Starting a BRM Team

Posted | Category: BRM Capability | Contributed

So you have been lucky enough to be selected to build a new team. You might not know what the team name is, what the roles of the team are, you might not even know your own title. All you know is you have been hired or promoted to build a team to align the service provider (usually IT or some other shared services group) with the business so the service provider in convergence with the business can provide the greatest benefits to the organization. The following list provides a prioritized roadmap for your first couple weeks through the first year.Successful-Team

Find your place

Building a team of BRMs from the ground up in any organization will be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding accomplishments you will undertake in your career.  Introducing a new role that converges two groups that usually do not understand each other is no small feat. So where do you start? Find your place. By finding your place I mean interview the CEO, the CIO, the CFO, and anyone involved in the realization that the company needed this new role. It is critical to understand what drove the decisions to allocate budget large enough (we will come back to this budget issue later) to build this new team. From these interviews, you should formulate your team’s goals for the first year, satisfying the business need that brought you to this new position.

It is also important to understand how the role is being socialized within the company. Is it a trial-and-see with just yourself in the BRM role?  Does the business want AND UNDERSTAND the role? There are many personal agendas at play that you will want to understand so you have the greatest chance of building this team, managing expectations and setting the team up for success.

Start with a name

Today the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role is well defined and many organizations around the world are adopting and rolling out the role. Business Relationship Management Institute, the world’s first professional association of Business Relationship Managers, is working hard to bring members together and equip them with the knowledge and standards they need to be successful. If you are presented with a team name and title other than BRM, consider changing the name before starting the team. If you do not understand this, try taking your team of “Internal Sales Consultants”, “Client Managers”, or “Customer Relationship Managers” to C-level strategy design session. The name itself causes your team to lose credibility. For example, I have heard, “We do not need Internal Consultants, or those who think they are experts at these meetings”, “Client Manager? What are you my lawyer?”, or “Customer relationship manager? I thought you were my partner, now I am your customer?”  Business Relationship Manager implies partnership and is well accepted by the business.

What level is your title?

While this might sound trivial, it is important to clearly establish the internal hierarchy of the BRM role. I have witnessed BRMs being asked to leave the room because they were not at a director level and therefore not privy to the information about to be shared. It will be very hard for a BRM to function as a peer of the senior business leaders if he or she is not at the same level.

What is a BRM?

When you introduce the new role, many will say, “What is a BRM?” Do not forget your change management skills that qualified you for the position in the first place. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. You should be explaining the role in town hall and business meetings.  Ask the CIO to explain the role in his or her meetings, and provide her with the talking points to ensure consistent messaging. Ask the CEO to support and mention the role in his or her next company meeting and again provide the talking points. The more people talking about the role and the more people understand what a BRM is, the more quickly you will gain traction.

Do Not Forget Your Provider Partner

With all this talk about BRMs and the business, do not forget about partnering with the teams that you represent. Say, for example, you are representing IT. What do you think is running through their head? “Who is this new guy or gal that wants to take away my business partnerships?” or “That BRM team just dreams up new demand when we can’t deliver on the demand we have today!” Put in the time and effort to network and build relationships within your own team. Establishing trust and explaining you are not taking away business relationships from your own teams is critical to your success.

Play the part

Spend the first month or two executing the role yourself. Learn the business players and understand their needs before you start filling positions. This will help you get to know everyone, clarify the role, and ensure you find the right BRM before you bring someone into the role.

What is the value?

Before long you will have a team of BRMs. These are usually well paid individuals. The payroll for these roles is considered an expense. You must constantly be communicating the value of the team to as large an audience as possible. You never want to get behind and have executive level budget decision makers questioning the value of your team.

Where do they report?

As business and BRMs converge, I think, we will see a day when the business and BRMs reporting into the same Executive Vice President becomes a norm. Today, many of the BRMs will report directly into the CIO. The most successful implementations that I have witnessed have the BRMs aligned with Executive Vice Presidents and dotted-line reporting into the CIO or service provider executive leadership.

Where do they sit?

Silly question to ask, but many failed BRM team implementations have placed the BRMs too far away from their business. For the BRM to be considered a true business partner, with a ‘seat at the table’ in strategic leadership planning meetings and day-to-day activities, the BRM must be co-located with the business leadership teams.

Who reports to a BRM?

Often the BRM will have Business Analysts as direct reports.

Start your three-year roadmaps

To be successful the new BRM needs quick wins to build trust. The incoming BRM should focus on execution, reviewing existing projects and facilitating moving along the critical projects. At the same time, the new BRM should immediately begin conversations to build out a three-year capability strategy for the business area they support focused on demand shaping and value realization.

The Recruiting Process

I have been told that finding good BRMs is like finding Purple Squirrels, they just do not exist. In my experience, I can tell you that is not true. What has happened is BRMs have emerged very quietly in the organizations they serve. Business Relationship Management Institute has now brought hundreds of BRMs together in a single collaborative space.

How much do I pay these BRMs?

There is no published survey that I am aware of on BRM salaries. But Business Relationship Management Institute plans to research and publish a report on BRM salaries in the future.

Starting a BRM team will be a fun and rewarding experience with many challenges that you will overcome along the way.

Aaron Barnes
Co-Founder and CEO,
Business Relationship Management Institute


Graphic image courtesy of Barry Overstreet

3 Responses

  1. Cynthia Baughman says:

    A co-worker and I started the BRM role at our organization about 2 1/2 years ago. We have been involved with the customers during that time, working with them on business cases and project requests, managing stakeholder expectations during projects, assisting with the alignment of business and IT strategy, and generally assisting if their IT needs aren’t being addressed in a timely manner. However, one of the things we just recently discovered was that while we’ve done an excellent job communicating the role and the value to the user departments, our own IT team (including our management peers who we have weekly staff meetings with – we all report to the CIO) are still somewhat unclear on our role. So a lesson learned is to not overlook the internal communications/marketing to your own peers about what it is the BRM does.

    • Aaron Barnes says:

      Great comment, Cynthia. You are absolutely correct, do not overlook the internal communications/marketing to your own peers. It is easy to for the BRM to become invisible to them if the BRM physically sits with the business and the majority of time is spent with the business. Anything else you or others have experienced while creating and rolling out a BRM team that others can learn from?

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