BRM Dilemma: shiny technology or business need?
Question: How do you influence the business to focus on the problem they need resolving rather than the shiny tech solution they think they want.
With two young children who have enjoyed watching Moana, I now find it difficult to hear (or read!) the word shiny without then thinking of the song from the film…Shiny, like a treasure from a sunken pirate wreck…scrub the deck and make it look shiny!
There could be more than word association here, as the challenge for the BRM is not to take the shiny new technology that a business partner has spotted at whatever trade show they’ve recently attended but to find the diamond in the rough and unlock the value for the organisation. I do think that there is a danger that we as technologists become too purist in our approach either wanting to be at the cutting edge of everything or reluctant to embrace anything without first establishing need.
If you have a business partner that is bringing you a shiny technology solution then resist the inclination to be dismissive rather take it an opportunity to meet them where they are at and explore it from that perspective. As in many of the other questions, I have highlighted the need for the BRM to be initiating conversations, facilitation discussion and being able to find a path through the exploration of ideas.
As I write this, in the background I can hear the discussion taking place between my wife and eldest daughter about a piece of writing on the rainforest that she needs to do for [home] school – since we’re still in our COVID-19 isolation period. The approach they are taking is one that I would suggest exploring if you find yourself in this situation. By thinking about the possible experiences, the interactions that would be taking place and the sounds and senses of the forest the understanding starts to grow. The BRM can ask searching questions about the shiny and uncover what it is that the business partner thinks is going to be so useful for them. Some questions you may want to explore:
What is it that has attracted you to this solution in the first place?
How will this solution impact the costs, revenue, customer experience and why does that matter?
When we’ve deployed this what are the next three big challenges that we can work on together?
Each of those then gives you a route to start exploring other thing but without needing to say to the business partner that they’re wrong for suggesting a shiny new toy. They may have chosen the right thing, they may have the budget to spend and not be concerned if it is the best decision. Your job as the BRM is to work to secure the best investment and realise the benefits for the organisation. You don’t need to win the fight over the investment in the new shiny technology.
You need to secure the best possible outcome.
The final of those questions is where you start to reframe the problem space and start to look at other things that may have been ignored. Again the focus here isn’t in saying that the solution on the table is wrong, rather that it is not the only one that could be considered.
If nothing of that works then the alternative approach is to offer up an alternative perspective and allow that exploration to take place. To be successful here you will need to have a deeper understanding of the business than perhaps even the business partner has. What are the pain points of the employees, what are customers saying, what is disrupting the market which could impact the revenue stream? Or, if those things aren’t motivations in your organisation then what are the changing and emerging risks that may be a threat to the organisation.
Ultimate, I believe that the way that you move from a point of having to say “no” to a shiny new thing to be able to focus on the key problems is by getting someone to lift their head and see some alternative perspectives. You will know if ideology or evidence will best open up the conversation with your business partner but there will be a way to reframe the conversation.
In finishing, don’t lose sight of what it is that they have brought you in the first place. There was a reason why they wanted it and even if it just because it is new then that shows you something about their interest and motivation. This approach is something you can build on you just need to nurture it in the direction that is beneficial rather than because a vendor got to them first!