Role Conflict

The Top Challenges Facing IT Business Partners today

Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter

At the BRM Forum in London delegates gained some practical takeaways after participating in the BRM Forum. This is the second in a four part mini series.

Article written by James O'Driscoll, Gilbert Scott Associates.

On Friday 9th of June the 5th BRM forum took place in central London.  The session was a mix of debate, presentation and business simulation via [email protected]  In terms of the debate this was a panel discussion hosted by James O'Driscoll on top challenges facing IT Business Partners today.   The challenges were derived from a survey commissioned by Jon Baxter specifically for this event.

The panel for the debate were as follows:

  • Katie DeLay – Head of IT (Corporate Functions) – Rolls Royce Plc

  • Mark Lenton - VP IT: Industrial / Electronic Divisions – RS Components Ltd

  • Joanna Goodrick - Head of Business Architecture and Strategic Alignment - Cambridge Assessment

We’d like to thank all our panellists and delegates for their input in this session, which is summarised below.  A special thanks must go to Joanna Goodrick who stepped in at the very last minute.


Challenge #2 Role Conflict - overlapping responsibilities or lack of clarity

This was our second most popular challenge and again the panel and delegates came up with a number of recommendations that have been utilised and produced positive outcomes within their own organisation.  However, it should be noted that all organisations are different and therefore all IT Business Partners will experience different conflicts.

1.    IT Business Partners need to ensure their role is clearly defined.  An in-depth job specification with specific details around roles and responsibilities will certainly help.  IT BPs should also ensure they are continually educating their stakeholder/business units in terms of what their role is.  Organisational charts, plan on pages etc. can help with this education piece.
2.    Some delegates went a step further and used playbooks, a more in-depth roles and responsibilities framework using different scenarios, different projects etc.  They found this helped to provide even greater clarity.
3.    Ensure the core interface areas for the IT Business Partner function are clearly defined.
4.    IT Business Partners need to accept there will be overlap of roles.  However, there should be a core for each position that needs to be clearly described.  Outside of the core, IT Business Partners need to have the mind set to not get involved in a “territory war”.  Remember the role of the IT Business Partner is to facilitate.  If colleagues outside of the IT Business Partners want to take over a flex element of your role, this should be encouraged.  
5.    Be practical.  If a member of the IT function has the perfect skill set or competency to complete a specific task, ask yourself what value do I bring by getting involved.
6.    Ensure the IT Business Partner is correctly aligned to the relevant stakeholder/business unit.  There will always be conflict if, for example, your IT Business Partner is a strategic thinker but your stakeholder/ business function only really operates at a tactical level.  
7.    Make sure you hire the right people (for example if you hire a very delivery focused IT Business Partner this is likely to cause conflict with the project management function).  IT Business Partners are generally born not made and 50% of their skill set is focussed on the soft skills such as influence, relationship building, strategic thinking etc.  A competency framework specific to the IT Business Partner role will help here and ideally should be used for both the IT Business Partner being recruited in (whether internal or external) and their key stakeholder/business function.  
8.    IT Business Partners need to encourage the stakeholder/business function to approach them in the first instance to suggest the best person for a particular task.  However, this needs to be managed carefully.  The IT Business Partner needs to ensure that once that introduction has been made they are remove themselves from the day to day duties of the task by influencing the person assigned to take the lead, but at the same time not give the impression to the stakeholder/business function they are being “palmed off.”  It is accepted this process is easier when introducing the stakeholder/business function to a 3rd party/outsourcer.
9.    IT Business Partners should be trying to use their influence to ensure their department sits at a senior management level within the overall organisational structure.  
10.    Make sure the right governance frameworks are in place.


Back to Top