BRM Capability: Strategic Planning and Roadmapping
by Santosh Kadatare
As the CIO, how can a BRM help me? What does a BRM actually do on a day-to-day basis? What is a BRM accountable for? These questions (and many more!) are on the minds of many CIOs who haven’t yet embraced some form of IT and business partnership.
Furthermore, why do CIOs demand answers to these questions? The answer: when implementing something new within an organization—such as a BRM capability—the purpose and expectations should be crystal clear. Since the CIO is the primary sponsor of the BRM capability, they should be able to convey what a BRM does and how they can add value in the pursuit of IT and business partnership, which is critical when the CIO is seeking buy-in from C-level peers.
In an effort to answer these questions, let’s begin by understanding what a BRM can do to drive IT and business partnership:
BRM, IT, and Business Partnership
Below are some of the responsibilities of a BRM within an enterprise:
- To become the strategic interface between the business partner and IT organization
- To ensure strategic convergence between business strategy and IT capabilities
- To facilitate business strategic planning and roadmapping for the business partner
- To ensure that value is realized from all IT capabilities, assets, and investments
- To surface and shape business demand for IT services
- To coordinate with other BRMs to identify, converge, and leverage enterprise opportunities
- To partner with IT and the business partner to manage expectations, ensure portfolio delivery, and improve portfolio performance and governance
- To orchestrate key IT roles on behalf of the business partner
- To collaborate with the project management office to execute the portfolio
- To reinforce the Service Management discipline and competence
Many of the points above relate to strategic planning, since one of the key areas in which a BRM can add value is within the organization’s strategic planning process. Additionally, in order for any capability to sustain itself over the long term, it is necessary to demonstrate results. In the strategic planning process, the BRM can help the business translate their ideas into a roadmap for action to achieve the desired outcomes or results.
Below is a roadmapping process that outlines the BRM capability and its role in converging business and IT strategies and priorities. (Some of the concepts and tools mentioned are courtesy of BRMBoK and BRM Wiki).
Business Capability Roadmapping is an approach used to converge business and IT strategies and priorities, in consideration of Enterprise Strategy. The purpose is to clarify the business capabilities needed to implement business strategy, as well as the IT capabilities needed to enable them.
Business Capability Roadmapping achieves the following:
- Establishes the direction in which the business is taking key capabilities over the next two to three years
- Facilitates strategic thinking instead of short-term project thinking
- Drives conversations that help increase both business and IT savviness
- Points the business process, information, applications, and technological capabilities towards a common plan
- Reveals cross-functional or cross-enterprise opportunities through roadmap analysis
- Provides insight into the direction of IT technology and workforce planning
You may now be wondering how can a BRM can even begin the conversation for roadmapping with the business? What is the catalyst for discussions of business capabilities? What is important enough for the business to pay attention? As mentioned above, it all begins with Enterprise Strategy.
A common misconception is that strategy equates to planning. However, strategy actually refers to “an integrated set of choices that creates sustainable advantage to competition to deliver superior financial return” (Harvard Business Review Blog, 2013). Strategy helps steer an organization’s direction. On the other hand, planning is an outcome of strategy.
Strategy to Planning
Below is a step-by-step process that a BRM can use to translate high-level Enterprise strategy into a plan that can be executed. The BRM can “own” this process and be held accountable for the achievement of the results. The process shown in the figure is an outline for Business Capability Roadmapping.
- Formulating Business Strategy – The business strategy here refers to the enterprise vision (why?), mission (what?), priorities (how?), and results (the outcomes). It begins by examining the business reality, competitive landscape, customer landscape, and market disruptions, followed by deciding where the business wants to be in the next three to five years. For each strategy, the business needs to identify the possible outcomes, potential impacts of each outcome, and determine the measures for the outcome. All of these steps are usually done at C-level, so the BRM would receive the formulated enterprise strategy from the CIO.
Using the same framework, the BRM can work with the business function lead to break down the enterprise strategy to the business function level. To achieve this, please see below for some sample open-ended questions and ways that a BRM can ask the business function lead to clarify.
