Business Relationship Management in Australia

Peter: Welcome to BRM Cafe Episode 12. In this episode, I talk to Malini Jayaganesh about BRM in Australia proving value of the BRM role, the cultural differences, developing countries for BRM, knowledge paths to success from the BRM Institute, the role clarity for the provider side and her famous, tea ceremony. Malini welcome to the podcast, looking forward to actually talking about your experiences in different organizations. Can you please introduce yourself and what you’ve done so far with Business Relationship Management?

Malini: So Peter, my name is Malini Jayaganesh and I’m in BRM that’s based in Australia. I’m really excited to be participating in this conversation so thank you for the opportunity. I’ve been a dedicated BRM. May I say dedicated BRM as in jobs that specifically had a business partner of BRM in the, you know, as a job title. I’ve been in that situation for a little over five years. But prior to that as a senior business analyst, I’m actually performing in BRM function capability for a number of years and I’ve worked across multiple sectors, so higher education public sector in transport, health welfare, that sort of thing and now I’m back in transport, so to speak.

Peter: Okay, great. That’s great to hear and so did a lot of different industries and you were in Australia. Let’s briefly talk about that. We’re in totally opposite ends of the world and we’re doing this podcast sparsely recording over online, so, this is great. Australia, I mean, when did you get into contact with BRM mostly from a more formal capacity so, from the BRM Institute. I know there was a conference there or was that your first introduction to BRM or was that way before that?

Malini: It was about, I would say eight to ten months before the BRM conference at Sydney that I actually came to know about BRM Institute. What happened is really– is, for me, it was– I can probably divide my life up into two phases, before I discovered BRM Institute and then after I discovered BRM Institute.

Malini: So what happened was, I was in a BRM role in a very large and complex organization and so I had progressed naturally like from being a business analyst to being a senior business analyst and then into a BRM role and I was kind of just winging it, so I hadn’t done any formal training as such so I was just going by my gut feel of what where I thought I could add value and setting up goals, as best as I could and that sort of thing and I was actually feeling I was getting to this point where I really needed to step up things like take things up a notch but I wasn’t quite sure how to do that or where to go and I started looking online because I couldn’t find anything in Australia and in particularly in Melbourne where I live. So I started looking online to see if there were any YouTube videos about this or people writing about this– that sort of thing and I quite by accident, I stumbled upon the BRMI website. I didn’t even know the term BRM at that point. In Australia, our roles tend to be called business partner right? So I was looking for business partnering and you know that, an IT business partner that sort of thing, right? So suddenly I came across this thing called the Business Relationship Management Institute and then I realized, “Oh, you could actually become a member,” so I immediately signed up for membership and it was probably about 2:00 a.m. my time, so you can see I was actually very, very keen [laugh].

Peter: I have the feeling you never sleep to be honest. I mean [laugh] every time I have a discussion, it is such a weird time basically for you. Okay, that’s it.

Malini: I think it’s just that I’m very passionate about the BRM craft and the opportunity to engage with people around the world is very, very enticing, so.

Malini: So I don’t mind having to stay up late. So coming back to my story, so it was about 2:00 a.m. or something when I actually signed up for membership and I started exploring the website and I realized there were people in a similar situation to myself, so they were all in a similar sort of role and some of the challenges that they were talking about and so on were very similar to what I was experiencing and suddenly I was– I went from being– from feeling all, all alone to, “Oh my god, there’s literally hundreds and thousands of people just like me,” and I posted a question I think or a comment in the forum and within a few minutes, I didn’t replied back and I remember sitting at my dining table in front of my laptop close to about 3 a.m. I just burst into tears because I couldn’t actually believe that someone on the other side of the world would actually reach out and be so responsive and understanding and so then after that, I was– I got to know more about the Institute and I went through the body of knowledge and I was really keen to do the certification and therefore in 8 to 10 months time when we had the- the inaugural event in Australia which was in Sydney, I had the opportunity to do the BRMP certification and also presented at that conference and they hasn’t been any looking back since.

Peter: Let’s talk about your challenges basically because you said you had challenges within the BRM role and you suddenly realize that okay there was help basically from the BRM Institute at that moment I mean you’ve done this now for several years. What are some of the challenges you were able to solve or you say, “Okay, look this is what I got from the BRM Institute. This is the next step.

