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Reuben Connolly, BRM and a Regional Technology Manager in the Overseas region of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has recently overseen a project to gain formal certification for some of his team of BRM’s to help them in their job role. Here, he tells us how the Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) training made a difference to the team.
Tell me about your organisation?
JLR is the UK's largest automotive manufacturer selling over 500,000 vehicles per year around the world with over 45,000 employees, which has more than doubled in size in the last five years. We have a large IT department and the BRM team within that represents over 50 technology professionals and was formed when the rapid corporate expansion began.
Describe you team and their work
At JLR the BRM team has a particular focus on project initiation for the various domains that we support, from Product Development & Engineering, through Manufacturing & Supply Chain, to Marketing, Sales & Servicing and Corporate Services.
There is less focus on Service Delivery except under certain circumstances and the BRM team and I view ourselves as strategic advisors to the business and strive to deliver the best value that we can achieve for the organisation.
When the new BRM director joined the company, it was evident that we operated as a number of 'sole traders'. We were all doing what we thought was a great job, but the level of consistency, teamwork and shared processes and knowledge was extremely limited.
A core group was formed to develop alignment, consistency and maturity across the BRM function and I was brought in as Demand & Strategy Manager, with a team dedicated to developing the tools, techniques and frameworks required to manage a professional BRM team.
Adopting BRMP Principles
How did you become interested in Business Relationship Management Professional certification?
Having been the Communities Manager with the BRM Institute (BRMI) and setup a BRMP training course for the entire team at my previous organisation, it was clear that this kind of structured training would be a great use of resources. Unfortunately, training the whole team of 50 was beyond our budget for the year.
Through some investigation and analysis, we found the online BRMP course from ITSM Zone. This option allowed us to train more people than a traditional classroom course would have done, as the price of the online course kept us within budget.
The initial pilot of six people was expanded to 16 online and team members were invited to volunteer their interest. At this point it was decided that rather than try to educate the more senior members of the team we would focus the training on the junior BRMs and it was made mandatory for all staff in that grade.
What were your thoughts on the training?
For the team members who had volunteered for the training it was overall a very positive experience and despite the Business Relationship Professional course being far more in-depth than, for example, the ITIL Foundation, they got on with their online training and submitted their exam registrations. The male/female divide was made very clear when the first three people to sit and pass the exam were all female colleagues!
For those who had not volunteered there was undoubtedly a level of resentment in having to study for a course. This would have been the case for any qualification that they had not asked for, even though they knew that it was ultimately good for the team and great for their ongoing careers. Overall, we had roughly a third of people who completed it in good time, another third who took a little coaching to do the online study and book their exam and another third that we are still pushing to get over the line before the end of the financial year.
Regardless of the course completion status of our colleagues, there was consistent feedback (both verbal and measured via internal surveys) that the course opened the eyes to what it really means to be a Trusted Advisor or Strategic Partner and highlighted that only a few of us were really operating in that space. The most telling feedback was that several members of the team felt they would have sincerely benefited from the course at the start of our BRM transformation journey rather than halfway through the year. The course gives such a well- structured framework for how BRM should be setup.
How have you applied the knowledge to your business?
Since the course the junior BRMs have made a noticeable impression in their teams, particularly in the areas of initiative prioritisation and balancing demand to generate the greatest value for the organisation and several of them are now due for potential promotion towards the end of the year.
What changes have you seen? How have these been measured?
The biggest change since the training is in the positive attitude, confidence and common understanding across the team. While difficult to measure directly there has been a consistent improvement in customer feedback around the BRM team, despite continued growth challenges in our infrastructure and services.
What was your biggest challenge in implementing changes?
Some of the lessons from the BRMP Certification around Business Transition Management and people change could have certainly been better applied with a little more buy-in. I believe this would have been more achievable had all the delegates volunteered or if there had been more visible senior sponsorship. However, all in all it was a positive experience and we will certainly be considering further online training as a new alternative to classroom-based learning in the future.
The only technical challenge we had with the course is that the online exam required 'web proctor' software to be installed. This needed admin rights to the PC, which we do not provide on our corporate laptops. So delegates had to use their personal computers and with the proliferation of tablet and smartphone devices in the home rather than laptops or PCs, some delegates struggled to find a device that they could use (although I wonder if this was an excuse to delay the course and exam a little!).
What has been the biggest benefit?
The biggest benefit is having a common framework, language and understanding to use across all of the domains of our team when discussing BRM maturity improvement and development. This will develop further over time as we rollout the training to more senior members of the team.
Although it is unlikely that we will ever be able to certify the entire team with BRMP, we are certainly keen to expand the course to at least the same number of delegates again. Going forward it will only be on a volunteered or development-plan related activity basis, which should increase the rate of completion, knowledge-sharing and benefits realisation.
We are also considering whether the CBRM course and qualification would be appropriate for some of the team and look forward to seeing an online version of that becoming available.