Who ARE Business Relationship Managers?

June 18, 2018

As a student currently working my way through the online Business Relationship Management Professional course, I was delighted to attend the UK’s first BRM event in Loughborough. Whilst there, I met many different people with many different job titles. Regardless of the title, it was clear that many shared the same role and goals.

So, just who are Business Relationship Managers?

It’s probably quite pertinent to point out that BRM is a role rather than a title or a person. Most organisations will have BRM’s, or people acting in that role or capacity, even if it isn’t acknowledged on their name badge or employment contract.
The ways that the BRM function is carried out can vary significantly; some organisations will have one person in the role of BRM as a single practitioner, in others the BRM may lead a small team of Business Analysts and larger companies may have multiple BRMs leading much larger teams.
However the BRM is placed in the organisation, the role is vitally important, providing an interface between business and IT. The aim remains the same: increase the value of “IT”. This could come from investments in new initiatives, assets and/or capabilities.
The emphasis on provision of value is an important one, highlighted during the sharing of “at the coalface” stories at the BRM event. A common thread was that BRM’s need to ensure that they demonstrate (shout about!) the value that they can deliver to the business, whether in terms of financial gain, cost savings or improved performance - it’s vital for that buy in from C level decision makers.
It could be summed up that BRM’s need to identify problems that may not have been recognised, find out if the solution is REALLY what the business needs, get the go ahead and solve the problem, therefore providing real value to the business. And all that without anyone really even noticing that it’s happening! I now have a vision of BRM’s as the ninjas within an organisation, running around stopping the end of the world (or, the need for disaster recovery… whichever you prefer!)

But what does a BRM do?

The Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI) defines the BRM Role as –
“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.”
A BRM’s objective is to break down the silos separating business functions, whether it’s IT, HR, finance, sales, etc to optimize cohesive organizational effectiveness and jointly determine strategic direction. Convergence of goals is imperative, as is a drive towards collaboration where value is at the centre of business strategy. It’s not having goals in alignment – these can be very different goals that compliment each other, rather about having the same goals, but with differing roles to play in achieving them.
In this fast-changing age of digital transformation, we often hear about businesses having “digital strategy”. These strategies may well be aligned to the business goals or the overall strategy; but the real power to be effective and to create value is given to the organisations who have a business strategy that is relevant in a digital world.
BRMs contribute to the leadership team by actively partnering with business peers to determine strategic direction. They find ways to ensure that their function can support, advance and enhance the business objectives. This may be by strategic partnering and the implementation or refining of strategies; for example, by coaching leaders or partnering with key personnel on change initiatives. They also need to develop a deep knowledge of the business and be able to educate the business partners about processes, roles, and capabilities.
No matter how good a BRM is, they are only going to be successful if basic services are providing what they should. It’s building from the foundations – no point trying to put on a roof that is an amazing feat of architecture, if the walls that are holding it up won’t stand. In situations where supply maturity is low, when basic IT services are unreliable, unstable, or not fit for purpose then the role of the BRM becomes a battle and one that will almost certainly lead to failure. There needs to be a demonstration that they are adding real value; this can’t be achieved when time is spent apologizing for IT and firefighting against incidents and failures. In this scenario the BRM is in a position that will be viewed as an “overhead.” And we all know what happens to costs that aren’t essential.

Can I be a Business Relationship Manager?

So, if you fancy being a “Ninja” (Or BRM, as they prefer to be known) what should you do next? Great relationship building skills, with fantastic communication skills and the ability to think strategically are all essential. There are courses available that will provide you with a recognised certification. The Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) course provides a comprehensive foundation for Business Relationship Managers at every experience level, giving a solid baseline level of knowledge. Once this has been achieved, Certified Business Relationship Manager is certification that focuses on advancing to the role of Strategic Business Relationship Manager.
For more information about the qualification, take a look at ITSM Zone's online BRMP or if you’re interested in finding out more, Simon Kent discussed the value of BRMP in this article.

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