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Business Relationship Management – A Great Professional Development Move for Project Managers

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A Business Relationship Management (BRM) role is often thought to be a natural professional development path for business analysts. But what about project managers? Does it make sense for PMs to consider this as a logical professional growth opportunity for them? We think so. Consider the points in this article regarding what BRM is and the critical role BRMs play in their organizations. See if a BRM role is in your future!

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What is BRM?

BRM can mean a number of things: Business Relationship Management or Business Relationship Manager. BRM may be used to refer to a role, a discipline, or even an organizational capability. 

When referring to the role, there are three metaphors used in The BRMP® Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge to describe the business relationship manager (BRM): connector, navigator, and orchestrator. These three metaphors are helpful when understanding the BRM role. They also illuminate how the BRM role capitalizes on skills demanded of project managers as they work with resources across organizational functions and facilitate collaboration among stakeholders at all levels.

BRM Helps Connects the Business and Service Provider
  • As a Connector, the BRM builds strong relationships between the business (customer) and the service provider (internal departments providing the business a service; for example, IT, HR, or accounting), as well as among various business partners, to facilitate and improve the communication between both parties.

Project managers don’t do very well if they are good connectors. The PM challenge of engaging stakeholders to benefit the project is all about connecting. Helping stakeholders understand the project goals and objectives and how they and others are aligned with them is essential to good project management. As a connector, project managers must facilitate communication among many parties.

BRM as an Orchestrator in Business
  • As an Orchestrator, the BRM helps coordinate the resources needed to provide business value. The focus is on coordinating and aggregating the business demand of the provider’s products, services, and capabilities. They help the service provider (often IT) to ensure they understand the business needs and expectations they need to meet when delivering solutions, while helping the business prioritize projects, ensure those projects optimize return on investment, and ensure that the IT strategy supports the business strategy.

Today’s project managers are no longer the order takers they were once thought of. Good PMs are always mindful of the business case and project charters that define the business need and expectations. As stewards of the project resources, PMs are orchestrating throughout the project to ensure that the application of resources is delivering business value.

Business Relationship Management as a Navigator
  • As a Navigator, the BRM facilitates the effort to embed provider capabilities within the business, facilitates strategic planning and road-mapping efforts, and provides guidance over key provider roles on behalf of the business partner (e.g. enterprise architect, portfolio and program management).

Project managers are not responsible for embedding or otherwise modifying organizational capabilities. However, PMs navigate horizontally and vertically throughout different areas of the organization to obtain and develop resources. This gives them first-hand insight into how changes to the placement of skills and capabilities could be more strategically arranged.

Clearly, project managers are in a prime position to fulfill the BRM role. Projects require that PMs create productive connections between the business and IT, HR, or other service provider departments. They help orchestrate key resources and capabilities needed to drive business value and facilitate working relationships between parties. It is also a PM’s responsibility to ensure that all stakeholders appreciate what others contribute to the project and the organization, as well as understand how those contributions are aligned with the business need. Finally, experienced, savvy PMs take a strategic view of organizational resources and are able to take advantage of their horizontal and vertical mobility to provide recommendations on how best to apply organizational capabilities to achieve business goals.

What are key Business Relationship Management responsibilities?

The responsibilities of a BRM will depend on the maturity of the role and discipline within the organization, as well as how the organizational BRM capability is structured. The focus of any responsibility must be to maximize business value. Here is a list of just a few of the responsibilities one might find in a BRM role:

Business Relationship Management Responsibilities
  • Builds relationships with business, internal technology teams, and external technology vendors, or other service providers internal or external to the organization.
  • Acts as an internal service provider consultant to the business.
  • Identifies process improvements that add value to the organization.
  • Helps negotiate service level agreements (SLAs) between the business and service provider and/or vendors.
  • Facilitates strategic planning sessions, helps define key strategies, and ensures the technology strategy aligns to the business strategy.
  • Coordinates solution delivery and service efforts.
  • Works with the program and project managers, architects, and other project team members to deliver business value through various solutions.
  • Identifies and analyzes new business initiatives (conducts cost-benefit analysis, develops business cases, etc.).
  • Helps evaluate and prioritize projects according to their ROI (return on investment) and maximized business value.
  • Stays up-to-date on industry trends (business & technical) and the competition in the effort to identify new opportunities or threats.

These responsibilities are either already on the list of responsibilities for a PM, or they are an easy addition to the list. Even where there is a potential conflict of interest, such as with “Helps evaluate and prioritize projects according to their ROI…”, it is reasonable to see a PM contributing to that activity as a BRM and not in their role as a PM. Overall, it is reasonable to expect that an experienced project manager would be able to take on these responsibilities in a role as a BRM.

Core capabilities and skills needed by the BRM

To be effective in the BRM role, there are several core capabilities and skills you need to have:

  • A significant knowledge about the business strategy, business processes, and the service provider’s products, services, and capabilities.
  • Exceptional communication skills. A BRM must understand the business sufficiently to communicate the importance of projects to the technology team as well as to understand the technology sufficiently to communicate its complexity to the business in terms they understand.
  • Ability to partner with the business on a strategic level, including the ability to assist with the business strategy and ensuring the IT strategy aligns with the business strategy.
  • Have a high business IQ (includes an understanding of the industry, financials, how businesses operate, etc.).
  • Ability to use portfolio management disciplines and techniques to maximize realized business value.
  • Experience with business transition (organizational change) efforts to minimize value leakage.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills (includes oral and written communication, presentation skills, influencing skills, ability to collaborate and negotiate).
  • A high aptitude for critical, strategic, creative, and innovative thinking.

Experienced project managers regularly tap into these skills in their project work. Again, the transition to a BRM role as it relates to the skills needed is an easy one for PMs.

If you are a project manager looking for a new professional development path, consider becoming a business relationship manager. It’s likely that you have the aptitude and skills well developed in your role as PM. In addition, you have almost certainly born the key responsibilities of a BRM. Becoming a BRM doesn’t mean you have to leave PM behind. It just means you are able to add additional value to your organization.

Good luck!

For more information about BRM and the BRMP, visit our website.

Additional Resources:

  1. Business Relationship Management Institute’s website for more information or to become a member: https://brm.institute
  2. Download a copy of the BRMBOK for free as a member of BRM Institute or order a paper copy off Amazon.

BRMP® is a registered trademark of Business Relationship Management Institute.

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PMI, PMBOK, PMP, CAPM, PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMI-PBA, The PMI TALENT TRIANGLE and the PMI Talent Triangle logo, and the PMI Registered Education Provider logo are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. BRMP is a registered trademark of Business Relationship Management Institute.