The Organization Culture Matters More Than the Org Chart

Posted | Category: BRM Philosophy | Contributed




Virtually every major car manufacturer is focusing on the production of electric cars – in response to the demands of their customers to reduce greenhouse gases and dependence on fossil fuels.  But, did you know that General Motors (GM) actually produced a fully electric car in the late 1990’s?

The GM EV1 was the first mass-produced fully electric car available to the public, but in its haste to deliver its product, GM made some questionable decisions that ultimately affected the future of the EV1:  (1) it set up a lease-only marketing strategy; (2) it took a near-sighted view of future demand; and (3) even though it got positive reviews from its customers that leased the vehicles, it recalled the EV1 vehicles and “recycled” them.  All in all, GM literally crushed its innovative product and missed a great opportunity.

Let us draw a parallel of the GM EV1 to the concept of Business Relationship Management (BRM).  At roughly the same time GM was producing the EV1, the term “business relationship management” was first coined, even though, in reality, business relationship management has existed as long as information technology service providers have been supporting businesses.  But, as the BRM discipline began to be defined and innovative organizations rushed to dedicate resources to fill this role, I believe some questionable decisions were made that led to confusion within the organizations that continues to this day.

In a nutshell, these early adopters failed to clearly articulate where the BRM fit within the organization.

In fact, when I talk to BRM’s across the globe about their challenges, common themes inevitably emerge:

·       I have to sell the business and IT on the benefits I can provide

·       I lack executive support from the CIO

·       The CFO doesn’t see a sufficient ROI and I’m afraid the BRM Program will be eliminated

·       IT and the business thinks we are an extension of the Service Desk – we are supposed to respond to VIP Help Desk tickets

·       Tasks that no other IT section wants to do is dumped on the BRM’s.

Org Charts Matter

While the title doesn’t matter – the work of the BRM needs to be done, regardless of what the role is called within the organization – the Organizational (Org) Chart does.  Members of the organization generally look at the Org Chart as a golden document – if they can see who BRMs report to, they have a baseline understanding of the type of work that is required of the position.

·       If the BRM is listed on the Org Chart under the CIO, then Business will think of the BRM as IT and treat them as just that;

·       If the BRM is listed on the Org Chart as part of the CIO’s operational staff, then IT will think of the BRM as operational resources and treat them as just that;

·       If the BRM is listed in the Service Management section, then the business partners and IT will think of the BRM as a part of the Service Desk and treat them as just that;

·       If the BRM is listed as part of the Office of Portfolio Management, then the business partners and IT will think of them as Project Managers and treat them as just that;

·       And, the list goes on…

So, the question becomes how do you properly depict the BRM on the Org Chart?

Organizational Culture Matters More

I would argue that the BRM’s place in the organization needs to mimic what we have seen with the Information Security Teams throughout the industry.  Typically, the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) will be placed on an Org Chart with a “solid line” connection to the CIO or Deputy CIO.  However, the industry has recognized the importance of what our Information Security Teams do – protecting our organizations from security threats and data theft – so, in reality, the CISO will have a “dotted line” connection to the CEO, CIO, Business VP’s, IT Directors and every executive throughout the organization.  We know if the Information Security Team alerts us of a threat, we must all respond instantly and appropriately to their directives.  Even the CFO’s never question the Information Security Team’s ROI, even though they do not produce revenue for the organization, because their function is so critical to the organization.

I believe the BRM’s function is just as critical to the growth of an organization.  The BRM’s converge the business and IT strategies of the organization, shape demand to ensure the investments of the organization bring back the most valuable (whether it be tangible or intangible) return, and  communicate with both the business and IT to ensure we are all working towards the same goals. 

Yes, on the Org Chart, the BRM will have a “solid line” connection to a CxO, because that is what Org Charts demand. 

But, it is critical that the industry and organizations recognize the importance of the BRM function and, like the CISO, have “dotted line” connections to the CEO, CIO, Business VP’s, IT Directors, and every executive throughout the organization.  Equally important, it is critical for the CFO to realize the benefit we provide to the organization, even though BRM’s do not directly produce revenue for the organization.

I see the Information Security Team as the defense of a football team.  It has strategies, processes and plans to keep threatening opponents from scoring points against our team.  But, the BRM’s are the offense – if we are allowed to work in the strategic space, we can advance the organization, by scoring points and leading the Team – all of the business and IT units within the organization – to victory.

Don’t miss this opportunity, like General Motors did with the EV1.  We must clarify the role of BRM across the industry, so it can become every bit as ubiquitous as electric cars are today!

About the Author

David Moore is a BRM at Miami-Dade County Information Technology Department. His experience in the field of technology spans over 15+ years. His passion for relationships and BRM extends into his personal and professional life as an active member of BRM Communities and non-profit organizations.


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