Digital Transformation – Disruption – Here We Go Again! Is it just Fake News?

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…The Camera pans out to show a Jetway, and passengers boarding an aircraft. The scene fades out and then fades in showing a cockpit and a plane cruising….

Day 1: A KLM Boeing-777 cruising at 37,000 feet somewhere between Amsterdam and Washington.

The CEO of Grab@Pizza is sipping his Gin and Tonic. He has just put down the financial pages of the newspaper he was reading and is in a dark mood after examining the latest share price and having read an unfavorable article about his company. ‘Fake News!’ he grumbled.

He opened the document map in front of him in preparation for his meeting with the Business & IT team in Washington. It contained an exorbitantly priced consulting report about ‘Digital Transformation’ which kept going on about ‘Disruption’. There was also the results of a COBIT audit report criticizing the IT capabilities and how these were negatively impacting growth. ‘We do pizzas not servers….you can’t eat a server….yet servers seem to be eating away our share value’ he observed. The final one page briefing was from the CFO who wanted to outsource IT and start all over again, complaining about the IT ‘Culture’ and citing the following as evidence. (As usual it was composed with annoying bold letters, italics and underlining for emphasis):


Evidence Item 1: 2013 – article: “The IT talent problem” – is still relevant!!. In this article executives were asked “If you had a magic wand, what one talent problem would you solve?” More than 70% said “Give business skills to their technologists… they do not understand the business context of their technology work, nor can they have a meaningful discussion with the leaders of the business areas their technology supports.”

Evidence Item 2: 2015 –  “Communication between IT and non-IT workers in a state of crisis” which revealed ‘…that IT teams lack the talent to communicate. This results in a state of crisis between IT and non-IT employees, which could prove disastrous in this era of unparalleled digital disruption’.

Evidence Item 3: 2017 –  Gartner CIO Agenda report.  Top barriers to successfully showing the value of IT – talent being number one issue, citing “Business knowledge and acumen.” Worryinglythe same issues that CIOs cited four years earlier in the exact same study.

The briefing note finished with a hand scrawled ‘BRM???’ – Whatever that meant, followed by the words ‘Brave this Ridiculous Mess / Business Relationship Management?’

‘BING’…..The CEO was jarred from his thoughts as the aircraft hit a patch of turbulence. ‘Sorry folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for a while’ announced the Captains voice. ‘You can say that again’ thought the CEO, thinking about the ‘Digital Transformation’ journey that lay ahead……

Day 2: The Gaylord convention Centre, Washington. The annual BRMI Connect conference. 

Scene 1: The Grab@Pizza simulation workshop room.

A group of BRM’s (Business Relationship Managers) file into the room carrying cups of tepid coffee.
Many had determined looks on their faces. Perhaps they had read a recent ‘compelling story’ on the internet, and had decided ‘It is time for IT to become a strategic partner to the business’ (brave ambitions, not to be taken lightly!). They had taken their first step by attending the BRMI Connect conference to gain new knowledge, skills and competences.

After 2 days of inspirational BRM sessions they took up the challenge to translate their theory into practice in an experiential learning workshop….

The delegates took their seats, not knowing what to expect. They were suddenly immersed into the fictive Grab@Pizza organization. Their competitors being global giants such as Domino’s Pizza, New York Pizza and Papa John’s. The delegates would play both the business & IT roles within the Grab@Pizza company, challenged with helping to turn the company round by exploiting the power and potential of IT. Peter Lijnse, Suresh GP and Leif Andersson Global BRM champions facilitated the session.

Scene 2: The State of the Union speech from the CEO

The game facilitator…(me)….playing the role of Grab@Pizza CEO sets the scene…..

Welcome…’ said the CEO with a disgruntled look on his face. ‘…did any of you read the financial pages of the newspaper this morning?……I read them in the plane on my way over here’!

There were confused looks and heads nodding ‘No’?

So you haven’t seen that share prices are dropping?…We failed to meet our financial targets for the second quarter in a row!…’ He paused for dramatic effect, adding ‘Our franchise growth is slowing considerably. Franchises are leaving due to poor IT enablement and delayed order deliveries…. We are losing out to our competitors in ‘Customer Experience’ and ‘Digital Enablement’…Our business intelligence predictive capabilities are losing us money!…….What do you mean you haven’t read this? …..I thought you wanted to be strategic BRM’s!….How can you be strategic if you do not know our strategic concerns’?

Above: The CEO sets the scene

A few of the delegates looked at the BRM Connect agenda to see if they could sneak out into another session, one in which the CEO wouldn’t be wagging his finger at them!….

Scene 3: The communications Chasm…..we are in the second round of the simulation

The CEO had decided to walk around and see at first hand if the Business & IT gap is real and if so, how bad it is. A meeting is in progress to discuss IT changes in relation to the business portfolio of initiatives.

‘….Explain to me what this change is?’ Asked the CEO.

Er…that’s for the sales server upgrade…so that we can ensure we have enough capacity’ declared the IT Operations manager.

‘Capacity for what’?

‘…Transactions across the network’


‘We are seeing a spike on the server and it is exceeding capacity thresholds, it is also causing increased incidents’.

‘I’m not convinced’! said the CEO, thinking to himself ‘I haven’t got a clue what he is talking about’.
Let’s push through the business change instead’! proposed the CEO.

Er…’ began the IT Operations manager, seeing his change being swept off the Calendar ‘…if we don’t do this the server will be overloaded’.

