We chatted to three experienced BRMs to ask them about their careers, including what a typical day might entail, and asked for tips to pass on to people just starting out on their BRM journey.
I started my career in IT 20 years ago as a service desk analyst and over the years have held roles in Technical Support, Application Support, DBA, Supplier Management, Testing and Business Analysis. It was whilst in the role of Business Analyst I was able to really start to get to know the organisation I worked in, understanding how technology was helping or where it was hindering. The problem was there was no role within our structure to bridge the gap between IT and our business partners to ensure we were maximizing the value of investment already made in IT, or to make the case for where investment/change was needed. Through discussions with our Head of Department, and IT Director, we were able to make the case for something different, and it was around the same time as Business Relationship Management was being introduced as a role and framework to the industry (around 6 years ago). So after much research and gaining buy in from our Exec team, the BRM role was introduced at the NEC Group and the team of BAs naturally evolved into this role. I gained my BRMP a couple of years into the role, and last year I gained my CBRM. I was the first to attend the CBRM within my team and it was the natural next step for me in my journey.
I formally accepted a BRM position 4 years ago. I was managing a small technical team at the time and was looking for a career move that would bring me closer to the customer. Our BRM team was still very new, and I became the 4th team member on a team that has grown to 16. My employer is very supportive of continuing education and I was fortunate to be the CBRM guinea pig on my team. I became the 20th CBRM worldwide and 1st on my team.
Looking back, my customer-first focus made me a BRM long before I accepted a position as a BRM. All IT professionals could learn from BRM techniques and most of the IT professionals I have worked with over the years do so without thinking about how they are managing relationships.
I have actually worked in IT since I started with the Company. I have worked in and run the internal Help Desk, been a focus group leader for Operations and Support and then a Business Area Representative (BAR), which was the early predecessor to the BRM role. I have worked in IT Security and on our internal CIS support team… That all led me to being one of the core team of the newly created BRM team in 2011. Our Manager found BRM Institute and introduced us to it. I was interested in taking the class and ultimately gained my BRM certification. Once there, I really was interested in the practical application of CBRM, which led me to the class and certification in 2017.
I love that no two days are the same. I have a wide variety of business partners and have learned about so many facets of our core business. I love that I can often connect two disparate groups working towards the same goals! For example, often we have several groups across the company looking at initiatives. The BRM team meets weekly and we also provide weekly status reports that are disseminated inside of Information Services and to our business partners. As I listen and read, I may realize that several groups are pursuing the same or similar efforts, or that we have already addressed a similar business problem in another area. That allows me and the BRMs to come together with our business partners and share our knowledge and view across the organization.
I love the variety of being a BRM and being engaged with new ideas and opportunities very early on. Some projects are hardware heavy, others software or interfaces, while others involve multiple IT specialties. It's also about changing mindsets and shifting a culture to where IT is an asset that enables innovation and IT is viewed as a strategic partner that creates competitive advantage.
I really enjoy being able to work across all levels within my organisation, from the MD to an operator, getting to understand what technology means for them, helping them to get the most from it to make their job easier and enable business goals and strategy at the highest level.
There's no such thing!
My time is split between projects and strategy so an average day could entail: - A project workshop with a supplier and user group to flesh out a design - A meeting with the Board or Senior Team members to discuss new initiatives - A meeting with IT to review service initiatives,
- Time spent “on the floor” with operational colleagues to review use of technology or budget reviews with Finance looking at what we have spent so far, the value achieved, what we plan to do in the future, and start to build the value associated for new ideas for business case purposes
There are no typical days. Like most professionals, I am involved in many meetings. Meetings may be regular business reviews, new idea exploration, process improvement-focused, or project-specific. I work hard to be available for impromptu meetings and drop-in consulting opportunities. I work in regular time each week to be sure my business partners' project portfolios are current and prioritized and communicate updates using our social collaboration platform.
The CBRM distinguishes itself from the BRMP by being a practitioner certification. CBRMs are both educated in the tools and methods and experienced in applying and shaping the practices to different cultures and environments. CBRMs are not just book smart; they have applied the BRM Body of Knowledge to capture the value offered by their provider (IT, marketing, HR, etc.) and meet their business partners' needs.
Certified Business Relationship Managers are important because they are able to demonstrate through experience the value the BRM role is adding. I found when I attended the BRMP it was a lot of theory that I then went away to put into practice, the CBRM allowed me to reflect on the theory I had learnt and since used in relation to real life experiences. It’s also important for BRMs to have a career path to follow and for employers to invest in the development of BRMs to keep the evolution of BRMs alive, and ensure the theory/framework is consistently applied rather than being something you learn, file away and forget about.
