We are delighted to chat to BRM Trailblazer Simon Kent about all thing BRM.......
If Simon's words of wisdom have inspired you to start your Business Relationship Management training, then take a look at our online courses courses.
Transcript of full interview:
Hi, I’m Simon Kent, I’m one of the UK regional leaders and ambassadors for the Business Relationship Management Institute and it's a real honor to undertake that role and be one of the UK leaders for the BRM institute. I became involved in the BRM coaching consulting space from about 2015 and then it really lifted off in 2016 through to present day. That came about as a result of my involvement leading up to that point from a SAS software perspective. I was involved in the SAS software market, and I found great synergy between what it takes for customer success and what business relationship management and strategic business relationship management looks like, and I’ve got to be honest back in 2013/2014 sort of time frame, I'd heard of BRM, but I'd never really made that great connection. I was very much operating in that customer success domain and it was as I realized that in order for customer success to be what it is, ‘success’, and to prove value, I was working with a particular client and this client said to me:
“Wow this thing that you're doing where you are aligning your software business to our goals and really showing value on how we can work together in partnership, that's exactly what I need internally. I'm in the IT space and I need exactly that, because we have this disconnect where we speak IT, and the rest of my organization speaks the language of that organization, and we somehow constantly have this disconnect. What you're doing with us, I need that internally here.”
At that time, I'd heard of Business Relationship Management, but I honestly didn't really know what it was. Then in 2015/2016 I started to look at that in a greater depth and came across Business Relationship Management Institute®. So that's how I got involved in all of this, and it's a brilliant place to be.
When I look at Strategic Business Relationship Management, and also the certification that goes alongside that, whether that’s Business Relationship Management Professional® or Certified Business Relationship Manager®, these elements and these certifications (I'm going to move away from the word role because actually it's a capability) the capability is essential, absolutely essential on so many levels. Let's say you're a typical IT provider domain, people have this notion, especially if they have had a career that's through service management and project management, that is all about service delivery and it stops at service, but actually if you aspire to just be a service provider what you're actually going to do is put yourself into a position that's actually under threat because you then become compared to the rest of the marketplace, and that's really doing a disservice to your organization. What your organization wants you to be is a partner, they want you to help lead decision making, be it around technology, be it around human resources, be it around finance, be it around legal, whatever that service provider function happens to be they need Joint Leadership. They need co collaboration and co creation to help make the right strategic decisions that will deliver the appropriate outcomes and the appropriate business value, and that's really important. That's why the strategic BRM capability which encompasses a bunch of roles is so critical in today's world.
When I'm engaging with BRMs and CIOs and I'm speaking with IT leaders and business leaders, there’s a question that often comes up about BRM adding value. There's this piece where they go “the BRM role adds value” you then have to make that shift in the mind to go actually it should be the BRM capability that adds value. Then you ask well what's the definition of value? People talk about business value and there are so many articles and blogs, and Lord knows what else, about business value business value business value. And then you ask the question what do you mean by business value? What does business value mean? This is where the BRM capability comes in because they are the ones that extract what business value actually means in this organization, at this time, in this context because actually it flexes. It's moving and shifting and there are long term strategic goals that are set inside of organizations, five to 10 year plans that may be even beyond that. I think today given the rate of change, and the transformative rate of change that organizations and the world is going through, it's almost difficult to define what that longer term vision will be beyond 10 years. that said of course governments set out strategic plans that are 50-year plans so you know they are there. It depends on the context, but it's about defining what does value mean for this organization and that's the critical thing. This is where BRM’s add value they extract that, they understand what that looks like, they encapsulate that into then every day work to ensure that the whole organization is working on the same page, and that's what the BRM will do.
People ask a question along the lines of influence and persuasion. What does that look like and how important is that within the BRM skill set? and you know it's massively important. It really is just hugely important. Being from the commercial software background that I’m in, I understand, and I practice what strategic relationship management looks like in the context of creating value for customers and in exchange for that value we generate revenue. So, it's a pretty basic model that's existed since the beginning of time that says: ‘if I can persuade and influence a prospect or customer to part with money for an exchange for value then win-win’. That's the whole point of how business and commerce works. Now take those same principles of influence and persuasion in the context of having really strong relationships, you realize some people sometimes kind of run screaming when I suggest that a BRM is like being a salesperson and then they go “Oh we're not salespeople we're not that”. No, you're not actually selling, as in you are not generating revenue, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the mindset of establishing strong bonded relationships, because people buy from people and that's what you are doing in terms of a BRM. you're selling yourself, selling the concept you're selling an idea you're co creating. That's what I'm talking about and that in turn means you have to have great influence and great persuasion.
