In this episode Peter talks to Adam Shopshire and Lee Reiff. This episode was recorded at the BRM Connect conference in San Diego in October 2018. In this episode we talk about the impact of the keynote presentation from Jim Brusnahan, BRM metrics, relationships with IT peers, role clarity and how to build a foundation for success. We would like to thank the BRM Institute for the opportunity to record the podcast at the BRMConnect events.


Peter: Welcome to BRM Cafe Episode 16. In this episode, I talked to Adam Shopshire and Lee Reiff. This episode was recorded at the BRMConnect conference in San Diego in October 2018. In this episode, we talk about the impact of the keynote presentation from Jim Brusnahan, BRM metrics, relationship with IT peers, role clarity and how to build a foundation for success. We would like to thank the BRM Institute for the opportunity to record this podcast at the BRMConnect event.

Peter: Welcome to BRM Cafe. Live from the BRMConnect conference. I have two guests and I will let them introduce themselves first. Adam?

Adam: My name is Adam Shopshire and I work at Strada Education Network in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Lee: My name is Lee Reiff. I work for Larimer County in Fort Collins, Colorado

Peter: Great. BRMConnect conference, maybe the first time, maybe the second time. What are your impressions so far? Who wants to start?

Lee: I’ll take this one. So you and I, Peter had a chance to talk yesterday and I think I may have mentioned to you that every year I look forward to the BRMConnect conference more than any other event that we do and this year has really been, it’s been fantastic. The approach to their taking this year in allowing the BRM community to step up as story tellers to really drive the content of the event. I think one, it sets this event apart from any others that I’ve ever attended and it makes it so much more intimate and relatable and fun and interactive. First impression that we’re on the half way through, really. It’s great, it’s great time.

Adam: Yeah, I have been impressed with the leadership and the things that I learned. I was blown away by Jim’s starting session. Abraham, the energy of his introduction and then Jim just going right to the core. That was my favorite part. I mean, I think for the whole conference so far that’s my favorite part in terms of he brought the sledge hammer for me. However, as I processed over the last day and a half, the connection with other people not just the networking but just the community that’s developed even just in the last couple days with people is as significant to me as the content that I’m learning which may be surprising.

I never think of that first when I come to the conference. I think what am I gonna learn, what great things am I gonna pull away, I’m gonna get some incredible people talking about really powerful things that will help me in my business but the relationships are as significant.

Peter: Yup. Okay, great.

Lee: That’s an important point because I told, my team is here with me and I told them before we left. I said, “you are going to make friends at this event. It’s not just about what you learn.” It’s transformative.

Peter: When you look at some of the learning points, things you’ve heard from the different presentation. You mentioned Jim Brusnahan, the sledge hammer approach etcetera, what triggers you for that?

Adam: I think to me, I told Jim this, I got a chance to speak with him afterwards but my wife is also a business coach and he used a lot of the language that she uses. Of course because she’s my wife, I can’t listen to her, I actually have to learn that from someone else. I can’t, but the reality is that the whole issue of me giving away my power and when he asked the question, “is there another BRM that could do this job? If you’re struggling with it and you think you can’t do it and it’s impossible to accomplish but is there some other BRM that you think could accomplish it, then why can’t you accomplish it?” You know, don’t give away your power. Realize that even if there’s some situation that you can’t- you don’t feel like you have the ability to resolve or you don’t have the position to be able to resolve that problem that doesn’t mean you can’t be an influencer. Use your power. Use your power as much as you can use it. That’s what it is. I just realized in a wordy way here but that I have power, I have influence and I can use those things and don’t forget that.

Peter: Yeah. What other sessions have you done?

Adam: I’ve got notes. There were actually a lot of panels yesterday and so for me, I attended, it’s a relationship panel I’m trying to think of. For me one of the significant things about that was I’ve spent a lot of time with our business partners and learning about their business and understanding them and I realized that we, to a degree, my partner and I have neglected our IT team. We have relationship with them but we haven’t sat down and talked with them so much and that was something that caught my attention in that particular panel about relationship. That it’s not just about relationship with our business partners but also with our peers.

Peter: Yeah, unless you don’t [inaudible]

Lee: Yeah, we fell victim to that very thing and I mentioned in one of the panels yesterday that we, our team has spent some time this previous year with targets on our back. From the IT team, because we have neglected them, we’ve put so much effort into building the relationship and the trust with our business partners and we’ve neglected our IT peers and we’re working to mend those relationships now and that was a big take away for me but I actually just got out of Leanne McGiveron’s session on metrics and I immediately sent her a message and I said one, “fantastic information, great content”, and two, “thanks for the homework ’cause now I have a bunch of it.”

