We are living in the era of digital transformation, in which technology has become a core part of many businesses, leading to changing business/operating models and even the creation of new industries.
One of the trends affecting IT's role in business includes an evolution in the interface between IT and business units. And this has driven the emergence - and increasing importance - of business relationship management (BRM) within IT service providers.
According to the BRM Institute, BRM is “a philosophy, capability, discipline and role to evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value and satisfy purpose”.
The role of BRM has developed as IT and business became closer. As Antonina Klentsova - independent expert consultant and co-author of the new ITIL 4 Specialist: Business Relationship Management module - says: “BRM is the bridge which helps IT and the business to work together with one vision and direction.”
And the design of the new ITIL module has consulted and aligned with BRM Institute publications, among others, while adding different perspectives that relate more specifically to ITIL 4.
An effective BRM capability has benefits for both business stakeholders and IT service providers.
- Greater return on investments in digital technology through a better understanding of business needs and IT capabilities.
- Higher satisfaction from business stakeholders as the IT organization appreciates their needs better.
- Business clients enjoy more effective IT services as the IT organization recognizes their needs more clearly and aligns services with the business requirements.
- An opportunity to innovate via digital technology through matching business needs and emerging IT capabilities.
For IT service providers:
- Increased funding for IT products and services via greater understanding of business needs and stronger business cases.
- Better image in the organization generated by stakeholder satisfaction.
- Potential to explore and research new technology trends because of heightened business interest.
- Increasing integration of digital services into business processes leading to greater impacts.
- Closer integration into the business organization, eventually resulting in convergence.
How is BRM relevant to the existing ITIL 4 framework?
Business relationship management was introduced to ITIL v3 in 2011. In the interim, both the service management industry and ITIL have evolved from basic service relationships to closer (cooperative and collaborative) relationships between IT service providers and their business customers. These types of service relationships are described in the ITIL 4 Drive Stakeholder Value publication and, therefore, are reflected in the new ITIL BRM module.
There are many instances where service provider representatives interact with business stakeholders such as sponsors, customers or users. All these interactions have an impact on the stakeholder experience and, consequently, on the mutual relationships.
The service provider's representatives can be members of the service provider team or employees of a supplier; either way, they act as business relationship agents and follow the agreed approach to business relationship management.
“The role of the BRM Agent could fall to anyone in the organization - from the CEO dealing with a strategic customer to service desk agents. Each need to know how to communicate and convey the right messages and principles,” Antonina Klentsova said.
For successful management of business relationships in the context of service value streams as outlined in ITIL 4, it is important to:
- Identify and map service value streams.
- Pinpoint business interactions and stakeholders in each service value stream.
- Agree BRM activities needed at every touchpoint.
- Nominate and assign an appropriate business relationship agent for every activity.
- Ensure the business relationship agents know how to perform the activities correctly.
Measuring the success of adopting BRM
So, having introduced BRM via the ITIL 4 Specialist: Business Relationship Module, how does an organization know whether they've worked?
By using practice success factors for BRM, such as “establishing and continually improving an effective approach to the relationship between the IT service provider and the business”, you can identify key metrics (e.g., "having a common approach to BRM within the service provider's organizational culture”). This enables the practitioner to assess BRM capability or devise key performance indicators in the value streams.
Equally, the value of BRM can be measured by the effects of its absence, such as:
- Quantity of relationships broken because BRM was either poorly planned or neither adopted nor followed.
In addition, BRM performance can be assessed using the ITIL 4 Maturity Model.
For IT professionals tasked with establishing and nurturing relationships between service providers and business stakeholders, the ITIL 4 Specialist: Business Relationship Management module helps them integrate these critical approaches throughout the organization's service value streams.