Business & IT – From Alignment to Convergence – The BRM as Superhero!

ITWNET International has been honored to have Paul Wilkinson from GamingWorks to cover the latest BRM Connetct conference in the USA.  Following his impressions and mind provoking thoughts. 

Business & IT – From Alignment to Convergence – The BRM as Superhero!

The Alignment problem…

The latest BRMConnect conference in Charlotte ‘Leveraging a BRM Capability to Support Organizational Global Leadership and Drive Business Value Results’ focused on becoming a ‘Strategic partner’ to the Business and of realizing ‘Business & IT Convergence’. However as Joe Topinka stressed in his opening Keynote ‘Executive perceptions of the value of IT have plummeted by more than 30%’, ‘80% of IT professionals do not know how to deliver value or what that is’! Which is very worrying, and as far as becoming the ‘Strategic partner’ for the business –‘It is hard to be strategic when your pants are on fire’ as one CIO said.

I also presented a statement from ‘Key European IT Management Trends 2015’ which placed ‘Business & IT Alignment’ at the number 1 position of ‘Most important IT Management concerns’. The concerns are deep seated as ‘Alignment’ has been a top scoring issue for more than a decade.

In a CFO article entitled ‘The IT Talent problem’ readers suggested that if given a ‘magic wand’ they would like to give ‘business skills to their technologists’ going on to add ‘..They do not understand the context of their technology work, nor can they have a meaningful discussion with the leaders of the business areas their technology supports’. An article on revealed that ‘Communications between IT and non-IT staff is in a state of crises’ further explaining ‘The disparity between IT leaders’  aspirations to be more strategic and their actual performance is rooted in communication’.

An Information week article reviewing the Society of Information management (SIM) survey results  revealed a top 10 sets of skills required by IT people as being ‘Leadership, people management, strategic planning, decision making, oral communications, collaboration, emotional intelligence, honesty, business analysis and (organizational change management)’, which represents a major transformation for many IT organizations. But is isn’t just IT. As Joe went on to mention, this requires ownership from both Business & IT. The fact that the business also needs to change can be found in research from an ISACA study (Benchmarking and Business value assessment of COBIT 5) which revealed ‘More business involvement in the Governance of Enterprise IT (GEIT) is required

Vaughan Merlyn stressed the need for BRMers to ‘Have a vision of where you want to take the business partner/provider but start from where they are now’, going on to add that BRMers should not ‘Collude with dysfunctional behavior’.

The discouraging picture painted above means not only must we develop new skills but we must also identify and recognize the behaviors that need to change. I revealed the latest top 10 sets of ‘Worst practices’ in Business & IT ‘Attitude, Behavior and Culture’, taken from global workshops with more than 2000 organizations. These behaviors represent the ‘Dysfunctional behavior’ Vaughan mentioned. These ABC findings are the same every year, FOR THE LAST 10 years! Time for things to change.

The question is ‘Can BRM make a difference’?……wait!....No, make that ‘BRM MUST make a difference’! We can no longer afford to fail.

These are the top 10:

  • Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other
  • Them & Us Culture –opposing and competing forces
  • IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority
  • Everything has the highest priority according to the business
  • IT thinks it doesn’t need to understand the business to make a business case
  • Demand & IT. I demand (Business) and you give in (IT)!
  • IT is too internally focused
  • Too little Business involvement in requirements definition and testing
  • No respect for or understanding of Business users
  • We don’t measure the Value contribution to strategy

The Convergence competences…

So how can we finally tackle this problem. BRM is in my mind undoubtedly a critical capability for solving the Business & IT relationship issue. However it will require a blend of new skills and competences, many of which, which the BRMI aims to deliver.  

In my presentation I used a cartoon of Superman (and Wonder Women) to show the skills that would be required. I mapped the core competences from the BRMP to the superman core competences. I thought the cartoon summed up perfectly where we are now.






Cartoon ©DC Comics, Competence model ©BRMI

Here we see the BRMer, in an uncomfortable place (the state of Business & IT-Alignment), the need to change quickly – to become a strategic partner – and in a hurry, to cater for the ‘velocity of change’.

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – BRMers must help IT organizations transform from ‘Order takers’ to ‘Strategic Partners’, which represents a significant Transformation.

Faster than a speeding bullet – Top CIO concerns in a SIM study (Society of Information Managers) revealed ‘Velocity of change in IT’ and ‘Velocity of business change’ as 2 of the top 10 issues. BRMers must help implement sound ‘Portfolio management’ to ensure the right investments are made, and to ensure ‘time-to-market’.

Stop runaway trains – BRMers as ‘Business Transition Managers’ must stop the runaway train of Shadow IT, or rather, ensure that uncoordinated investments don’t create significant risk and unacceptable ‘Value Leakage’ such as Cybersecurity threats, at the same time stop the decline in the perception of IT value.

Able to see through walls – BRMers must gain strategic business intelligence and help shape business strategy, without always being invited to strategic meetings. BRMers must help IT close the ever widening communications gap and ensure that IT develops a solid understanding of ‘business impact and priority’ as well as understand how they contribute towards business Value. 

Sound advice….

There were some very good speakers and some sound, practical advice. I have not named all of the speakers at the conference but below are some of the key messages on addressing many of the issues mentioned above.

Joe Topinka a highly successful CIO stated that ‘If BRM is to be successful then you must legitimize the role’. Going on to add ‘Get immersed in the Customer environments – business partner and end customers to understand the Value chain’.

I added ‘Go and meet a USER, send everybody into the business for a day to understand how Value is created and where Value leakage occurs’.

Aaron Monroe talked about ‘Business Value Increments’ and focusing on Value and outcomes revealing some models and case examples.

Gerry Robinson and Raghu Pillai showed an interesting model and ‘self-assessment’ which was free to delegates to download.

Peter Lijnse did 2 interactive workshops to explore ‘Dysfunctional behaviors’ and ‘what needs to be done’ – results will be documented in a paper with conclusions and recommendations. Watch this space.

David Reid showed an interesting matrix for ‘Articulating emerging technologies’ and stressing that BRMers should become the ‘ambassadors of possibility’ exploring emerging technologies in the context of their business strategy.

Peter Lijnse also conducted a Grab@Pizza business & IT-Alignment simulation exercise to explore the role of BRM in helping realize ‘Convergence’ between Business & IT which also created some ‘eye-opening’ take-aways.

I apologize for not mentioning all speakers. More news was announced relating to the CBRM course that will be launched in the coming months. I am looking forward to seeing which of the above issues will be addressed by this latest ‘How to’ training from BRMI.

Together with Peter Lijnse we also ran a Grab@Pizza business simulation game to explore the role of the BRMer in helping to raise both the Business and IT capabilities. One delegate described the experience as ‘Eye opening’.  

If you missed the Charlotte event, not to worry. There are more opportunities this year in Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.


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Alejandro Debenedet (06/05/2016)

Paul, thank you for your insight. All the input is useful but I liked the part where you explain how we can make a different most. Also thank you for putting together input from different other speakers. We thank you for helping us spread the word and make ITWNET a point of reference and realise our goal to make IT professionals more successful.

Alejandro Debenedet (09/05/2016)

Look and feel changes done! Looks better!. Thanks for the input PW!

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