In-Depth BRM

An Intro into the World of Business Relationship Management, Part 2: An In-depth Look at a BRM

Our BRM exploration journey continues. In our last BRM blog, we provided you with a high-level view of the BRM, BRMP®, and BRM Institute®. In this blog, we take a closer, more detailed look about the BRM role, a brief history, what BRMs do, and the core competencies needed to be a successful BRM.

As you may remember from our last blog, BRM stands for Business Relationship Management or Business Relationship Manager. It is an emerging role that functions between the business and the service provider (e.g., IT, HR, marketing, manufacturing, etc.). The BRM assists the business in maximizing the value of the services provider’s products, services, and capabilities and works with the service provider to ensure they understand the business needs and expectations they need to meet when delivering solutions.

A Brief History

BRMs first surfaced in the 1990s as some IT departments established the role to strengthen their business relationships, maximum value from IT assets and investments and begin to address business and IT alignment. In 2005, the BRM role gained more validity with ISO/IEC 20000 service management standard and reinforced with ITIL v3 in 2007. BRM implementation rates in IT services have increased dramatically since 2011 when the BRM role and its corresponding processes were formalized as an ITIL best practice and an ISO/IEC 20000 IT service management international standard requirement.

A Detailed View of BRM

BRM can be a role, a discipline, or an organizational capability. The BRMP® Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge (version 1.3) lists three metaphors that are used to describe the role of a business relationship manager (BRM): connector, navigator, and orchestrator. These three metaphors are helpful when understanding the BRM role.

  • As a Connector, the BRM builds strong relationships between the business partner and the service provider, as well as among various business partners.
  • 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.
  • 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).

As a discipline, all service provider roles that work with the business should be skilled in BRM competencies (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) to provide business value-producing relationships between the service provider and its business partners.

As an organizational capability, the service provider organization should be effective in shaping and channeling business demand for their services, products, and capabilities that provide the highest business value opportunities. A BRM must understand organizational strategy and all business processes in each business unit in order to provide technology guidance to ensure a maximum return on investment (ROI) for IT products, services and capabilities.

What Are Their Key Responsibilities?

The responsibilities of a BRM vary from organization to organization. BRM responsibilities 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 a just a few of the responsibilities one might find in a BRM role:

  • 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 with 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.

Earn your certification in Watermark’s BRMP certification course.

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.

Given that the above skill sets are often needed by senior business analysts, program managers, or organization/enterprise architects, moving to a BRM role may be the next step in their career. Alternatively, learning the skills of a BRM may also enhance the skills of business analysts and project managers.

Our next blog will provide detailed information about the BRMP. In the meantime, check out the following sites for more information:

  1. Business Relationship Management Institute’s (BRM Institute) website to become a member:
  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.

Susan Heidorn, Ed.D., PMP, CBAP, HSDP, CSM, BRMP

Dr. Susan Heidorn, PMP, CBAP, HSDP, CSM, BRMP is the Director of Business Solutions for Watermark Learning in Minneapolis. Susan is an experienced consultant, facilitator, speaker, and trainer, with over 25 years of business experience. Susan directs programs in business analysis, business relationship management, and leadership, including developing and delivering courses and providing consulting. She has been a speaker at a number of IIBA® and PMI® conferences as well as local and regional organizations, boards, and private clients. She is a lifelong learner whose passion it is to guide people into achieving excellence in their personal and professional lives and works on creating positive impacts to the organization.

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