So’? Questioned the CEO.

‘…We won’t be able to process all the transactions’.

What transactions’?

Er….transactions related to business project number 1’.

And what was that supposed to deliver’?

Er….more sales transactions’.

There you go again’ said the CEO, ‘you are talking in bits and bytes, servers and transactions, throughput and delays…I want to know what that means in business terms!…..Let’s go back to the start of the day. What did I say about the news? Share price, Franchise growth?….What did the BRM tell you about our business initiatives’?….

There was silence. It was clear that there was a chasm between the Business & IT in terms of communication and Business IQ. Just like reality!

The CEO remembered the banner he saw on the Jetway entering the aircraft, ‘Culture shock here we come’. This had clearly been a shock. He saw that the IT people were dedicated, hard working, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, energized professionals…but nobody understood the business, the business priorities, or how what they did made an impact on the business.

digital transformation

The team took a time-out to reflect on the BRM competences, assess what they knew, in terms of business IQ and then tried again.

The IT Operations manager stood at the change table and stated ‘We need this change, the reason being that you….er we, have rolled out web based ordering to all Franchises, as well as mobile solutions to attract a younger generation of customers….if we don’t do this change the Franchise holders will complain, not to mention the loss of revenue, the mobile users will create a twitter stream of complaints, it may get in the press again, damage our reputation, impact share price and growth’. The CEO was frowning. ‘.. At the same time’ went on the IT Operations manager ‘it is required for the Super bowl….we want to reduce any risk, as this is our biggest revenue generator for achieving our financial targets’.

Why didn’t you say that in the first place, so it supports both value creation and prevents value leakage’ and can directly impact our strategic initiatives’ stated the CEO.

The Business directors were looking very smug with themselves. ‘How much have we lost due to downtime’? Asked the CEO.

Er…..’ responded the Service Desk manager.
Who knows the business impact of outages to the production lines and loss of sales’? Asked the CEO, looking at the Business directors.

We do’ said the business sounding superior.

How come IT doesn’t know this’? Asked the CEO.

They never asked us’ answered the business finance director grinning from ear to ear, waiting for the CEO to chastise IT!

Why didn’t you tell them’ stated the CEO. ‘Who here is responsible for value leakage?….your job isn’t to just throw all of your value creation projects and features over the wall insisting everything has the highest priority…your job is also to protect against risks and value leakage’!

This sounds to me like a Governance issue’ said the BRM. ‘Governance is all about value creation, which is about balancing benefits realization with risk optimization and resource optimization….who is responsible for ensuring effective IT Governance?’ asked the BRM.

The CEO blinked once or twice……

Fade out….

Voiceover: That was the latest true story in the Business & IT Alignment soap saga. And now back to reality and the real life conclusions we can draw from this….

Conclusions roll up the screen like a cast of characters at the end of the film….

  • CEO’s around the world are recognizing the increasing importance and criticality of IT to enabling business growth.
  • Current IT skills, talent and capabilities need to transform to fulfill the strategic partner role that is being required from IT.
  • Business & IT Alignment is still a top concern in industry surveys, primarily defined by the poor relationship between Business & IT.
  • BRM is a sorely missing link to the illusive Business & IT Alignment problem, yet many organizations are unfamiliar with what BRM really is, mixing it up with Customer Relationship, Business Analysts, Account Managers.
  • Many BRM functions are currently tactical and struggling to become strategic, hindered by issues relating to trust and credibility often as a result of mis-aligned ITSM capabilities and skills.
  • BRM should be a strategic capability, not a person or role but a complete change of attitude and behaviors within all levels of IT AND the business.
  • Consistently year-in, year-out for 15 years ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’ has been a top scoring ABC (Attitude, behavior, Culture) workshops held globally with more than 4000 organizations! The BRM core competences of ‘Business IQ’ and ‘Communication’ remain two of the biggest issues we in IT struggle with, as can also be seen in the articles in the briefing note the CEO was reading.


  • The business simulation was an eye opener to many, bringing alive the BRM theory and models and allowing delegates to translate their theory into practice within the simulated environment.
  • The simulation is an instrument for bringing end-to-end stakeholders from business & IT together to help solve the Business & IT Alignment issues, at the same time demonstrating to both the Business Partner and IT provider organization the value of the BRM role and capability.

Screen fades to black with a final voiceover:

What next? If you recognize the issues above you can carry on doing what you do to ‘Brave this Ridiculous Mess (BRM)’ as Peter Lijnse described it, or you can take your first steps in creating a real ‘Business Relationship management (BRM)’ capability.  Read the first installment of this saga again to help you decide. The choice is yours. What would YOUR CEO expect you to do?

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Paul Wilkinson

Paul has been actively involved in ITSM for more than 30 years in the roles of managing consultant, Service development manager and as ITIL developer. Paul was co-author of the ITIL publication “Planning to Implement IT Service Management” and was a member of the ITIL advisory group for ITIL Version 3. Paul is also co-director and owner of GamingWorks, the company that developed the internationally renowned ‘Apollo 13 – an ITSM case experience’ ITSM simulation game as well as Project management, Business & IT-Alignment and DevOps business simulations. He was also co-and developer of the ‘ABC of ICT’ (The Attitude, Behavior and Culture of ICT) publications, having conducted ABC workshops and simulation workshops with delegates representing more than 5000 organizations world-wide.