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The Changing nature of IT Business Partnering

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An Interview with Tony Michaels, Lead IT Business Partner at Skanska


Lead IT Business Partner Tony Michael tells Certes how he established and developed the IT Business Partnering Function within Skanska and what the future holds for such functions in the UK market.

By James O’Driscoll BRMP®, April 2017

Overview of Skanska     

Skanska, established in 1887, is one of the world's leading project development and construction groups. The UK operation is one of the country's top contractors, known for major projects such as the Gherkin and Crossrail. It has 5,500 employees and in 2016 an operating revenue of £1.67bn.


Explain your role?

"I was recruited into the IT department from the operations side of the organisation in 2012, primarily to bring the customer experience and opportunities to improve, into the department. I am a member of the IT Leadership team reporting directly to our CIO. This says a great deal of the value the organisation places in the customer experience and focus. I lead a team of 6 IT Business Partners aligned with various parts of our Business."
       

What have been the most difficult aspects of this transition to date?

"Each area of the business has differing levels of requirements, balancing these diverse requirements with a need for enterprise consistency is an on-going challenge."

What tools, methods and resources did you find most effective to help with this transition?

"Clarity, expectation setting and communication are important ingredients in effectiveness. Teamwork within the IT department is also absolutely key, working together in lock step with our IT colleagues’ makes such a difference to good delivery and perception. The IT leadership team is made up of myself, Head of Infrastructure & Operations, Head of Business Systems and Head of Programs and Compliance."

What are your plans for the function in the short to medium term?

"We are in the process redefining and communicating the role, positioning the value adding potential, and working within a defined framework for setting the expectations of delivery. We are all in the business of adding value to our organisation and the understanding of our business colleagues is essential. The support of all involved in this process has been invaluable. We are currently measuring ourselves against industry best practice and defining routes of development."

What tools, methods and resources are you considering to assist with these plans?

"BRM Institute has been fantastic source of tools and methods in our journey. We are benchmarking our skills in line with the BRMP qualification, assessing current and future states against maturity models as well as informing development streams."

Talking more generally now, how do you view the current maturity of IT BRM/IT BP model and market in the UK? 

"Although I think the model itself is maturing well, I believe the maturity of the application of the model is inconsistent. I see great examples where the model is working fantastically well and other examples where the Job title is given to a discipline that fulfils a somewhat different function. The BRM forums such as the one instigated by yourself gives this visibility as well as the opportunity to exchange examples and best practice. I do see a maturing and increasingly valued discipline."

Are you seeing any general themes and challenges when meeting peers outside of Skanska, and do you have any thoughts on how these challenges can be overcome?

"Absolutely, many of our challenges are very similar – my top 3? 

1) Make sure the role is clear to all stakeholders.
2) Really understand the business that you are working in.
3) Ensure you add value – and measure it.

But of course; 1) relationships, 2) relationships 3) relationships. "

What is the one factor, in your opinion, all IT BRM/IT BP functions need to in order to be successful?

"Support and understanding of the senior stakeholders in the business."

What does the future hold for the IT BRM/IT BP model?

"Excitement. Really, as the role is maturing and becoming more widely understood and valued, so the function becomes more important. What organisation has not suffered from the perception of IT and what it does? This function is a step in the right direction for the maturity of IT itself – as thought leaders and contributors to strategies, not simply reactive service providers."

What can be done by the IT BRM/IT BP community to help ensure the continued success of the model?

"Prove your worth, add the value and show it."

Finally some quick fire questions.

     1. Business Relationship Manager or Business Partner?

"I don’t think it matters – whatever fits for your organisation – just watch the Americanisms around the term ‘Business Partner’."

      2. Generally is it better to sit in the business or IT?

"In the business."

      3. Will the role ever become a pure “strategic partner?”

"Yes – but dependent on the business and provability of value add."

      4. What works best, vertical or location alignment?

"Both have to be taken into account – but ideally vertical."

      5. What are the top five most important stakeholders to an IT BRM/IT BP, in your opinion?

  1. Business leaders – the customers we interact with and add value for
  2. Their customers – the clients and ultimate consumers of the business service
  3. I.T. – and all elements and people within it
  4. Other BRMs/Business partners in our organisations (HR, Finance etc)
  5. The outside references and the BRM community – we all draw on expertise and experience from industry bodies and each other.

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