Malini: I think when I was functioning in the role of BRM before I became aware of the BRM Institute, I was just literally going by my gut feel, right? I was just winging it so to speak. But being part of the BRM Institute and especially having done both the BRMP and the CBRM, I think what the– there’s several things of value that I’ve got from it and the first and foremost was actually a complete understanding of the role, the BRM role, the outcomes of the BRM capability could bring to the organization, having the right terminology to articulate it. Because we do rely on executive support for survival and growth of the BRM capability within an organization. So, to know how to actually showcase, where the gaps in the organization are and where the BRM could add value and so on, I think that has actually been very, very helpful. The second thing is that, it also served as a validation for things that I already had in place. So, it was like having someone who’s already having this whole group of people who actually knew and understood BRM, every time I actually found like even in conversation with you and when we realize we’re on the same page, you know, for me it’s a validation of, of my own thought process and my own effort. And the third thing is the way it actually– it’s a channel to link you up with thousands of people in the same profession around the world, you must do in a virtual community and there’s so much opportunity to learn from each other. So, we have BRMs we’re just starting out, we have BRMs who are- who’ve been in the profession for many, many years so people like say Juan and Aaron. I’m constantly learning every interaction I have with them, I learn something from them and so, or we should never be complacent about what we know and there’s always room to, to learn and improve and I think BRM provides a channel for doing that.

Peter: Great and it’s also to help you in your role and what did that do for you in the role because there’s, I mean, you’ve worked for different organizations you said. Did that get you different opportunities, different chances basically in the organization?

Malini: It definitely got me improved opportunities. So, I was actually able to my way up to the next level of management. But in order to get BRM body of knowledge, the certifications and all that helped me to do was it gave me tools that I could actually employ. So, like the relationship strategy on a page or the capability mapping. All of those sorts of things. It actually helped me to formally manage my BRM role and outcomes. One of the challenges that BRM’s, when we get together, when we talk about is how do we actually articulate the value of our role, whether it is the service provider whom we represent or to the business colleagues for whom we are providing the support, the enabling capability, right? How do we actually articulate that and BRMI actually provide– through BRMI, I actually got the tools and the mechanisms for doing that and therefore, I was actually able to say, “Okay, this is where– what I need to– these are the outcomes I need to achieve for the organizations. This is how I will actually go about it.” I’ve been able to demonstrate progress or evidence to support progress and things like that and being able to articulate, that has actually paved the way for a lot of things.

Peter: Can you give me an example of what you say, “Hey, this is how I prove the value of the role.” Is that something you can say, “Okay, this is approximately what I did?” Because a lot of people actually ask me that as well, “Okay how do I prove this and sometimes in an example it’s great.”

Malini: Okay, a specific example I’ll take. The first time, I actually started using relationship

Malini: So, the first time I did it, it actually helped me to have evidence of the baseline because prior to that, it was all anecdotal, right? So, me saying, “Yes, I’ve had conversations with my stakeholders. People are actually happy about the service that IT is providing or not happy about the service IT is providing but now actually had this one document or one pager which actually articulates what are the things that are, you know, or my business stakeholders, what are the things that they want me to focus on as a priority and sort of setting the goals for the relationship and then we revisiting it every three months or so. We go, okay, so this is what we said we would do. Do we actually feel now that we have made some progress? Have we actually achieved? What else could we do better? So that tool, I think, not so much– I wouldn’t worry so much about the actual specifics of the tool itself, but serving the role of that tool in serving as a catalyst for focusing and actually measuring improvements in the relationship itself was very good because after I’d done it for about 18 months, you could really see how the relationship has changed and specifically what pain points in the organization had been targeted and addressed because of the relationship.

Peter: Yup. So, just a question because I get this question a lot from BRMs. Did you share that relationship strategy on a page with your partner on the business site or did you just use it as an internal document for yourself?

Malini: No, no. It was definitely shared with my business stakeholder. You’ll notice I’m actually avoiding saying business partner because in the BRM, my context BRM is the person that does the BRM role and business partner is the person at the business end but in Australia, it’s reversed. [laugh]

Peter: Yeah as long as you don’t call them customers, I’m fine. [laugh] Don’t worry. No, but it is a challenge I’ve seen this because I’ve asked people as well. I mean and you said before it’s you were searching for the term business partner.

