Do you want to be disregarded or integral? How to increase you value as a Business Partner


Value in the context of Business Partnering is about understanding the business strategy, how the business creates, delivers and generates value and providing relevant insights into business strategy and performance.

Value is of course subjective, and therefore the value proposition of the Business Partner can be challenging to articulate.  What is deemed valuable by one client, may not be measured in the same way by another.  It is subjective and therefore difficult to define and measure.  To assist with this, we developed a model that explains the value that a Business Partner can deliver. 

We represent this by way of a value ladder.  This value ladder demonstrates the value model of a Business Partner. We have considered business partnering relationships as they may evolve and the subsequent value that could be perceived as the relationship between the Business Partner and their clients develop.   We will take you through each level, explaining the capabilities that help the Business Partner progress up the ladder. Each Business Partner’s voyage up the ladder will start at a different spot, largely dependent on where their client initially sees them, and influenced by where the Business Partner perceives themselves – this is where a business partner’s ego and their blind spots can derail their road to “Integral”.  You can skip a wrung or maybe even two on the ladder as you proceed.  As you develop up the ladder, trust increases at each step.  To use a term coined by Masiter, Green and Galford (2002), you become the “Trusted Advisor.”

Fig 1.0 Value Model of a Business Partner © Business Partnering Impact Program

A Business Partner never wants to be at the ‘Disregarded’ level.   There can be a number of reasons why your client may not require your support.  Perhaps they have managed without the role.  The role may be new to the organisation.  Alternatively, they may not value the role.  Whatever the reason, if you feel you are here, do not dwell on it, get yourself off this wrung immediately! At Irrelevant, you are not in a much better position than ‘Disregarded’, however you are present.  Your client knows you are present.  At this step it is about becoming more visible and noticed.  Do you know everything you need to know to support your business and Leader?  If not, what are the gaps or blind spots?   How do you demonstrate your relevance?   Let’s step on to the next one…

You are now being ‘Noticed’.  You have developed some credibility.  You are adding some value.  Your client is noticing your contributions.  You are seen as the subject matter expert in certain areas.  You demonstrate your capability through your hard work, and this is noticed.  These small acknowledgements build confidence in the work you do. Keep focused, you are a third of the way up the value ladder.

Here is the tipping point*, you are ‘Needed’.   It’s not time to celebrate, just yet!  You are demonstrating value, as your client needs you across a myriad of operational and low-level strategic activities.  You have a strong understanding of your Business and the team you support.  You have credibility and are now viewed as part of the extended team.  Your subject matter expertise (depth) is respected, as is your knowledge in other areas (breadth).  Needed is good, but not yet great.  Let’s step it up to the next level.

You are ‘Valued’.  Your client understands the contribution you make.  You have solid commercial acumen, and you are able to draw insights using your expertise and the knowledge you have developed over time and as your knowledge of the business you support increases. You receive positive feedback, and you feel that your contribution is appreciated and useful.  The view is great from this position on the ladder.  But how will it look from the other two steps?

‘Highly valued’.  Your input and contributions in the team are highly regarded.  You know your business inside out and you are constantly learning and evolving your knowledge; you ask insightful questions, and you are a strong active listener.  You have a high trust relationship with your client and their team, and you are seen as the trusted advisor. You exude the confidence that is consistent of a Business Partner who knows their strengths and can confidently say “I don’t know the answer to that, let me find out for you.”

Here is the top of the ladder: ‘Integral’.  You are well and truly part of the team.  Everyone has forgotten that you are the Business Partner because you are seen as an integral member of the leadership team.  You have accountability for the business results.  You work with colleagues on the leadership team to achieve success, easily navigating discussions from your views on business strategy and back again to your core area of expertise.  To the uninitiated at the table, they are not quite sure what your core area of expertise is – you are too well rounded to be ‘boxed in’ to a particular discipline.  Their KPI’s are your KPI’s. How is the view from the top step?

If you are above ‘Valued’.  Well done.  If not, consider what you need to do to move up.  If you are struggling to see what is required to move up, we will introduce you to a model that will help.  If you don’t know where you are on the ladder, seek to understand.  Have a conversation about the value you bring to the team.  Ask for feedback.  It’s important to identify your current spot on the ladder and then can create a plan to help you get to where you aspire to be.


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