When you consider how young the IT profession is, it’s no wonder people ask about the Business Relationship Management role. Think about how long HR, finance, marketing, and operations roles have been marinating in companies. In fact, the first real generation of life-time IT professionals are just now beginning to retire. So, it stands to reason that many haven’t had the opportunity to encounter a living, breathing Business Relationship Manager (BRM).
The good news is, BRMs are not the sasquatch of the office. There are more BRMs roaming the halls of companies today than ever before, thanks in part to the good work of the Business Relationship Management Institute and fine works of art like IT Business Partnerships: A Field Guide (apologies for the shameless plug). All joking aside though, more people are becoming enlightened and now see the true value of the role in their companies.
What is BRM?
The Business Relationship Manager’s primary purpose in organizations is to understand the company strategy and correspondingly, to find ways that help meet company goals. It stands to reason then, that BRMs must have a deep knowledge of company strategy and the strategic imperatives that drives success. In addition, BRMs help internal departments meet their strategic goals. And most importantly, BRMs spend time with external customers. It is there that they gain actionable insights into pain points that, when eliminated, make it easier for customer to do business with their companies.
Why It Matters Now More than Ever Before?
We live in a world of constant change. Technology is moving quickly and it profoundly impacts the way companies compete. Customers now have more influence over brand, price, and expectations than ever before. Social media and mobile phone give customers unprecedented voice and power. In this dizzying, fast paced world, BRMs help to make sense of it all. The know that technology shapes customer engagement and they know the critical importance of truly understanding the customer’s journey.
BRMs are bridge builders. They help converge business and technology into a cohesive strategy, specifically aimed at helping companies perform at optimum levels. They make sure that IT’s portfolio of investments drive strategy and top-line or bottom-line benefits. That is their role. Few others roles influence and shape business outcomes the way BRMs do.
Top Seven Reasons Why This is the Year for BRM
The time is now. Markets and the customers they serve aren’t waiting for you and your company to get on board. Your competition is figuring it out. Get your BRM program under way today. Here are seven reasons why BRMs make an impact:
- Companies Need BRMs. The average level of satisfaction between IT and the rest of the company is anemic. BRMs bridge the chasm between IT and the rest of the business. They singularly focus on seeking value and helping to drive the strategic imperatives of the business units they partner with. Companies are more successful when IT is intertwined and converged with every aspect of a business. Company success is the goal of BRMs.
- Trust is the big winner when executives and business peers around the company understand their proper role in investments. Everyone knows that, in theory, every company has limited dollars to spend, yet they all seem to lob their project proposals over the wall and then sit back and grumble when they aren’t taken on. A strong BRM introduces transparency from three angles. First, they require quantifiable scoring so that when anyone brings project ideas to the table, they come prepared to defend them with real, top or bottom-line benefits as an inherent part of the process. Second, BRMs ensure that all investment decisions are communicated openly across the company- whether and why they make the cut, or not. Third, active projects are posted so they can be easily accessed by anyone in the company.
- Competition. The pace of change and the adoption of technology make is especially hard for companies to see around corners. Markets demand that companies stay hyper-focused on customer engagement. BRMs play a big role in immersing themselves in external customer’s environments. With this perspective, BRMs can skillfully map an investment roadmap that knocks downs barriers to customer engagement.
- Convergence. To this day, IT is considered a service organization and is rarely called on to participate strategically in companies. The most successful leaders know that it takes every business unit working together to compete and win. BRMs are relationship builders and they understand that collaboration between groups leads to high levels of performance. BRMs strive for mutual incentive when launching projects.
- Business Value. It is easy for companies to approve projects that are driven more from a gut feel or emotional perspective. Project portfolios are frequently burdened with projects that are undertaken based solely based on the say-so of an influential executive. When this happens, IT organizations get distracted with “last-loudest-voice” projects instead of projects that drive real value. BRMs ensure that processes are in place to vet investment ideas so that the right projects are undertaken – the ones that drive the most business value.
- Ecosystem Partnerships. BRMs help IT leadership find ecosystem partners to handle the routine, “dial-tone” services that companies need to operate. Dial-tone services are critical but they rarely influence customers to buy and use your company’s products and services. They make sure that IT’s scarce resources aren’t consumed with routine projects around email, phone system support, or managing servers. Instead, BRMs help ensure that IT focuses on projects that drive value and customer engagement.
- Teachers. BRMs are teachers. They shed light on the ways that IT can help solve real business problems. They help all other areas of the business understand the pace of change and the influence that technology can have on the success of the company. BRMs know how to speak both the language of business and technology. It is from this position of strength that BRMs show the rest of the organization the path forward to business value.
The time is now. Market conditions, the competition, and the unprecedented influence of customers all contribute to making this the most competitive time in modern history. The role of BRM couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Organizations are hungry for the kind of business professional that brings teams together and drives the right investments to propel companies forward. The bottom line: The Business Relationship Management role is designed around business value. Every organization that undertakes BRM programs ultimately benefits from having these skilled business resources on the team. Get in the game and get your BRM program underway.
Joe Topinka is a recognized, game-changing career CIO, published author and executive coach. His IT Business Partner Program™ drives exponential business results consistently across industries by bridging the chasm between business stakeholders and IT organizations. He is the founder of CIO Mentor, LLC and a board member of the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI). Joe is a two time CIO of the Year award winner in both Minneapolis and Charlotte.