Monthly Research
& Market Commentary

Engaging with the Business on their Terms – the BRM's Core Capability

Assets/Capabilities / 02 Oct 2015 / By Mike Bowden

Why do IT leaders ask their partners in other functions or operations: “what do you want from IT?”, when the uncomfortable truth is that the majority of the people asked are utterly incapable of answering the question?

At worst, they might have no interest in – or understanding of – technology, and no experience in working on a systems project.  Most often, they have given little consideration to how technology can improve their business processes or customer interface and have not spent any time preparing for the meeting.

My advice is to start with questions about the business and not about technology, and speak in language they can engage with

So we need to be smarter in our approach.  My advice is to start with questions about the business and not about technology, and speak in language they can engage with.  You might consider using some of these to get started with as many of your senior stakeholders as you can:

  • How will we differentiate ourselves and be more successful than our competition?
  • What business activities or processes will enable that success?
  • How will we grow the top line and bottom line and how can we make better use of our existing assets?
  • What are the top five risks our business faces?
  • What does your operation or function need to achieve in the next 12-36 months?
  • What are we choosing not to do?
  • How would you describe the company operating model and how do you think the centre should add value to the business units or operations?

The important thing is to have an engaging conversation on their terms and not yours.  These skills, which require development of self and of approach, are something we provide in our personally challenging BRM courses which I really enjoy delivering.

Now you can lock yourself away for a while and think about what you have learned from all your conversations, and build a picture of how the conversations fit together and what they mean for your business. 

Next, schedule follow-up meetings with the same stakeholders and talk about your view of how technology should be applied in your enterprise to achieve the business strategy, differentiate your product or services, enable your key business activities, reduce risk, improve profit and so on. 

Of course, these days we cannot ignore ‘Digital’ and the way new technology is changing business itself.  The change has come quickly to some industries such as media, transport, financial services and health care, but it is going to transform all industries over time.  As the ‘owners’ of technology in the enterprise, we are uniquely placed to lead the thinking and change that will come to products, services, business models, customer engagement and operating efficiency.  So the sort of questions we need to come up with answers to are: 

  1. How will technology change our industry, our business model or the products/services we sell?
  2. Do our investment plans reflect the requirement to capitalize on these opportunities?

This conversation is about much more than just developing a ‘traditional IT strategy’ as it puts us at the core of your enterprise and creates great expectations of change.

The way the technology will affect your industry is probably not clear yet so a more realistic expectation, than creating a full blown digital strategy, is to conduct your own research, think about possible disruptions in your industry and then try small inexpensive pilot initiatives to assess what will work and what will not.  LEF Culture or Xperience Labs may be of help in this regard.  It’s worth noting that you will probably not be able to justify these pilots on the basis of the value created, but you must sell them on the basis of an absolute imperative to ensure the survival of the enterprise when your industry is inevitably disrupted by technology.  For advice on this or associated Business Relationship Management (BRM) challenges, click here.


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