Peter: What does exactly triggered you for those kinds of things, what was important for you from that session?

Lee: Well, our BRM program at Larimer County is now entering its third year and when it comes to our “why”, we’ve got a really well defined why. We know what that is. We’re a little loose on our strategy right now and we’re probably falling down the most when it comes to metrics. What things were important to us to tell our story at the end of any given year. And I was really looking forward to that and Leanne, god bless her, she kind of ‘poopoed’ a little bit where she says, “Oh, I’m me, I’m talking about metrics, who wants to talk about metrics? Nobody wants to talk about metrics.” And I’m like, “well, I’d absolutely want to talk about metrics.” It’s really important and she walked us through in a mere 45 minutes going from really having nothing in the way of what did you wanna measure and what story do you wanna tell, all the way to the ability to build an annual report. She gave us the tools that are right here with me and that’s probably going to be the first thing I’ll tackle when I get back with my team. It’s how are we going to tell our story next year when we come to the conference and we get to stand up in front of everybody and say, “Hey here’s our annual report.” What does that story gonna look like. That was really powerful.

Peter: Any other sessions you attended? I mean..

Adam: Jeff Warren’s Top 10 reasons BRM programs fail.

Lee: That was another one too.

Peter: We both go there

Adam: Yeah

Lee: That was a good one.

Adam: Yeah. It was really good and actually I think it was your comment that I highlighted about the last, the two sides of BRM. I mean, that was your session but anyway. But for Jeff’s session, both Barbara and I, my other BRM were in Jeff’s session, I didn’t realize she was in there but she texted me toward the end of the session and she said, “We need to do all these things.” And I said, “yes and no.” Like, “yes, we do but we need to prioritize and figure out what we need to do about everything”, he said, all ten of his reasons and he said those weren’t the only ten reasons but those are ten significant reasons that he’s seen. I think those are all valuable. I’m not gonna read them all [inaudible] [crosstalk] session ’cause you can just go to the session or listen to the recording, I think there’s a recording of it.

Peter: But again there’s, I mean Jeff, although he’s a consultant now, he has a significant experience in BRM as a BRM himself so that’s why you see the experience coming in and showing that. So give me at least one of the reasons why BRM teams fail. Or influences.

Lee: There’s actually one that I’ve had in mind and it’s around clarity in roles and responsibilities.

Peter: Okay, yeah.

Lee: And that came up I think on our panel. When we talked about that and it’s hard. BRMs are engineered. It’s in our DNA to help. It’s what we do and we have to train ourselves not to say no but to say yes. And having a clear RACI chart of your big ticket items when something like this happens, where should we go? And right now we don’t have that and so there is a lot of confusion in our organization around, “should I call my project manager or should I call my BRM or should I call the director or should I call the tech?” Another thing of homework I’m taking back with me is to build that clarity in roles and responsibilities that will be huge for our team.

Peter: So how are you going to approach that because building a role clarity is not easy?

Lee: It’s not easy and luckily, and maybe it might be a kind of a jaded way to look at it but we’ve had a lot of experience in the last 12 to 18 months of bumping up against that confusion so we have a lot of scenarios to draw from. To say, “hey how could we have handled this differently?” And then how feed that into a RACI chart or a framework or however you wanna do it but we do have a lot of instances where we can reflect and know how we could have done things differently and at least write those things down as a starting point. Knowing it won’t be perfect and there’s gonna be things that we don’t consider and they’ll end up biting us at some point but you gotta start somewhere.

Peter: Yeah, I normally tell a BRMs and this comes back to Adam’s comment as well around knowing IT. Role clarity is two ways. It’s the BRM role clarity but also clarity in what the rest of the IT organization functions do and required of. We start talking about right mandates and ask every single group and do it for yourselves as well. Three to five bullet points, this is what we do as a mandate for our group. And when you ask it for all the different groups, you can start seeing how everyone links together and then you can just go into further details off to that but why [inaudible]

Adam: Yeah. It kind of along those same lines one of them was multiple responsibilities and I think that’s been a challenge for us in our BRM environment is having multiple– I came from being a Systems Engineer so in the same organization, a lot of the IT guys would look at me and say, “well, he can do this and Barbara has Project Management experience”, I mean we can do. We both have done training. We can cover a lot of roles but if we do that, there’s that appeal there, that desire to be valuable so if I can do this and I can do training and I can do some Project Management then you gotta keep that person ’cause they’re valuable in a lot of different ways except the problem is then we were not doing what we need to be doing as BRMs. We’re not engaging strategically with the business partners, that’s a problem. I think that’s probably one of the first things that were gonna work on.

