BRM is the acronym for Business Relationship Management or Business Relationship Manager. The Business Relationship Manager role is established in more and more organizations lately. It functions between the business, also referred to as the business partner, and the service provider (e.g., IT, Human Resource Management, Facilities Management, Vendor Management, Procurement, 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.
BRMs first appeared in organizations in the early 90s as some IT departments established the role to strengthen their business relationships and to maximum value from IT assets and investments.
In 1992, the BRM role gained more momentum due to the introduction of the BS 15000 (now ISO/IEC 20000) service management standard and was additionally reinforced with the release of Information Technology Infrastructure Library® (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.
In 1993, the non-profit organization, the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI) was established, providing a body of knowledge and collaboration and certification opportunities for the BRM industry.
With the introduction in 2017 of ISO 44001, the standard for collaborative business relationship management systems, the growing popularity of the BRM role has been further underlined.
The BRM Role: A Closer Look
BRM can be a role, a discipline, or an organizational capability. The BRMP® Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge (version 1.3, pages 10-11) 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 explaining the BRM role.
- As a Connector, the BRM builds strong relationships between the business partners and the service provider, as well as among the 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 service provider capabilities within the business, facilitates strategic planning and road-mapping efforts, and provides guidance over key service 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) in an effort to provide business value-producing relationships between the service provider and its business partners. Examples of these service provider roles are:
- Employees working in IT, Human Resources, Procurement, Finance, Vendor Management and Facilities Management
- Employees possessing a VP, Director or Manager job title
- Business Relationship Managers or those in similar roles
- Quality Managers and Service Level Managers
- Portfolio Managers and Service Owners
- Program and Project Managers
- Business Analysts
- Enterprise and Service Architects
- External Service Providers
- Representatives of shared services organizations
- Anyone interested in maximizing business value
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 a given business unit in order to provide technology guidance to ensure a maximum return on investment (ROI) for service provider products, services and capabilities.
Key Responsibilities of the BRM
The responsibilities of a BRM, varies from organization to organization. The responsibilities will depend on the maturity of the role and discipline within the organization, the maturity of the service provider and the business partner organization as well as how the organizational BRM capability is structured. No matter the maturity or the structure, the main focus of any responsibility of the BRM must be to maximize business value. Below is a list of a just a few of the responsibilities of the 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 a trusted advisor during business transition (organizational change) initiatives
- 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 service provider’s 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 programs and 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
Core Capabilities and Skills needed by the BRM
To be an effective in the BRM role, there are a number of core capabilities and skills one needs to possess:
- 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
- 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
- A significant knowledge about the business strategy, business processes, and the service provider’s products, services, and capabilities
- The ability to partner with the business on a strategic level, including the ability to assist with the business strategy and ensuring the service provider’s strategy aligns with the business strategy
- A high business IQ; this includes having an understanding of the industry, of financials, how businesses operate, market trends, opportunities and threats, etc.
- The ability to use portfolio management disciplines and techniques to maximize realized business value
- Experience with business transition efforts to minimize value leakage
Given that the above skills sets are often needed by senior business analysts, service owners or managers, program managers, or organization/enterprise architects, moving to a BRM role may be the next step in their career. BRMs often take on C-level positions after a while when seeking the next career challenge.