I believe that it shows we have invested the time and effort to learn how best to work with our business partners to find value in the work that we collectively do and move the Company forward.
My career has not progressed through a traditional BRM route so I would suggest seeking out the BRM Institute's salary survey as I imagine that it would probably provide some input.
$35,000 - $40,000 starting salary for a new BRM. For a CBRM that figure move to $45,000 plus
BRM Institute's 2016 salary study indicated that the average BRM salary in healthcare was around $160,000 annually, with a range between $45,000 - $200,000. Seniority level and years of experience were the biggest drivers of compensation level. University education and certification were not included in the study. My best guess is that a new BRM in healthcare would see a salary between 65% to 75% of average, whereas an experienced IT professional with a CBRM would earn at least 75% or more of the average.
Be open, honest, approachable and maintain your integrity – trust is key to a relationship and building/maintaining relationships is key to being a successful BRM. Never stop asking why or trying to understand why!
Never stop learning. Every meeting of a business partner or provider partner is an opportunity to inform, educate and learn!
Be deliberate with personal and professional growth by setting and reviewing goals regularly. CBRM is a great certification to pursue, and there are other certifications that are great, too - like PMP and Lean Six Sigma. Do what interests you and you can apply it to your career.
I highly recommend shadowing your business partners regularly. It helps you appreciate their needs in a whole new way while growing your business IQ. You will often connect on a more personal level and develop mutual respect. Read books you see your business partners reading, even if you have to get an audio-book version.
Ensure you have some real world experience to reflect on during the course such as examples of where you have used the various tools you are taught on the BRMP. The CBRM course consolidates what you have learnt and experienced over your time as a BRM so far, and enables you to see how using that toolkit will help you move into a strategic partner position.
I was fortunate to have great online classes for both the BRMP and CBRM. Ask the stupid questions. Take your CBRM exam within a few weeks of the class. Push yourself to study regularly and you will be happy with the result.
Many thanks to Jeremy, Lynne and Sarah for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing their experience and wisdom with us.
Jeremy Semmelroth is a business relationship manager who works with clinicians and administration to exploit and shape the future of information technology capability. He is passionate about technology and organizational efficiency and believes that multidisciplinary collaboration drives success. Jeremy has led several innovative initiatives that catalyzed more widespread adoption, such as MedApps remote patient monitoring, Microsoft HealthVault health information exchange, and serving as the lead site for the Biogen-sponsored MS PATHS international, collaborative multiple sclerosis research database.
Jeremy is a Certified Business Relationship Manager who also holds certifications in project management, Lean Six Sigma, and ITIL. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer & Information Science and a Master of Business Administration in International Marketing from Cleveland State University.
Jeremy and his wife raise three boys in a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb where he enjoys tinkering with technology and gardening. In their free time, they enjoy museums, sports, and board games together.
Sarah Nelson has worked in IT for 20 years, her first role was on a service desk back in 1999 and over the following 10 years she progressed into various technical roles before making the move into more business focussed roles in 2009 when becoming a Business Analyst (following successful completion of ISEB diploma in Business Analysis).
In 2013 the NEC Group formally introduced BRM and Sarah was given the opportunity to be part of the first BRM team in the organisation, 6 years on they are still going strong!
Sarah completed BRMP in 2015 and CBRM in 2017. She is passionate about delivering value through technology and loves her job! Sarah also has 3 children aged 5, 11 and 15 so efficiency is key in all aspects of life.
Lynn Borders has been with Tucson Electric Power Company for over 24 years. Not only has she has worked in the Help Desk doing support and training, she has managed the Help Desk, run the Operations & Support teams (Help Desk and Computer Room), was a Business Area Relationship (BAR) manager, worked in IT security, worked on the Customer Information System support team.
Lynn is now a Certified Business Relationship Manager (CBRM) and strategically partners with the Energy Delivery, System Operations Environmental business areas.
Lynn is a native of Pittsburgh, PA and relocated to Tucson in 1992.
If you want to start your learning in Business Relationship Management, or achieve a recognised certificate to demonstrate your knowledge, then ITSM Zone can help. The Business Relationship Management Professional and Certified Business Relationship Manager courses are both available online, for study at a time and place that suits you.