Peter: Any other sessions that is jumped out? I’m not sure which ones you all follow.

Lee: Let me take a look.

Peter: Now, were you both looking [inaudible]

Adam: I know yeah. I’m done flipping through notes now.

Peter: What did you see?

Lee: I can tell you exactly where I was.

Peter: You could tell me of wherever you are.

Adam: And I also went to the metrics and we’ve have the opportunity of being in the Indiana Community of Interest so I’ve met cordially with Leanne and Mark and we’ve learned a lot already in terms of metrics from them of things that we can gather. I think the combination of Leanne’s talk on metrics that we just had help anyway. And then Jim’s talk at the beginning and I think somebody else has said it yesterday too and I’m trying to remember who but somebody said our metrics need to be the business’ metrics. And I thought, “yeah, absolutely.” ‘Cause otherwise they don’t care about those metrics. But the metrics that Leanne was talking about is significant. I think the challenge is getting those metrics so that we can communicate them but then translating them into how did those bring about the metrics that are valuable to the business.

Peter: I think one of the things that will be really good for the BRMs based on the presentation from Leanne is to start looking at can we build more information around metrics. I mean there are some standard metrics that everyone says that you need to have but some of those are still very difficult. What she has done is very pragmatic

Adam: Yeah.

Peter: And very simple things and did you talk about any of their specific metrics you have right now? I can’t remember at this moment.

Lee: Did Leanne?

Peter: Yeah.

Lee: They did, yeah. And as a mere fact I have them right here so I can tell you what some of them are verbatim.

Peter: Yeah.

Lee: So they looked at things like, so removing IT distractions was one of what they called the problem group and what they were wondering is how many incidents get submitted by a BRM on behalf of the business following some informal engagement. You sit down to have a meeting and somebody says, “oh, yeah, by the way this thing is broken.” And so they wanted to track how many of those incidents come up and it turned out not very many which to them indicates a couple things. One, BRMs are not generating a bunch of operational work for the IT team but also that they are likely having the strategic discussions they should be having and not the operational ones that we’re trying to get ourselves out of. They also talked about optimizing the IT investment value. And Leanne had mentioned during her talk, you were there too, where she says some of our language is dated and she apologized before she even started talking she’s like, “bear with us. We haven’t evolved quite as quickly as the institute has”, but she’s looking at things for new initiatives. How many of those came out of organizations that they have a BRM engagement with and how many new initiatives came from organizations that they don’t. So that they can see whether or not they’re generating demand where they expect to and then there’s some great stuff here and it will all be available to us through the campus, I would imagine. And Leanne offered to email to anybody who wants.

Peter: I know she will.

Lee: Yeah.

Peter: I think, she got several awards especially today and I think that’s so deserved if I look at what she’s done in the last four and a half years. If you look at the conference overall, what are topics you would say, “this is what I want to hear next year”?

Lee: I’d like to hear– and this is actually why I settled on the topic I’m gonna discuss tomorrow. I like to hear stories about how people used the frameworks, the fundamentals, the tools, the connections that they get through the institute to set themselves up for success. It’s one thing to have a theoretical discussion about how something might work but it’s so much more interesting to hear how the frameworks that BRMi provides or the tools or the people, how those things have been leveraged to build a foundation of success. And that’s exactly what Leanne has done in both of the sessions that I have attended of hers today. The other one was not behind the desk. I think it was the title of it.

Peter: Yeah.

Lee: And all of those things are fundamentals that come out of BRMP.

Peter: Yup.

Lee: Right? Everybody with the BRMP certification knows how to do these things and it’s really encouraging to hear the stories of what happens when it works. It’s not always gonna work, we know that but when it does it’s extremely powerful because the tools and techniques that are provided are not that complex. That in terms of implementing them, it’s just effort. You just have to do it. But they’ve made these tools so accessible and so relevant and so easy to navigate that if you don’t do it you’re just missing some huge opportunities.