Malini: Yes.

Peter: And while other people actually are searching for business relationship management and finds things very easily, it is known in the market basically that there’s a lot of different terminology that’s being used and it’s very difficult for people then to find it. I think it, it becomes easier now but I’ve looked at this as well. It’s really interesting to see how different the terminology has become over the years.

Malini: And I think in Australia like when I mentioned BRM, there I find, for many people it’s actually a new term and then when I explain what the BRM capability is, they go away, they are doing that.

Peter: What is the market basically for Australia at this moment for my business relationship marketing perspective because it’s different than North America, so if you can talk about that?

Malini: As an explicit capability, I think BRM is relatively less common here in Australia than and I would say generally in the Asia Pacific region compared to North America and but when you dig a little deeper, you actually find that many organizations have this capability but they don’t actually call it out as a specific– in a specific role so it will be the portfolio manager or the business analyst who is performing this function and I think, however, that things are changing now. It’s slowly picking up both in awareness of the need for this capability and then alongside it actually, the search for people with the right skill set to be able to perform this role and even, even say about 18 months ago, I could not see many advertisements in Australia for BRM roles. Maybe I would see one every couple of months but of late I’m seeing an ad at least once every couple of weeks. So, that itself is an indicator. It’s, in fact, it’s a really good indicator of the appetite for BRM.

Peter: Yeah, in North America I see a lot of people actually connecting and doing events etcetera and network sessions, etcetera. Is that happening in Australia as well? Is there a local groups that get together on a regular basis?

Malini: In terms of engagement with the community, one thing that I have noticed is that again when you compare this region with North America and Europe, I think especially around BRM Connect and that sort of thing, I see a lot more enthusiasm in other parts of the world for community engagement and there are– so to answer your question, we at this moment, our community engagement activities are a bit sporadic. So we don’t have– we haven’t yet got to this stage where we have get-togethers on a regular basis. And I think there are a number of reasons

Malini: So, one is because the BRM capability and practice is still sort of in its infancy here. It’s hard for people to actually find each other. So people– a lot of people actually go, “Oh, I didn’t even know,” you know that this is actually like an established a role and there are the people performing the same sort of thing as myself day in and day out kind of thing. And their challenge is associated with something that doesn’t have a precedence, so where– how will people actually find us and link up to us and so on. The other thing is that generally speaking, in this part of the world in the Asia Pacific region, people tend to be a bit more reticent about sharing experiences, so you– modesty is highly valued, right It’s seen as a virtue so you’ll find that people are less inclined to open up and talk about what they’re doing and so on which makes it difficult again if you want to build up a community where people actually share their experiences.

Peter: Sorry. That’s a very, very good point. That’s– and in addition, an interesting thing. It’s a cultural difference. I fully understand that it but it is not that uncommon basically that people are a bit hesitant to share things even in I mean, if I mean, I come originally from more of the IT side and the IT Service Management side, etcetera and I still saw I mean, some willingness to share but not a huge amount I see in the BRM space in North America basically, way more interest in actually sharing which is kind of interesting so, it could be a cultural difference absolutely but I do see BRM’s in different parts of the world and I mean even China, India, etcetera but also in Australia. That’s how it’s interesting for me to see that there is a feeling that people actually are not really willing to share. I find it very interesting yeah.

Malini: Well, I was introduced to the concept of personal branding by Aaron, you know met him at BRM Connect in Sydney and up until then I had not heard of that at all, right? And since then, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about it and so on and there’s not a lot of material available from writers and speakers in the Asia Pacific region about that. There are but I find a lot more, much much more coming out from North America and a little bit less from Europe. I think though that BRMs are probably more likely to share than others because if we have to build relationships and manage relationships, we need to be able to communicate that’s like your bread and butter skill. So we will eventually get there.

Peter: Yeah, yeah. No. I hopefully, yeah. It’s part of the culture and I fully realize that but then I’m wondering also how the skill sets for instance change per BRM if you’re doing your job slightly different, if you’re handling things like the different etcetera as well so that make sense. Based on your discussion, because you’ve seen BRMs from North America, you’ve seen them from Europe etcetera, based on conferences, based in interactions. I mean that is one of the differences. Do you see that in Australia the work therefore is different as well or is the work exactly the same?