VISION (the ‘Why’)
- Why is your business function important to the organization?
- Why is your business function needed from the perspective of a business partner?
- Why are you different from the rest of the organization?
- Why are you different from a similar business function at a competitor?
Based on the responses, an aspirational vision statement can be derived.
MISSION (the ‘What’)
- What does the business function do?
- What is the business driver?
- What changes do you expect in the near future?
- What are the major issues to be addressed? How do they impact costs, growth, and market share?
- What business value remains unrealized?
Based on the responses, a mission statement can be derived that closely aligns with the vision statement.
PRIORITIES (the ‘How’)
- What are the priorities (focus points, themes, pillars) for the business function?
- What are the key sets of actions to realize these priorities?
- What is the impact of these actions?
- What are the associated benefits and risks?
Based on the responses, the initiatives that need to be addressed at an operational level begin taking shape.
- What is the desired outcome for each action?
- What is the timeframe to achieve these?
- What are the specific measurements of each outcome?
Based on the responses, each outcome can be framed as a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timebound) goal.
The process to finalize the business function strategy is very iterative, and the BRM can facilitate this process until everyone is on the same page. I have found the strategy-on-a-page (SOAP) tool to be useful when listening, interpreting, documenting, and communicating business strategy to stakeholders.
- Identifying and Roadmapping Business Capabilities – This step captures the capabilities required by each business function in order to achieve the business strategy. The BRM can facilitate this process by working closely with business function leads, managers, and subject matter experts to create a business roadmap of capabilities, which are critical to achieving the business function strategy.
- Identifying and Roadmapping Enabling IT Capabilities – In this step, the BRM collaborates with IT architecture to assess which IT capabilities are required to enable the business capabilities. This later becomes part of the IT roadmap, along with other capabilities required by the IT function.
**Note that Steps 2 and 3 can be reversed in an enterprise in which technology is driving the business capability. **
- Assessing Enterprise Opportunities – In this step, the BRM collaborates with other BRMs or business functions to explore a standard approach wherever possible. By comparing strategies across business units, some common themes may come to the forefront. The BRMs can work together to increase visibility of these themes across the business function leads. The result will be increased collaboration amongst business units that can result in a program approach.
- Creating Capability Business Cases – Here, the BRM leads the quantitative and qualitative assessment to justify the new capabilities required. The BRM can collaborate with functional leads and financial analysts to consolidate the soft and hard benefits, while also collaborating with the various IT leads to consolidate the technology and resources needed to realize the capability.
Once the business case is completed, the remainder of the steps deals with consolidating the information and fine-tuning.
- Update Enterprise Capability Roadmap – Here, the BRMs, Project Management Office, and Architecture teams work together to consolidate all of the business capabilities and IT capabilities onto a single integrated roadmap. This can act as proof of IT and business convergence.
- Create Project Proposals – The capabilities then break down into smaller initiatives or project proposals, which contribute to a more precise capability business case.
- Prioritize Capabilities and Projects – Decisions must then be made on which projects enter the pipeline for execution. All decisions on project priority are made jointly with senior executives, based on an evaluation of the investment return and other criteria.
- Identify Technology and Skills – The technology and resource skillsets identified must then break down to specifics. This will result in plans for resource hiring and technology procurement.
The above process can be repeated by the BRM based on the organization’s operating rhythm. Below is an example of an annual process broken down by quarter.
Quarter 1 – Clarify strategy for business capabilities; develop roadmap; clarify enabling IT capabilities
Quarter 2 – Identify programs or projects; prepare business case and budget
Quarter 3 – Prioritize programs or projects; identify technology and resources
Quarter 4 – Seek approval to execute programs and projects; track and monitor; plan and adjust capacity
Once the capabilities are deployed and the associated execution practices are put in place, results are generated and compared against the business outcomes that were originally planned.
Overall, the BRM can drive the process from strategy to planning to execution to results, and then tie it back to strategy. Ultimately, the BRM becomes invaluable to the organization in their strategic planning process.
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