keep bickering

The benefits of business-IT bickering

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When Problem Management is the Problem

In her book and TED Talk ‘The Mathematics of Love’, mathematician Hannah Fry shares her thoughts on the odds of finding your soul mate to the equation that explains the conversation patterns of lasting relationships. The most successful relationships are those with a really low negativity threshold. In those relationships, couples allow each other to complain, and work together to constantly repair the tiny issues between them. By taking this approach, couples don’t bottle up their feelings, and little things don’t end up being blown completely out of proportion. These relationships aren’t merely ones in which both partners are comfortable complaining, but also ones in which the language of those complaints doesn’t cast the complainer as a victim of the other person’s behaviour.

The Business Relationship Manager

The same applies to the relationship between the business and IT. Not only do you need a communication channel but also a healthy attitude on both sides. And of course, a ‘couple’ with a relationship. There is increasing interest in the IT community for the phenomenon of Business Relationship Management. The BRM Institute offers good guidance in this domain and positions BRM both as an organizational capability and a role. As an organizational capability, Business Relationship Management “embodies a set of competencies (knowledge, skills, and behaviours) and processes that foster productive, value-producing relationships between a provider and the business entities they serve.” As a role, its purpose is “to stimulate, surface and shape business demand for a provider’s products and services, and facilitate the capturing, optimization, and communication to maximize business value captured from the provider’s products and services.”

An IT Relationship Manager?

More often than not, the BRM role is positioned within the IT department and is tasked with managing IT’s relationship with the business. The interesting question is, with whom does IT’s BRM have a relationship? I’m a bit picky with words and say that if the Business Relationship Manager manages IT’s relationship with the business, then the business has an IT Relationship Manager who manages the business’ relationship with IT. You can add this role to the various other roles that the business fulfils, either consciously and formally, or not. For a formal description of these and other business-side responsibilities, take a look at the ASL BiSL Foundation’s Business Information Services Library (BiSL®). The business probably doesn’t think about it in these terms and neither should they have to. But nevertheless, somebody in the business is talking to IT. Hopefully often and meaningfully.

Keep bickering!

I have conducted workshops in various countries in which the participants decide which kind of behaviour is likely to get the most value out of investments in IT. The participant’s overarching statement is that the enterprise should “foster a culture in which business and IT share a joint vision and are part of the same story, have an ongoing dialogue, have mature conversations, and strike balances.” Based on Hannah Fry’s research, the only thing we need to add to that is “and bicker continuously.”

References

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Mark Smalley, also known as The IT Paradigmologist, thinks, writes and speaks extensively about IT 'paradigms' – in other words our changing perspectives on IT. His current interests are the digital enterprise, IT operating models, value of IT, business-IT relationships, co-creation of value, multidisciplinary collaboration, working with complexity, and as the overarching theme, management of information systems in general. Mark is an IT Management Consultant at Smalley.IT and Ambassador at the ASL BiSL Foundation. Mark has spoken at 100+ events in 20+ countries.