BRM: The murky world of change.

Question: In a traditional organisation digitising the operation requires a lot of cultural, people and organisational change. How does the BRM influence this?

We’re all quite happy to nod along when someone says that “change is the only constant” in our lives, and many of us (especially technologists!) are happy to inflict change onto others but when it comes to our own situations then we’re the same as everyone else in resisting change. This experience should, however, put the BRM into a strong position to be able to ensure that change is managed in an organisation better than it often is because they can see both sides.

At the heart of any change, from an upgrade of a system to a wholesale restructuring of an organisation there is one thing that is nearly always true – you’re dealing with people and you need to think about behaviour. Digital Transformation is ultimately about behaviour not just about doing things with shiny new technology. The role of the BRM is at the heart of this not just in guiding that change but in working across the organisation to ensure the benefits of the change are maximised whilst minimising the cost. Note that I’ve been careful in saying the role is about ensuring it happens rather than being responsible for doing it, the BRM needs to guide and partner rather than become the person who fills the gaps.

One of the BRM Institute’s pillars of the BRM house relates to Transition Management. This would, perhaps, be better called Change Management.

In this context, this is People Change Management rather than technology changes which you may have had to put through a Change Approval Board. The person asking the question at the start of this post was right that digitising an operation requires change though this is true in all organisations, not just traditional ones. Let’s look at how the BRM can influence it.

Guide and support

The BRM will have seen more change than most others and so can share experiences and give guidance to others.

It can be helpful to have a model to do this so that you can let people put their thinking in a box. All models are wrong, they just help you to be less-wrong in the things you do. One framework that I’ve experience of and so can say is useful is Prosci - https://www.prosci.com/ - if you’re not used to supporting others with Change Management then this won’t be a bad place to start. They not only have the model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) but also the evidence to build the case for investing in Change Management to secure more of the project investment benefits.

Build the narrative

As the person involved in the conversation but often not accountable for the success or failure, or even the delivery of the change then there is an opportunity to be more objective and to ask the searching questions. I’ve often said the role of the BRM is not to have the best answers or be the most intelligent person in the room, rather it is to ask the best and most intelligent questions. By asking people involved in a change what they want others to think, feel and do is a good way to tease out what the narrative is, or to expose that there is more work to be done.

Build relationships

This may seem an obvious point to make but if you’re going to influence others then you need to have relationships with them. The BRM needs to be able to get others to modify their behaviour and do things differently but from a position of influence not of authority. Relationships need to be broader than just those directly involved in the work that you support. Influence can be direct and indirect. Sometimes you need to be able to use the influence of someone else to achieve your objective. Most change involves money or people so find your Finance and HR colleagues and use them to build a more compelling message. If you’re spending money you want to secure the benefits. If you’re impacting people you want to be able to keep them motivated and engaged with the change. It’s no surprise therefore that Finance and HR have a reason to work with you to make sure they achieve their objective. As they often have levers in the processes of the organisation then they can be influencers in a more overt way than you may manage. Make use of others who are in a position to say no, this leaves you free to be able to guide conversations and be a positive influence, not a decision-maker.

Ultimately, the way that the BRM influences the change in the organisation away from just delivering technology to thinking about behaviour is by being in the conversations, giving the evidence to support the change management work, and showing that you’re able to achieve more by better working with not against your people. This is true for everything that BRM does, it’s definitely essential for digital transformation.

Written by

An experienced senior digital business leader with experience of delivering transformative change.

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