To say that digital technology has changed the world is an understatement. Digital transformations are revolutionizing entire industries and reshaping every aspect of business. To stay competitive, businesses must accelerate the delivery of digital products and services. To meet business demand, IT organizations must accelerate the delivery of secure, high-quality and reliable software features and functionality (DevOps).
The thing about any transformation, whether it’s the digital transformation affecting the world, or the DevOps transformation affecting IT organizations and their business partners, is that it’s never only about the technology. A successful transformation requires shifts in peoples’ behaviors, mindsets, vocabulary, roles and reporting relationships. It requires changes to processes and to day-to-day operating procedures.
Perhaps most importantly, the ability to undertake and achieve any transformation is determined by whether, or not, the company’s leadership has articulated a clear business strategy and has fostered a culture that embraces innovation, collaboration, and experimentation, taking risks and learning from failure (The Third Way).
Here’s where Business Relationship Management comes into play. As a discipline, Business Relationship Management embodies a set of competencies (knowledge, skills and behaviors) that foster productive, value-producing relationships between an IT organization and its business partners. As a role, a Business Relationship Manager (BRM) is a link between a provider organization and one or more business units. BRM(s) work with business units to understand their needs and plans and to coordinate the delivery of IT services that meet those needs. Ultimately, BRMS help move the IT organization from being viewed as an order taker into a strategic business partner.
But herein lies the reality. Business unit leaders aren’t going to be willing to discuss strategic plans with BRMs until they can trust that the issues of today and this week (incidents, problems, changes, releases) are being taken care of. The road from service provider to trusted advisor to strategic business partner is built on a foundation of IT service management excellence.
The same can be said for DevOps. You sometimes hear that DevOps and IT service management (ITSM) aren’t compatible (but that’s another blog for another day). The reality is that organizations that are successfully adopting DevOps practices such as continuous integration, continuous delivery and continuous testing are performing ITSM processes. Those processes are just so streamlined and, in many cases, automated that people don’t even realize that they are executing ITSM processes.
Will excellence in ITSM guarantee the elevation of the IT organization to strategic business partner? Not necessarily. But BRMs will never get a seat at the table when strategic conversations are happening without it.