On Thursday 27th of June the eighth Strategic IT Partner forum took place at the impressive Great Hall within King's College in central London. This was our biggest event yet and offered those in the IT Partnering community an opportunity to network and attend various talks, including:
- Paul Bratcher (Former CMO and CDO at Rexel UK) - In Pursuit of Strategy
- Meghana Garg (Associate Director - IT Product Manager at JLL) – Digital, The Need of Today
- Dafydd Moore (Global Head of Business Relationship Management at Dyson) - Perspectives on Partnering, Green Fields
- Jon Baxter (Managing Director at Baxter Thompson Associates) Top Challenges Debate & Helping People Change The Way They Work
- Robina Chatham (Mechanical Engineer, Neuroscientist and former CIO) - Becoming Personally Powerful
- Judy Rees (Author, speaker, consultant, trainer and coach) - Fixing Ghastly Online Meetings
- Thierry Ackermann (CTO & Head of Transformation at Audley Travel Group) - Business Model Canvas
- Ian Huke (COO and Co-Founder of THROUGH IDEAs) - Thinking and Prototyping
My key takeaways from the session were as follows:
1. Quick wins are still important, but be careful. Partners must still drive to operate at a strategic level but should remember quick wins (despite being seen as quite tactical) remain part of the IT BRM/IT BP tool kit. Quick wins can be very useful to improve the IT BRM/IT BP and wider IT department “brands”, especially if their perception is poor. However, on the flip side, Partners need to be conscious not to become the “go to” person to sort out all problems. It is a balancing act based on many factors, including the maturity of the relationship with your stakeholder, the behaviours of the stakeholder, the business you work in etc.
2. You don’t always need to change the world. If the perception of IT is poor, consider not reinventing the wheel in the first instance. For example, rather than implementing an entirely new solution (where there is a higher risk of not delivering on time and in budget), consider re-engineering an existing solution which minimises that risk and assuming all goes well, starts building the confidence of the organisation around ITs abilities.
3. The wider business partnering community. Partners should never neglect business partnering colleagues in other departments of the organisation (for example HR, Marketing, Finance etc.). Partners should build relationships with those colleagues, learn how they operate, who their key stakeholders are, what their key challenges are, share ideas etc. A more inclusive business partnering function, working together on shared objectives and goals will be to the benefit of all.
4. The power of coffee. Partners should never under estimate the power of a quick chat, whether by the water cooler, a coffee or drink after work. Use this time to build trust. With that trust you can become bolder with that particular stakeholder. But remember, if you get that time ensure you make a difference. Don’t just report back what that stakeholder already knows. Partners should also always consider how they can incentivise people and find messages they want to follow rather than those they’re being told to follow.
5. Networking. You’ve identified a key stakeholder you wish to build a relationship with. Remember not to focus just on that individual but also those around him/her. Partners should use these people to build your brand with the ultimate target.
6. Keep it simple. When dealing with senior stakeholders, the message needs to be simple. It should entail a visual metaphor and call to action (remember unicorns). If it’s a strategy it should be simple and easy to explain. If it’s not, it is not a strategy.
7. Avoid technology chat. IT BRM/IT BPs should start any conversation with a stakeholder focusing on business capabilities and business needs. This will open up a new avenue of conversation and drive it away from just the end solution and shiny new kit.
8. IT needs to play by their own rules. IT BRM/IT BPs and the IT department as a whole need to follow the same processes that the rest of the business are made to observe. This will provide IT with a far greater insight of the pain points and frustrations that are experienced by the rest of the organisation. Perhaps an IT Business Partner for IT would help here?
9. Where should Partners sit? In the business or in IT? Neither is perfect but the best fit is likely to be on a case by case basis decided via various internal and external factors (stakeholder maturity, organisational structure, markets covered, perception of IT etc.). Is the nirvana perhaps an entirely separate business partnering function, covering all departments (IT, HR, Marketing, Finance etc.) reporting into the executive?
10. Value/benefits realisation. Partners are, in the main, still not doing this despite it being key element of the role. Despite the daily pressures, Partners need to find the time to undertake this key area of the role as it will ensure continuous improvement, which ultimately will help you become more strategic.
My thanks again to the panel members Paul Bratcher, Meghana Garg and Dafydd Moore for sharing their expertise and thoughts on a variety of questions and of course to the delegates on the day for those questions. The IT BRM/IT BP role continues to be very challenging one, where many factors (both internal and external) need to be juggled to ensure its effectiveness. Whilst more and more organisations are understanding the value such a position can bring, the IT BRM/IT BP role cannot be fixed in its duties and required outcomes. One size does not fit all.
Your thoughts and comments are, as always, very welcome.