT Team should work with a fully Agile organization and proactively involve in business challenges and provide the solution effectively. CIOs should be responsive and taking a collaborative approach to evolving market and organizational needs that will improve any CIO’s personal value to earn the trust of the Business.
- In Business Strategy, CIOs insight is very critical for Business – In recent years, CIOs turning out to be key supporters of corporate methodology and – as a rule – driving income. This pattern will proceed, however, CIOs must consider the business diversely in this new universe of our own. The CIO will be at the bleeding edge, as organizations explore in unchartered waters, regardless of whether that implies deciding how a business remains pertinent, or how to stay aware of an interest that couldn’t have been anticipated.
- CIOs and IT Leaders must get creative now – Looking forward, CIOs will see request swell even as their financial plans are packed. “CIOs need to convey high value at lower costs. Critically, recently settled upon plans may be rethought, recalibrated, and acclimated to satisfy new Demands.
ITIL Business Relationship Management (BRM)
The Business Relationship Management (BRM) process ensures the service provider understands the changing needs of the customer and assists the business in articulating the value of a service. Other Business processes in IT Service Strategy except for BRM.
- Service Portfolio Management
- Financial Management for IT services
- Demand Management
- Strategy Management for IT services
The Purpose of the ITIL BRM Process
- Establish and maintain a business relationship between the service provider and the customer.
- Identify customer needs and ensure that the service provider meets these needs.
ITIL Business Relationship Management (BRM) Objectives
- Ensure the service provider understands the customer’s perspective of service.
- Establish and maintain a constructive relationship between the service provider and the customer.
- Identify changes to the customer environment.
- Establish and articulate business requirements for new services or changes to the existing services.
- Establish formal complaints and escalation processes for the customer.
BRM Scope in ITIL – Understanding and Communicating
- Business outcomes that the customer wants to achieve.
- Services that are currently offered to the customer.
- Technology trends that could impact current services and the customer, and the nature of the potential impact.
- Levels of customer satisfaction, and what action plans are put in place to deal with the causes of dissatisfaction.
- Ways to optimize services for the future.
ITIL BRM – Internal and External Service Provider
The two main activities of BRM are to be the voice of the service provider to the customer and vice versa.
External versus Internal Service Provider
External Service Provider: BRM is executed by a separate and dedicated function of BRMs or account managers –each one dedicated to a customer.
Internal Service Provider: BRM is executed between a senior representative from IT and senior managers from the business units to build strong Strategic Business and IT Relationshiop and Partnership
Business Relationship Manager – Responsibilities
The business Relationship Manager is responsible for the following responsibilities. Business Relationship Manager is the core and bridge between Business and IT to build a strong foundation for long term partnerships to add and present IT as a valued business partner.
- Document Customer Complaints and instigates corrective action
- Maintain the relationship with customers/business and act as a representative for the customer and the Service Provider
- Assists the Service Level Manager in creating a seamless conduit from Customer to Service Provider
- Works with other Service Management Processes and functions for information gathering
|ITIL Role / Sub-Process||Business Relationship Manager||1st Level Support|
|Maintain Customer Relationships||AR|
|Identify Service Requirements||AR||–|
|Sign up Customers to Standard Services||AR||–|
|Customer Satisfaction Survey||AR||–|
|Handle Customer Complaints||AR||R|
|Monitor Customer Complaints||AR||–|
A: Accountable according to the RACI Model: Those who are ultimately accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the ITIL Business Relationship Management process.
R: Responsible according to the RACI Model: Those who do the work to achieve a task within Business Relationship Management.
In today’s Digitalization Edge, where every organization wants to transform and use the Digital Product and Services for their Digital Landscape. Business and IT Relationship is more important now to be successful and drive competitive advantage.
Now Information Technology Leaders need to review their IT Governance Framework and re-shape the organization more focused to build the strong partnership with Business Leaders and drive the Digitalization Initiatives and Projects in coordination and partnerships that Business also can involve and feel the true value-addition of IT in Business Transformation.
IT Organization Model should have a Business Relationship Manager partnership with Business Process Owners and Business Process Managers building the Digital Council to drive the Information Technology and Business Projects to have the right prioritization aligning with the organization’s vision, mission, and goals.
Please comment below on what you think on this topic and what is your views? How you are partnering with Business to build a strong partnership with Business to the growth of the organization?