How Many Business Relationship Managers Should You Have?
A question that surfaces often is: “How many Business Relationship Managers should we have?” It’s an important question, but one that needs contextual clarity to answer meaningfully. Some of the key variables include:
- How are you defining the BRM role?
- How large is the organization the BRMs are supporting?
- What is the level of business demand maturity?
- What is the level of IT supply maturity?
Variations of the BRM Role Definition
The Strategic BRM
Not all BRMs are created equal! Some companies position their BRMs as a strategic resource – aligned with senior executives to shape, stimulate and surface business demand for IT investments that will yield high business value. We’ll refer to these as Strategic BRMs. These are BRMs in senior—often Vice President positions. Such companies will typically align their BRMs to major business units, geographies, and business processes. For example, in a process-centric enterprise, there may be a BRM for each major business process—one for order-to-cash, one for procure-to-pay, one for hire-to-retire, and so on. In a typical enterprise, that could be anything from 3 to 9 BRMs, depending upon the company size. Or, in a less process-centric company, there might be one BRM for manufacturing, one for sales and marketing, one for shared support services, and so on – again with between 3 and 9 BRMs as common practice. When geography is important, there may be one BRM per major region – again with anything from 3 to 9 as a typical number.
The Service Management BRM
Some companies position their BRMs as more of a Service Management resource—aligned with business managers. We’ll refer to these as Service Management BRMs. This is consistent with how ITIL® and ISO/IEC 20000 define the dedicated BRM role. This is a less senior role—perhaps a Director level position. (Unfortunately, labels such as Vice President and Director vary enormously from company to company and from country to country.) In such cases, for a multi-billion dollar enterprise, there may be anything from 15 to 50 or more BRMs at this level.
The Business Analyst BRM
Some companies position their BRMs as more of a senior Business Analyst role—working with whoever needs them based upon major projects and programs. Yes, you guessed it—we’ll refer to these as Business Analyst BRMs. In large enterprises, there may be 100 or more such “BRMs”, though that really is stretching the label way beyond its original intent.
Some companies have a combination of Business Analyst BRMs, Service Management BRMs and Strategic BRMs (the actual titles vary widely). In such organizations, it’s not uncommon to see 100+ individuals with some variation on the BRM title.
Which BRM Type Makes Sense?
The Strategic BRM makes the most sense where IT supply maturity is at least moderate—i.e., the lights stay on and the trains run on time, as the common metaphor goes. These IT organizations have typically consolidated and stabilized IT infrastructure (or successfully outsourced it) deployed Service Management and Continuous Improvement disciplines, and are able to respond to the types of strategic demand the BRMs will stimulate. They have a robust and effective Solution Delivery capability—either as an in-house resource, outsourced or some combination. In such cases, the Strategic BRM is able to gain real traction in their strategic role—able to get a seat at the metaphorical ‘strategy table’ and be viewed as members of both the senior business and senior IT leadership teams. If IT supply maturity is below moderate, the Strategic BRM will find themselves continually dragged into IT operational issues, which significantly reduces their ability to be strategic. Or, if Solution Delivery is unreliable or lacks capacity or agility, the Strategic BRM will be stirring up business demand that cannot be easily met, and will wear out their business welcome rather quickly!
The Service Management BRM makes the most sense where IT supply maturity is low-to-moderate. In fact, at this supply maturity level, the Service Management BRM plays an important part in deploying Service Management disciplines and processes – literally representing the ‘voice of the customer’ for IT services.
The Business Analyst BRM can make sense at any level of IT supply maturity. However, we tend to resist the label “BRM” for this role, as it really distorts the use of that label. This role already has a perfectly good and relatively standardized label – Business Analyst!
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