The BRM role — superhero super-fixer or strategic partner?

Question: Is there a danger with “making problems go away forever” that you just become seen as a super service desk?

If there is one thing that every IT team I’ve worked in or with has in common it is a high proportion of people who love a crisis and that it is easier to celebrate the person who worked extra hours to fix something than the person who diligently made sure it didn’t go wrong in the first place.

Increasingly we find ourselves living in a society of instant gratification and when you’re living, as we currently are, in uncertain times the need to prove your worth often drives behaviours that aren’t necessarily good for the long term.

The danger for the BRM is that, even with good intentions, slip into this trap and start to focus on making the pain go away in the (not always mistaken) belief they do then they’ll be seen as useful to those they want to build relationships with.

I say this is a danger because experience shows that it’s rare that all the problems get fixed, and even if you sort the most painful things today then there is little guarantee that you’ll be invited to the table to talk about long term plans. It’s a cruel world, however, as whilst service issues rear their head regularly, you’re unlikely to get the seat at the table anyway.

Remember this poor service from the provider will prevent you from being a strategic partner but fixing those issues won’t secure your seat at the top table.

One of the key phrases that I encouraged the team to adopt, and we had to be deliberate in our language was to not talk about being a single point of contact (back to pat, throat to choke, etc.) but become a single point of focus. As I’ve said previously, the approach you want to take is to be able to make sure the right [delivery] teams can get to the right issues as quickly as possible. The role of the BRM in this needs to focus more on ensuring that the right things happen than it is about doing the things themselves.

Remember this sometimes you’ll need to fix things but when you do make sure that your focus is on educating the customer and ensuring the provider process works (and the business impact is understood) rather trying to be the hero.

There is a difference between knowing the right thing to do and being able to do it so if you’re finding yourself in this position of being the “super fixer” or at risk of becoming it then what can you do?

Here are some suggestions:

Be clear about what you do and make sure that people in the business understand the value of working with you. If you’re not being invited to the right party then always ask yourself why not rather than sulking about the fact you’ve been excluded.

Have conversations about the opportunity and what the organisation will get if you’re able to work with them rather than just for them. Think about how you can establish yourself as the person who brings the right people to get things sorted together and who helps the business to articulate the issues that they are having and the impact it has on the organisation.

Don’t be afraid to say no if it isn’t your job but help the requestor to find the right solution or the right person. A partnership is about being an equal and not a servant and it is possible to do that even with a “customer first” or “service provider” mentality. If you need to explain to someone the difference between your role and the Service desk then be prepared to do that in a way that helps people see the benefits rather than just feeling like you’re fobbing them off.

Finally, remember this it may be the organisation just wants (perhaps even needs) super fixers and then you have to ask yourself if that is the role that you want to perform.

It isn’t that it is the wrong answer, and if it secures value then it’s no bad thing, but if you’re setting out to do something different then you’ll become frustrated.

Whatever your situation perhaps this is the time to sit down and evaluate if you’re heading in the right direction for you and your team or if you need to explore what the organisation, what the service provider (IT/Technology/CIO) and business partner (customer) really want and then focus on that.

Written by

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

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