Malini: I think the work itself is actually largely the same right? There might be differences at the minute detail level but in all the conversations and all the readings that I’ve done in the BRM space, I find that the challenges that people are talking about, in their experiences on a day to day basis, they all fall into the same sort of categories, so like tendency to slip into tactical space rather having this space to just focus on the strategic partnering and role clarity, the challenges associated with that. So, say if you are working as an IT BRM, then how do you actually get the other roles within IT to actually understand and leverage the BRM capability.

Malini: So, those sorts of things are I think universal and that’s why I love BRMI and the community, BRM community, because it doesn’t matter that I’m in Australia and others are in other parts of the world but there is certainly plenty of common ground.

Peter: Yeah. So the question is, how are we going to get these Australian BRMs to actually recognize they are BRM?

Malini: Well one of the things that I’ve actually been actively doing and this is and again I have to thank Aaron for making me aware of this concept of personal branding is, I actually have been trying to lift the brand of BRM if you like in Australia so, not so much a personal brand for myself but the BRM brand itself. And I’ve been in touch with a number of existing communities like the Business Analysis Community, the ITSM Community, etcetera and I speak at their events and conferences. I also engage with different organizations where I believe that they have BRM capability already in place so this might be– they already have specific roles or they might have that capability being done through their business analyst and so on and I try and sort of make them aware of the larger BRM community and so on. So there’s a lot of groundwork that needs to be done I think to build up that community.

Peter: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely not that means webinars at the right time zone. My guess is most of the webinars at these moments are in the middle of the night for Australia, etcetera, so but I’d say I mean that means not only Australia but the whole Asia Pacific part. Yeah, I know that’s good and it’s good for me to know as well because I’m doing some other webinars and I just want to make sure basically that I reach that group as well. Now just asking a question to you? Do you have any questions specifically for me that you say, “Hey, can you talk about this or so?

Malini: So Peter, you’ve been an important part of my BRM journey so far because I achieved my CBRM certification. Thanks to you. So we really [laughs].

Peter: Yeah, I don’t think it was me but okay that’s fine. Good [laughter].

Malini: Did you attend the virtual training sessions yourselves last year?

Peter: Mm-hmm.

Malini: And I want to actually I’m curious from your perspective as a trainer to do understand what the direction is, the current trends are in North America, and also possibly over the years, what are some of the things that you’ve seen change? Because that might then help me kind of understand what’s happening in Australia a little bit more and then chart out a future path.

Peter: Yeah, good question. Very good question. So one of the things I’ve noticed is there has in North America being very much focused on certification. A lot of people do BRMP, do CBRM etcetera which has been basically the certification site for more the BRM role itself. I’ve seen a lot of tactical BRM’s struggling where it’s becoming strategic and notice that on the ad conference but also in a webinar I just did around from going from tactical to strategic, the amount of people that actually have questions, “How do I do this?” The lack of understanding how value is important and then you said that earlier as well to being able to articulate the value of the BRM team but also to be able to articulate for instance value for the organization for any of the solutions and helping people that doing value management. I find that– so that’s a little bit of a situation in North America. Now that the BRM Institute has come out with their new knowledge paths to success, I’m talking to a lot of organizations that initially come with, I want to do BRMP, I want to certify my group. Too, can you get me the strategic partnering approach which is a new part of the body of knowledge from the BRM Institute and I see a significant shift for people at this moment asking for, “That’s what I want. What people need help with is. How do I introduce this in the organization?” And I think– and certification is still important. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s that strategic partnering approach. How do I set that up? What is that journey map that I need to do? And now I start to see the follow on from that really around but how do I define value? How do I define what business value really is? So in the last year, I’ve seen more interest in how do I do this for my organization than necessarily, I just want the certification and that’s I think a key part of this whole change basically and when you actually talk to people, I hear them say, “You know what, it’s great.” We did a certification but we didn’t get anything after that and we didn’t know what to do next yeah. We had a few ideas but it was very, very difficult and this is I think what is missing in a lot of organizations so when we start seeing for instance in newer areas, I mean like Australia I mean, Australia, I mean, there’s lots of BRMs, etcetera at this moment and people actually have been trained etcetera, but for me, I think it’s very important at this moment for those new areas that are just starting with this, start rethinking about what are the activities we need to do, to be able to get to introduce that BRM capability in the organization and then do the certification as part of maybe that journey but make sure that you actually focus on, okay, what is a strategic partnership? What is value? What is– How we’re going to be focused on values? So, that’s what I see and I think that’s what where a lot of organizations actually can learn from. I’m not saying that there were mistakes made with the training courses but I think there was a lot of people were so focused on certificate that at this moment they still don’t do it and I think we need to change that in some of the new market.