I mentioned my involvement with BRM Institute® came about in 2015/2016 timeframe and leading up to that I had worked on a methodology of connecting customer goals and outcomes to the delivery of SAS subscription software service. In 2015 myself and a number of colleagues sat down and literally got the whiteboards all over the office and just scribbled ideas down and went ‘crazy ideas crazy ideas crazy ideas’ for about three months. I remember the process of coming in drawing, taking pictures, wiping off, doing it again the next day and the next day and the next day and next day, I just kind of like "blah" and dumped everything out in the brain saying, “We don't know what this looks like, but we know it needs solving”. We just went and made a mess of a lot of whiteboards, but out of that came this notion of being able to architect this design inside of a software platform we chose a pretty well-known IT service management software platform at the time as a sort of test bed for the software. I actually brought it to life instead of it just being a bunch of ideas on the whiteboards or just documented in a series of manuals or guidance or something like that. We said “no let’s bring this thing to life and let's see if it flies. Let's chuck it off the edge of the cliff and say we see if it will fly, or just plummets to the ground and crashes”. It was through that BRM institute® were really kind enough to say, “this is amazing”.
You know there are people like me, and there were a few others, that were out there saying this profession and this capability, this guidance, is fantastic. This body of knowledge is fantastic. This certification is fantastic. To really drive this thing forward you have to have tooling, you have to have a platform that allows the capability, and the BRM’s or business partners or whatever the role it happens to be called, to really pull all that work together, because unless you can have all of that centralized in a core place and you can start to automate that and start to measure what you're delivering, and have some consistency, then actually everybody works still in a fragmented way, and actually that doesn't really add any value whatsoever. You've got pockets of value but not consistent systematic or systemic value. So that was why I got the BRM Institute Trailblazer Award which I’m chuffed to bits about, I’m very proud still to have that on my LinkedIn profile.
My background for about the last 30 years has been involved in and around IT, and 20 years in the enterprise software space led onto a leadership role, I was vice president of Global Customer Experience for a leading SAS software company. For anyone that knows anything about SAS it’s all about customer retention, renewals, upselling, that’s what gives value to your organization. In order to create value for organizations you ensure that you have retention of customers, and you are increasing the lifetime value of your customers, that’s what it’s about. In order to do that you have to show value. There is great synergy between the customer success model and the strategic BRM capability because once again it’s about showing and proving value, both are doing the same thing.
SAS software is about customer retention and an increasing lifetime value from license revenue. Of course, that's not the case necessarily with the BRM and strategic BRM, but it's still about value and it's still about achieving the outcomes and showing and delivering business value, so there's great synergy between the two. Now what I found, having come from that customer success background, is that I'm still operating in that somewhat anyway. On a day to day basis I'm able to apply the knowledge and the learning from strategic BRM and BRM Institute's body of knowledge. I'm able to apply that knowledge into customer success and equally take customer success knowledge and apply it into strategic BRM. That is a great combination where those two meet together and you can really make some quantum leaps and exponential growth in those areas, so I see great synergy between those two.
So, I get asked the question, what are the top tips for a BRM who wants to move into a strategic role? And you know what strategic BRM is not necessarily right for everybody. Everybody has their place and should be valued and comfortable in that place, because that's where they add the most value. You get some BRM’s who are perhaps a little bit more tactical and they like being that tactical role and they should stay doing that tactical role. Not everybody needs to strive to be in this strategic role. Those that do want to strive and do think “I've being called into something else. There's a more of a strategic view. I know that I can connect with my peers at a more strategic level. I've just got that calling in me to do that”. I deliberately use the word calling because it's something in your heart, it is in your gut you just feel it. This is a really important quality that people need when moving into a strategically BRM role.
Emotional intelligence is massive, it's very important, to study self-awareness, self-management, do as much self-development as you possibly can, because the more you understand about yourself the more you understand about people. This is really important because again if you're dealing with relationships when you've got the words, ‘strategic’ on the front so everybody goes oh I've got to get into real business and be strategic. Yes, there's that element comes into it but actually the strongest bits through all of this is relationships. It’s from these amazing relationships, and showing value, and that comes from a great increase of awareness of self. You can say the more you understand self the more you understand people. Going back to the strategic bit, which is business IQ, you learn what your business does, is, what it values, what are its drivers, what makes them tick, what’s the definition of value? Because the more you understand this, you'll be able to frame what value looks like. It's a psyche you've got to understand and have great relationships with your provided domain. So, lots of lots of cups of coffee/green tea, whatever your thing is right. Go have relationships, build relationships add value, not just up the food chain, not just across your peers, but everywhere. You've got to add value. You've got to form relationships. There are three metaphors that are used by the BRM Institute and they are surfaced in BRMP® which is you're an orchestrator and you're a navigator and you're a connector, these three metaphors are really important. There are also other metaphors that start to kick in the strategic realm which is you’re a co-creator. That's massive. The more you study what co creation really is the more you realize that it becomes a huge thing.
So, for somebody about to start a CBRM® course a word of advice, I guess or some thoughts around that. Really understand your purpose. Really understand who you are as a person and understand what that means in the context of the relationships and the value for your organization and when all of that aligns. To use the BRM Institute word, and I love this word myself, ‘converge’. You know when everything just comes together and that's an exciting time. CBRM is going to provide the knowledge, the tooling to allow you to level up. Step up to that next level and really give you a wealth of tools in your Batman utility belt to be able to go and be that Strategic Business Relationship Manager or Business Partner, whatever the term happens to be called in your organization, it's about being able to provide that capability in the organization.