by Peter B. Nichol

3 BRM tools for evolution not revolution

Jan 17, 2018
IT LeadershipIT Strategy

Focusing on strategic initiatives is possible once tactical needs are met. Use these three tools to talk about strategy faster.

6 strategic puzzle
Credit: Thinkstock

What does BRM value mean to your organization? This is a question that all CIOs pose to their leadership teams shortly after entering the BRM journey. In sum, it’s a quest for value. The BRM Institute argues that this business relationship path leads CIOs to the business-relationship maturity model. This model defines five levels of maturity:

  1. Level 1 (ad hoc)
  2. Level 2 (order taker)
  3. Level 3 (service provider)
  4. Level 4 (trusted advisor)
  5. Level 5 (strategic partner)

There are three indispensable tools that build credibility faster: ITSM Standards & Frameworks, Lean Six Sigma and Kaizen events.

1. ITSM Standards & Frameworks

Information Technology Infrastructure Library, commonly called ITIL, is a collection of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM). ITIL was a product of the UK Government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency created in the 1980s. The original intent was to create a financially responsible framework for using IT resources. Five core volumes each outline an ITSM lifecycle stage:

  1. Service Strategy, e.g., demand management, financial management, strategy generation management, service portfolio management
  2. Service Design, e.g., service catalogue management, service level management, capacity management, availability management, service continuity management, information security management, supplier management
  3. Service Transition, e.g., knowledge management, change management, asset and configuration management, release and deployment management, transition planning and support, service validation and testing, evaluation
  4. Service Operations, e.g., incident management, problem management, event management, request-fulfillment, access management, operations management, service desk, application management, technical management, IT Operations
  5. Continual Service Improvement, e.g., service measurement, service reporting, service improvement

Governed by policies, mandated by standards, aligned to best-practice guidelines and instructed by procedures, ITSM is a powerful framework for getting a grip on tactical dysfunction. ITSM describes processes, procedures, tasks, and checklists that are organizationally neutral. Maintaining consistency is predictable when BRMs use standardized frameworks.

2. Lean Six Sigma

Popularized by Jack Welch in 1995, Lean Six Sigma was introduced into the mainstream by Bill Smith in 1986 during his time at Motorola. There are multiple facets of Six Sigma; Lean Six Sigma focuses on collaboration and, more importantly, on team efforts to systematically remove waste and variation from products, processes, and services.

Define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC) is a continuous-improvement cycle with a data-drive backbone. The cycle is best known for improving, optimizing, and stabilizing business processes. These improvements can be made on the technology side of the house or on the business side.


  1. Define: define the problem, goal, and customer requirements
  2. Measure: measure the current process, potential problems, and how to collect data
  3. Analyze: analyze the problem, data, and causes
  4. Improve: brainstorm potential practical solutions, process maps, and measure improvements
  5. Control: continuously improve using lean principles, process monitoring, and implementing improvements

The Define phase approaches the problem with data and begins with the end in mind. The Measure phases maps out the current processes. The Analyze phase identifies causes of the problems. The Improve phase implements and verifies the solution. The Control phase maintains the solution. Each of these iterative steps, in the DMAIC cycle, promotes provider and business-partner interaction to form a solution that’s fully bought into by all stakeholders.

3. Kaizen events  

A Kaizen event or a “kaizen blitz” was the brainchild of the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda, in the 1930s. Toyota ingrained continuous improvement into its company culture, quality, technology, processes, productivity, safety, and leadership. Toyota created a culture of quality through continuous, small improvements that led to increased customer satisfaction, lower operational costs, and accelerated speed to market. In Japanese, “kai” means change and “zen” means good. In English, kaizen generally refers to measures of continuous improvement, a key component of lean manufacturing. “Lean Software Development” was first coined as the title of a conference in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1992.

Kaizen creates a culture of continuous improvement. The theory is that good processes bring good results.

Kaizen events solicit buy-in from all stakeholders, maps existing processes, and makes improvements based on the scope of the Kaizen event. Kaizen events can incorporate a wide range of concepts including: Kanban (method for managing the creation of products), quality improvement, zero defects, just-in-time, and QC circles.

Kaizen shifts mindsets from a conventional to a process-emphasis approach:

  1. “Employees are the problem” becomes “process is the problem.”
  2. “Employees should understand their jobs” becomes “employees should understand how their job fits into the process.”
  3. “Employees should correct errors” becomes “employees should reduce variation.”

ITSM Standards and Frameworks, Lean Six Sigma, and Kaizen events all subscribe to the philosophy that continuous improvement is everyone’s job. Companies must establish and adopt frameworks that change whatever needs to be improved. Understanding problem awareness will build BRM credibility and support the company’s evolution, not revolution.