Malini: I understand what you’re saying, you know many years ago, my father actually told me that something to always remember or keep in mind is that, “Life is what you choose to make of it.” And I think the same applies to certifications, right? So at the end of the day, that’s a certificate, the material that’s covered in the certification is gentle, it’s quite quite gentle and we need each one of us needs to contextualize that to our organization and our specific needs at that point in time as well because things are– so the things that I learned from BRMP and CBRM, I’ve applied some things before. Now I’m sort of reapplying them in a different organization at a different path, a point in time in the journey so, when you’re setting up a new team, there are things that you do one way. When your team has actually matured in its practice then you change things. All of that contextualization is quite a challenge and simply doing the certification itself is not going to sort of just help you keep goals.

Peter: No, but on the other hand I mean, what you did with the certification was pick out certain techniques and immediately start applying that and there is I’m afraid that a lot of people take the course and don’t apply immediately some of the techniques and I think that’s the difference between some of the successful BRMs that immediately are after getting the exam etcetera starting to look at, “Okay, now I want to do it. Yeah I want to do this.” I want to do that and starting to work with that and I think that is the key difference between that. But not everyone is able to do that. I have enough BRM teams that are stuck with, “Okay, I have so much work to do and in the mom shaping etcetera that I don’t have time to work on the practice itself and that’s a challenge.”

Malini: So Peter, do you think that possibly the reason why people do certification itself has a role to play in this because in my situation, I was actually a practicing BRM. I was experiencing challenges and doing the certification was one of the solutions for me to be, you know in a way to speak, so one of the ways to actually address those challenges, so when I sat through the BRMP classes and then against the CBRM classes. I was actually, constantly on the lookout for, “Oh how is this going to help me with, with all my, you know, with all the things that I have to do and so on,” and therefore the shift from the theory to the practice was always there.

Peter: That’s a different way of sitting into training course from a lot of people I think. Because some people actually love, I mean, don’t get me wrong. People love the course etcetera but when you get back to your desk and actually have to do the stuff, it becomes very difficult to bring it in and some people do with very, I mean there’s a large group of BRMs that do this but there is still BRMs that have done the training and then suddenly realize, “Well, I don’t have time to do this. I don’t have time for that.” And I think its part of the recognition in organizations as well from a BRM perspective that you need to take time to learn. You need to take time to find these new techniques and actually start looking at them and then start to apply them and then can it be very successful? I mean, I’ve seen very successful teams based on that. But at this moment I see a lot of teams struggling with, “Okay, how do I get myself to the next phase?” And I think that’s where in the knowledge paths to success on the BRM Institute. We’re now starting to see, “Okay, there is new workshops that can help you– would find defining that path but also there is I think in Keyport is coaching. I coach a lot of BRMs and from the coaching perspective it’s around the very things that are difficult sometimes to rub your head around. How do I measure this? How do I go from an idea document to a value plan, etcetera and there’s lots of lots of questions related to that and that’s I think very important is that, we don’t see necessarily and just doing a course as important, we’re seeing it as, okay, it’s a path that you go on and I think you’ve basically you talked about the fact is that you went through that path. You went from being business analyst to senior business analyst to business partner. Let me use the right term for you and getting into that role where you now, or to a CIO etcetera. So, that is I think that career path you have taken that and say I’ve used the material along the way to actually get to that but when you get a whole team of 10 BRMs that you’re leading, you suddenly need to start thinking about, “Okay, well how do I get them all at the same area? What kind of techniques do I need to actually teach them basically to actually start using? Why do I need to use a relationship strategy on a page?” Yeah, those are some of the things that we were starting to see. You can get that from the certification training. You can get it from workshops. You can get that from coaching. It’s different ways for different people.

