Aug 25 2021

NASCIO Explores the Importance of Business Relationship Management

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers is seeking to define the evolving role for state IT leaders.

Since 2018, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers has embraced the concept of “CIO as a broker,” in which CIOs broker procurement for products and services with state agencies rather than acting as mere fulfillment agents and technologists.

The organization has iterated on that concept since then and is now evolving it further, with a new emphasis on business relationship management, or BRM. In late July, NASCIO released a publication outlining its perspective on BRM and how state CIOs can use the model to create value, achieve clearly defined outcomes and adjust as needed to reach them.

BRM sits at the intersection of several related trends, including customer and vendor relationship management. It acknowledges the importance of relationships, experimentation and collaboration, and it maintains the role of a state CIO as a trusted adviser to agencies.

“Providers, trusted private sector partners, cross-jurisdictional collaborators and internal staff are all trusted advisors to the state CIO in developing strategy, anticipating change and evaluating emerging technology,” the document states.

How NASCIO Views Business Relationship Management

NASCIO defines BRM as “a disciplined approach to proactively managing effective working relationships with internal staff, departments and agencies, suppliers and partners.”

The organization says the idea is to focus on “evolving relationships that travel together, learn together, share risks and rewards. Relationships are not abandoned when failure occurs or is anticipated. Instead, course corrections are made to ensure projects, programs and management initiatives don’t fail but rather adjust, pivot, learn and move on.”

Trust is critical in this context, and that means state CIOs need to focus on “open communication, transparency of project plans and metrics and communication about what is not working, collaborative direction setting and adjusting,” the organization states.

Ultimately, NASCIO says, this boils down to relationship management to enhance the delivery of services and benefit citizens. Business relationship managers will become trusted elements of agency leadership teams, the publication states.

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BRM is consistent with and supports the model of CIO as a broker, according to NASCIO.

“As state governments rely more on matching the needs of agencies with vendors instead of providing those services in-house, this requires more strategic relationships and trusted partnerships with vendors instead of transactional relationships,” the publication notes. “As this happens the importance of the BRM manager role becomes more urgent. In a more mature circumstance, the BRM manager is working closely with the state CIO in aligning business requirements with vendor capabilities.”

NASCIO also seeks to define what the BRM role is and is not. Business relationship managers “are not order takers or strictly tactical and in many cases are not necessarily technologists.”

Instead, NASCIO says, they are “highly effective communicators and likely to have high emotional IQ.”

One state CIO interviewed by NASCIO described their business relationship managers as “extraordinarily talented people, all very empathetic, quick to pick up nuances of both people’s attitudes and technology challenges. We probably expect more from them than one would think of in merely a customer relationship role.”

Another state CIO cited in the publication described the ideal business relationship manager as “having significant strength in three areas: relationship management, technology and domain expertise.”

The goal is to get someone in the role who has at least two of those strengths, with the most important being relationship management.

“Technology knowledge and business domain expertise within an agency can both be taught, however the ability to manage relationships, take action and follow up on issues, is more of an inherent characteristic that is much more difficult to teach,” NASCIO says.

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