Peter: Yeah, so more, partly what their doing right now experiencing from people how they actually got to that next level?

Lee: Mm-hmm.

Peter: I’m really hoping from a BRM institute perspective that the people who are going for a certificate of experience that we get the results from those. That we get high level of view, “hey, this is what someone did and what they accomplished”, and then giving presentation behind of it, so for you Adam?

Adam: You know that the BRM institute provides us with a body of knowledge, right? Provides us with instructions, certification. I had a great instructor last year, I’m just kidding.


Peter: You’re looking at me, why are you doing that?

Adam: Why did you stop, Peter? Anyway. And all of that, so we have the information, we have the language, we have the knowledge, but it’s the action, so the stories. I went to the one, the story from the couple of folks from the Fed and I can’t talk about what happen in there, no I’m kidding again.

[Adam laughs]

Adam: No, but I went to that session and got to hear a story of how they took information from the body of knowledge and things that they had learned from the institute and how they play out in their organization. And even though my organization is quite different from the Fed, there are things that are in common and so for me, the story is the connection between the body of knowledge and all of the information that you do Peter, you and Elka and all of the board members that are here and their experience then it connects that information with the very practical, like, “how do I get my job done, how do I do my job as a BRM”, and there’s so much, there’s other charts but how does this chart play out in somebody’s business?

Lee: Great. And discovering those commonalities is really important.

Adam: Yeah.

Lee: ‘Cause that happened last year too. They had a session on how did BRMs interact in a healthy way with Business Analysts and Architects and Project Managers? Where are those lines ’cause they can be blurry sometimes. And to know that everybody in the industry is having these problems or has had these problems and to know you’re not alone, is really powerful.

Peter: If you meet a new BRM, someone who is recently new to the field and you have to say, “okay, look, this is what you need to do, you need to go to BRMConnect”, what will you tell them? Just go? Besides that. What would they get out of it for them?

Adam: Part of it for me, DC was my conference and so this is my second so I’m pretty new and for me it’s confidence in understanding that I’m on the right field.

Lee: I think, so my first conference was Charlotte and I’ve told this story to several people, I think I maybe even told it to you but Arnie Whetherill was at my table and at the time, I had been a BRM for two weeks. This is my first introduction to the institute, I had no idea who Arnie was and I am just peppering him with questions. I’m tackling these problems, what do I do? Where do I go? And he gave me his card and he said, “you can reach out any time you want.” For half the conference I was just on his sleeve, following him every–

Peter: You were his buddy?

Lee: Oh man, every chance I got and we get about halfway through maybe three quarters away through the conference and he was going up to speak and I think it was Marleen, she’s up at the front and she’s going through this introduction and “he is Executive Director and this is what he does at progressive”, and Arnie Whetherill and I thought to myself, “I was just picking the brain of one of the founders of this knowledge base”, and he was so giving and he was so generous and to this day, I can reach out to Arnie anytime I need to. He offers his assistance and so that’s what I told my team. I said, “it’s about who you’re gonna meet because the people who are here want to help. And you’re gonna build a support network and any problem that you have that the people in your immediate sphere can’t help you with, you’re gonna be able to find somebody that can help you with that problem.” And so that’s the value proposition for me for the conference for sure.

Adam: Yeah. I’ve had actually had– I think probably half the times I’ve been walking back from my room, back to the session, I’ve walked with Abraham, I’ve walked with Arnie, who I also have the same experience with in DC.

Lee: Did you really?

Adam: Yeah, I’m sitting around and then he gets up and then the statues named after him.

Lee: Right?

Adam: He word his– I’m like, “what? Is Arnie like?” And then Von, I walked with Von, yeah anyway.

Lee: Von and I rode in a race car. Like we wheeled the race cars in Charlotte.

Adam: Oh yeah.

Lee: Yeah, he’s a great guy.

Peter: I think part of the excitement of this conference is that there’s so many people that are willing to share and that’s where you see possibly for this conference, the biggest advantage but I think it’s part of the BRM nature as well. Thank you very much for attending the podcast and I’m hoping to see you in some other conferences of course.

Adam: Yeah.

Lee: Likewise.

Peter: So, thanks Adam and Lee and hopefully we’ll see you next year again.

Lee: It’s my plan, thanks Peter, thanks.

Adam: [inaudible] it’s mine too. Thanks Peter.