Malini: Absolutely and I think you mentioned one of the things you touched on was the fact that people find themselves very busy and then there’s not enough space to sort of step back and reflect and then work out what needs to be done next which is why I am very sort of pedantic about by tea ceremony as you call it, just to create that space. [Laugh]

Peter: You had to bring it up, yeah. [laugh]

Malini: I think it’s really important that on a regular basis. In fact on a daily basis that we take even if it is just a few minutes, we actually take time to do a little stock take. How am I going today? Is this actually contributing? Has my effort so far been contributing towards the outcomes that I’m seeking to achieve? What is it that I need to do differently? Where can I get help? That sort of thing.

Peter: Yeah. No, and that’s great. I mean and I know your tea– I call it your tea ceremony but it’s that’s ten minutes, that fifteen minutes per day thinking about, “Okay, how can I further improve myself?” That’s really what it’s –it’s looking for or even reading an article etcetera to actually get new ideas and I think that’s extremely important, yes absolutely, so.

Malini: I have one more question for you Peter if we have time?

Peter: Yes we have. If we don’t have time we can always cut it out

Malini: Oh, okay so my question is in my conversations with BRM’s here in this region it seems that the primary challenge or the biggest challenge I should say that the people face is, actually getting role clarity at the provider end, right? So we are often brought into organizations because the provider has recognized that the relationship with the business needs to improve or I should say rather than saying with the business, I should say the relationships we have with the enterprise needs to improve but then the BRMs feel a lack of support at the provider end, and is that something that you see in North America?

Peter: Yeah absolutely, yeah. It’s similar basically. There’s lots of BRM’s that are struggling with indeed and provider that is not looking at becoming a strategic partner. They’re more looking at it from a perspective, “Okay, I just want to be an order-taker.” That’s part of the provider mentality sometimes but the other hand is as well is innovation happens close to where the business is really working. So, that’s where the innovation happens, where the customers, I mean customers from your organization are working on certain things and that’s where we actually see the innovation happen. But that’s quite often means that a little more agile approach requires needs to be faster people actually or need to wait for things. They don’t want to wait for things sorry. And then if we see that, we quite often see that the enterprise IT organization is very much stuck in the old ways, “Okay I need to do this, I need to do that.” I’m not– I’m just doing the things they’re asking me and nothing more and I want to have controls over it and if you want to have something new, it’s going to take six months before you actually get it. That is quite often, they don’t understand that it’s BRM, the role clarity of the BRM and needs to address that as well that you get into innovation discussions, that you get new demand that you see more demand coming in and how you translate that to, “Hey, this is what the provider now needs to do.” But if they don’t see that BRM as the lead for how they need to change and this is what I quite often actually tell providers as well is that you need to start seeing the BRM as your lead for your transformation because they can tell you really what from a business perspective really is necessary what is required and can help you with strategize and can help you with focusing on the right improvements and this is going to change the perspective basically from a lot of providers and we are seeing more and more that we’re starting to go outsourcing– a significant part of outsourcing of our IT organizations based on that because we’re starting to look for suppliers that can be that strategic partner that doesn’t want just to be an order-taker but actually want to help you to actually get things being done better and I spoke to an oil and gas company recently and it was like, if we get a new network line basically, that bit of it and higher through put that could mean for instance that we need less engineers to actually working on this network line because it’s like a direct connection to and a truck or something like that is that is without a driver it’s just an autonomous truck and the engineer bus Lee just I can have now one engineer basically doing managing four trucks instead of managing just one. That is a significant amount of innovation but you need to have done a provider that can actually say, “Yes, I can actually deliver this for you. I can ensure that this is going to save you basically cost on from a business perspective that can significantly help you in further developing that.” If the service provider has some like, “Yeah, you know what?” Just get them a network line and just the standard service, it’s not going to work for them so– So the long answer, sorry did I answer the question? [Laughter]

Malini: I think you did.

Peter: [Laughter] Okay good, awesome. Okay. Anything other things you want to discuss?

Malini: For me the shine hasn’t worn out yet. I’m still as enthusiastic and as passionate about BRM as I was six- seven years ago. I still see the opportunities and even as I progress in my own BRM path or maturity, I actually see there’s still more ahead of me that I need to achieve. So, it’s a very exciting line of work to be in.

Peter: That’s a great last statement basically. So thank you, Malini for participating on this and I’m looking forward to hearing how your path actually continues. So, thank you.

Malini: Thanks Peter.