The APMG Midday Mentors webinar series was launched at the beginning of Covid-19 with the aim of helping APMG partners, candidates and the learning community to connect throughout these difficult times. QA was delighted to be asked to participate in the programme, with our very own Paul Wigzel (Learning Consultant) joining Ellie Bowett (Regional Lead, APMG) to discuss how to progress in your career from IT service manager to business relationship manager (BRM).
Paul has been in service management and training ITSM for over 20 years and shared his valuable insights and experience in this question-and-answer session.
Ellie: In your experience, how have you seen the service management profession change?
Paul: Service management has changed massively though it is still a little like magic! If you tell someone you work in service management, you invariably have to explain what that actually means. I have been in service management now for more than 25 years and still don’t really have a good explanation for those not within the industry. I usually end up saying it’s really about customer services but usually focusing on technology-driven services – it doesn’t really cover what it completely entails but is usually enough for the glaze to cover the recipient’s eyes and they ask no more!
It has changed enormously in that time, though. When I started, I was employed to help deliver IT systems – firstly to a further education college and then a few years later, the Police service. When I joined the Police service I joined an information systems department. When I left a fair few years later to become a consultant and trainer, I left an IT services department.
What had changed?
The realisation that organisations didn’t need IT systems to aid their organisation’s business success and that IT and technology had become an intrinsic part of that organisational success. So the IT director and/or manager were invited into the boardroom and became an integral part of the executive and strategy-based group.
There was a need to deliver successful, technological solutions to meet the requirements and growth of any business. It was needed to ensure this success, practices and processes were required to support these deliverables, hence the importance of service management grew. Now, it's an inherent part of any organisation.
And when I say any organisation, that is the truth. Even traditional manufacturing organisations now offer wrap-around services for the products they create. Just consider how you now purchase a refrigerator, a TV or even a car in today’s world. You are offered a plethora of wrap-around services. Helplines, customer enquiries, registration and support for your product, extended warranties... and more! How did you actually select and order your fridge, TV or car? Via a technology interface, by any chance?
So the world of service management has fundamentally changed and increased in importance during the past 20 years and as our consumerisation demands increase, so does the importance of those people working to satisfy that need. As service management grows and increases in importance, so does the requirement of having that higher level, strategic and tactical interface with key stakeholders – the role of the BRM. When I started in service management, the BRM role was considered a nice add-on to somebody’s role; now, most organisations have multiple BRMs in the organisation, doing the job full time. Larger organisations even have teams of BRMs, CBRMs (or CRMs as some are called).
What is BRM and what else is it known as?
That really is a good question because at first glance it seems simple: business relationship management (BRM) is about managing a relationship with the business... but who is "the business"? Well, for most organisations the business is another way of saying "the customer". Therefore an obvious title for this role is "customer relationship manager".
It starts to get a little complex here as APMG and the service management industry refers to the BRM working at a strategic and tactical layer with the business partners, whereas many organisations focus on the customer relationship manager being more focused upon the operational outcomes for the customer. Neither has the monopoly on being correct. It is like most modern frameworks – simply a case of adapt and adopt.
So service delivery managers (SDM), account managers, customer service managers and, the new one, relationship managers, this all links to ITIL v4 where the practice of relationship management is about nurturing and managing the relationships with customers or key stakeholders at a strategic and tactical layer – BRM.
In the next 5 years – what skills will be pivotal in service management and for progressing to becoming a BRM?
I feel there is little doubt that as the world begins to come out from under the blanket of Covid restrictions there will be a stampede of customers. One of the major lessons the world has seemed to learn from our time in 2020 is that not only can people work and live almost entirely from home, but that technology has become essential for both business and recreation. The growth in technological service delivery has gone from continued growth to growth at a stratospheric speed.
We have all shopped, socialised, and worked from the small spaces we call home, using technological solutions. It seems clear that AI, the internet of everything, and the robotisation of lifestyles will continue to climb. The developed world begins to help and support other parts of the world to gain internet access, so that technological growth will continue. Therefore at this time, I see very little stagnation or decline in the appetite for technological service solutions. And as a result, the requirement to have service management and relationship management skills and abilities will continue to rise.
We do however need to recognise that patience is something that is declining; people want their services to be of quality, cost-effective and fast. Instant gratification is now almost an expectation. So service providers are moving quickly to more agile methods of working and away from the traditional waterfall projects. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place for waterfall methods of project delivery but in the service industry, terms like Kanban, swarms, lean, good flow, wait times, user stories; journey mapping, value streams, value chains, and indeed value itself are becoming the norm.
So the skills needed continue to be about understanding the customer base that any service provider supplies. To have the ability to think and look forward and not just look at them now, and the ability to accept change and be flexible and willing to be able to adapt quickly. In truth, it is and will continue to be about understanding not only business strategies but also the subtleties of the people at the end of these requirements. A great BRM can walk the tightrope between the very different but completely necessary demands.
If you have been in service management for a number of years and wanted to move on, what skills and steps would you recommend to progress and stay relevant?
It’s going to be no surprise here that I will say both training and accreditation. The market is moving and evolving quickly, the job market in the next few years is going to be fiercely competitive.
Service management training is almost a pre-requirement for any job in technology at the moment but this will, I am sure, expand into media, retail, finance, manufacturing and healthcare. Indeed already the more forward-thinking or enlightened companies have seen this trend but I think that as we move towards 2022, this educational movement will gain momentum as more and more individuals realise they need to understand best practices in service delivery, service management and what customers actually want, not what they think they want.
There is also now a full suite of additional ITIL courses and qualifications around managing and setting strategy for digital businesses and those embarking on a digital transformation.
Anyone actively providing services to customers should also consider attending a BRM course to understand the basics around the role of the BRM, and even perhaps join the BRM Institute where members have access to best practice, mentors, and advice and guidance from those who have trodden the pathway already, or those currently trying to walk the path with you.
Take the next step to becoming a Business Relationship Manager (BRM) with our course, Discover QA BRMP Training and Certification
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