What does it take to be a Certified Business Relationship Manager®?

February 5, 2019

During the production of ITSM Zone’s exclusive eLearning Certified Business Relationship Manager® course there were many conversations with Business Relationship Managers about the rich complexity of role, including challenges and successes, and the importance of career progression and employer investment. This blog shares some of the best bits, and highlights the amazing work a CBRM® does and the benefits of embracing Business Relationship Management, and managers, within your organization.

Whilst Business Relationship Management Professional® introduced the theory behind BRM and gave a good grounding in the tools and techniques to use, Certified Business Relationship Manager® expects that the student has had a number of years’ experience in the industry. They should now be capable of using those experiences to reflect on decisions made in the workplace in order to sharpen their skills and know, not only how to progress up the Business Maturity Model, but also how to progress their business partners and providers up the model too. The aim is not alignment, but convergence as illustrated by this quotation from BRM Institute:

‘Designed to bring value to an organization through the convergence of different business functions, the business relationship manager (BRM) role is a senior-level, strategic business partner who shares ownership for both business strategy and business value results.’

All about the ‘how’ – doing it for yourself

To bring value to an organization successfully, a BRM needs to have confidence in their decisions and use the tools and techniques learnt on the course in a way that benefits their organization and makes sense to them, their provider and business partner. Acquiring the Powerful Communications competency at CBRM level means being able to think for yourself, often on your feet, and being able to defend the value of your initiative.  A good example was provided by Edwin Rodriguez Pazo, Chief Business Relationship Manager, Risk Management Agency, USDA, who on beginning his new role built a BRM team with the BRMP certification as a minimum requirement:

Edwin Rodrigues Pazo, Chief, Requirements Management Section, CBRM, USDA

‘For the first six months, we worked on our BRM adoption strategy. For the next six months, we executed the strategy with a primary focus on provider capability.’

Executing his strategy meant that he decided to undertake the Demand, Relationship, Provider and BRM Competency Assessments in a sequence that fitted his and the team’s decisions, and this led to a successful outcome. Interestingly, he credits some of his strategy to attending a Strategic Partnering Approach Workshop led by CBRM Peter Lijnse, which demonstrates the power of training and employer investment in Business Relationship Managers.

Thrashing it out – conflict management

A Certified Business Relationship Manager® needs to realise that they may have to deal with conflict. BRMs are often thrown into dynamic situations where change is constant and where their role may be perceived to be unwelcome. Jim Brusnahan, Director IT BRM, Johnson Controls Inc, believes that it is a BRM’s job to force conflict and bring it to the surface so that it can be discussed, debated and addressed, so that progress towards value optimization can be made. This requires the influencing competencies of negotiation and conflict management, and using strategies and appropriate styles of engagement to achieve success. Here Jim Brusnahan explains the beginnings of how he achieved his assignment of owning the relationship with the global manufacturing leader after an initially shaky start:

‘He was very direct in our first meeting…he told me he was going to disband the IT team supporting him and hire his own.  I did not pull out the maturity model and ask where we were at on it - this was clear by his tone alone.  I also did not go into the text book BRM lines on how I would raise the maturity to strategic partner, converge our teams, and so on, instead I let him know that I heard him loud and clear and that I was here to be part of the solution, not the problem.  So, I asked him, if there was one thing he could use help with right now, what was it?’ 

What Jim illustrates is that he used his experience and competence to assess the situation and establish credibility with the provider, but also that the journey to strategic BRM is not always an easy one and depends on developing, maintaining and improving relationships and processes. After lots of hard work including coaching in how to have effective meetings, resolving conflict through counselling, producing a portfolio strategy and moving from alignment at the end of year one to convergence at year two, he states:

In less than 2 years, that same leader thanked me for creating a stable and value producing environment, and asked me to now help design the 5-year future technology strategy for manufacturing globally, which included augmented reality, digital enablement, analytics, etc.’  

Jim Brusnahan, Director IT BRM, Johnson Controls Inc

This is clearly an exciting goal for a CBRM® and highlights how they are needed to maintain value and foster healthy leadership and relationships. Even if the relationship does not look promising at the start, a BRM with experience, emotional intelligence and the right techniques and desire can achieve success.

Speaking their language!

Maureen Jesuthasan, Senior Manager, West Monroe Partners recently worked with an organization to enable the Business and IT to become strategic partners. At the time of the project the relationships were at ‘ad hoc’ level, this is also described as ‘loudest in – first out’. From the business perspective this means that they will probably be thinking: ‘If I’m lucky enough to get the provider’s attention the result costs too much, delivers too little and takes too long’, and from the provider perspective the thoughts will be: ‘I am too busy to think about anything other than being busy’. Clearly not a recipe for success!

Maureen Jesuthasan, Senior Manager, West Monroe Partners

The relationship maturity was so low that fear was the primary driver for work prioritization and Partner engagement only occurred on a reactive basis. In response, Maureen used Customer Value Hierarchies and Relationship on a Page techniques to mature the Business & IT relationship as she explains:

‘RSOAPs were created utilizing customer value hierarchies developed to affirm the Critical Success Factors for Incident Management and to encourage better communication among IT and Business.’

An exciting part of the project was the use of lean techniques, in particular the Obeya Room, which created a focus on working together, collaborating, networking, negotiating and building confidence. The Obeya Room enabled the use of ‘boards’ that were used to ‘manage work, monitor risks, issues and upcoming changes, as well as to prioritize work.’ But in order to break down the barriers and fear West Monroe realized they needed to speak the language of their client, this included being mindful and authentic, including doing activities such as providing coffee and pastries, and taking the time to really listen.

The outcome was fantastic and West Monroe was able to achieve the goal of Business and IT in becoming Strategic Partners and delivering business value. However, when working on a project such as this it is important to make sure that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is aware of the progress being made so that the whole organization takes it onboard. So, a good takeaway is to ensure that your executive summary reaches C level and is championed and becomes part of performance management.

A Certified Business Relationship Manager is a valuable asset to an organization as a role, capability and discipline; they can build bridges between business partners and providers and set an organization onto a path for success and value optimization. It takes confidence and experience to do the role well along with the ability to establish creditability and trust, and the drive to not give up when the situation might first seem impossible. To find out more about ITSM Zone’s exclusive eLearning Certified Business Relationship Manager® course access the following link:

Business relationship management professional


Kat Turner is the Education Portfolio Manager at ITSM Zone. She has thirteen years’ experience in writing and validating courses.

You can get in touch with Kat for further information on the CBRM course

Email: Kat@ITSM.Zone



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