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Written by Graham Furnis
It’s been several months since the 2011 Refresh ITIL books were released and I’ve enjoyed reading through them. This article is one in a series to follow that discusses new ideas and concepts.
Business Relationship Management (BRM) is a new process in the Service Strategy lifecycle. Its ITIL purpose is to establish a relationship between the service provider and customer around understanding and meeting business requirements. Its primary concern is customer satisfaction. For those familiar with ITIL and Service Level Management (SLM), you might see an overlap here with what was once done within SLM.
To help understanding of this new BRM process, it’s key to recognize that BRM sits within the Service Strategy lifecycle. This is important because all strategic efforts focus our attention on achieving end-business outcomes and success. This leads the BRM role to be one focused on building relationships and driving discussions within the business around the topic of “how are we (IT) doing in supporting you (the Business) in delivering your business outcomes and remaining competitive?”
This type of discussion is very strategic and high level! It’s quite different from the focus within the SLM process of negotiating and reviewing Service Level targets. Service Targets are a tactical way of measuring a Service, but doesn’t answer the question of “are we making a positive contribution to our business?” Achieving or surpassing targets is important, but by itself is not a definitive measure of meeting business objectives.
A second key strategic difference derived from the BRM process is one of direction. Once we establish the BRM-Business relationship and we clear the air when asking “how are we doing”, we can then move forward and ask “what’s changing in the Business and how do we in IT have to plan ahead for?” Failing to have enough lead time has been an IT challenge in much of my experience. The BRM process, in my interpretation, provides a point of focus in looking ahead, anticipating, and participating in new initiatives rather than being brought to the table later in the game. This is also something that was not clearly defined in the previous ITIL versions. Comparing back to SLM, if we leave this activity within the reviews of Service Levels we usually get consumed by the details of Service Level targets and lose sight of these more forward looking possibilities.
The last part of this article discusses the high level activities specific to BRM. These activities are lifecycle-wide, starting in Strategy and continuing through Improvement. The first step is to group Customers and their business outcomes, Business Relationship Managers and the IT Services of the Customer, and any contracts or projects that may be applicable within the defined scope. For major changes or new IT Services, the BRM process coordinates with all Strategy processes and the Customer to ensure strategic requirements and patterns of business activity are understood in order to define the business case.
Continuing through Service Design, the BRM process validates all of the Strategic documents mentioned with the growing reality of what the IT Service will look and act like. Within Transition, the BRM process will continue to coordinate with the Customer for testing, validation, evaluation, release schedules, training and overall acceptance. In Operation, the BRM process is involved in major Incidents as well as ensuring planned outages do not negatively affect business outcomes. Continual Improvement involves regular reviews for IT Service ability to meet business outcomes and strategic requirements, and in understanding customer and user satisfaction and feedback.
Overall, the BRM process provides a good distinction and focus between managing business outcomes and strategic requirements versus managing Service Level performance and targets in SLM. Establishing and refining the business and strategy focus continues to be a main direction of the ITIL framework in which the BRM process helps bring us closer to this goal.
Graham Furnis is fully immersed and passionate in providing ITSM solutions. He is a business-driven IT professional with 20+ years of technology and management experience. He is certified as an ITIL Manager and Expert as well as an accredited instructor.