What Does Success in Your Business Relationship Management Role Look Like?

Posted | Category: BRM Capability | Contributed

Those who’ve tried it know, the BRM role is tough! BRMs are torn between:

  • Conflicting forces of strategic, longer-term thinking and the more tactical short-term demands
  • Insatiable business demand and limited supply
  • Two ‘bosses’ — one from the business side and one from the supply side (usually the CIO when the supply side is the IT organization)

Adding to the challenge, the BRM role is often not defined or communicated as clearly as it needs to be. Like a Rorschach blot, people tend to see in the BRM role what they want to see. This can be a big problem!

Clarifying the BRM Role

One technique we have used successfully with BRMs and their key stakeholders comprises three steps.

Step 1 – Clarify the BRM Mission

What is the ‘fundamental reason’ for having a BRM role?  Don’t try to ‘boil the ocean’. And don’t try to create the long-term vision for the BRM role.  Just net out the #1 reason the role exists. If we’re talking about IT BRMs (the most common case), that fundamental reason usually has something to do with maximizing the business value of IT investments. I don’t want to get into wordsmithing and semantics here – you may express the value realization sentiment in whatever way fits your context best.  But if business value is not at the heart of the BRM mission, I challenge you to think long and hard about why it is not. Ideally, do this Mission clarification as a joint exercise with your key stakeholders – your business partners and key leaders from the IT organizational units, including strategy, enterprise architecture, solution delivery, operations, and so on. If not done as a collaborative exercise, review the Mission you create with each stakeholder.  Make sure they agree and fully buy into it. Socializing the BRM Mission is incredibly important!

Step 2 – Clarify the BRM Vision

With the Mission clarified in Step 1 above, think about what success would look like and feel like. Take a 3-year horizon. One approach is to co-create a ‘from… to…’ table.  The ‘from…’ describes a number (say 6 to 12) of current state behaviors that everyone would agree is less than desirable in the context of the Mission. Common ‘from…’ items we’ve seen include:

  • The business partner engages IT too late in their decision cycle for us to create strategic value.
  • We tend to fix symptoms rather than drill into root causes.
  • Not clear who ‘owns’ the business case for IT investments.

For each ‘from…’ item, create a corresponding ‘to…’ — a description of how things could be in the future if the BRM role (and its dependencies) were to work perfectly. For the examples above, you might come up with:

  • IT is engaged in business strategy formulation — at the very beginning of the business partner’s decision life-cycle for business improvement and innovation.
  • We work with the business partner to identify and resolve root causes of business problems.
  • Business and IT jointly ‘own’ the business case for IT investments.

Again, I don’t want to get into the specifics of the examples above — they are simply meant to be illustrative.

Finally, in Step 2 identify the key indicators and metrics that would let you know your progress in moving from the current state (from…) to the future state (to…).  You now have a tabular representation of the vision for BRM success, with 3 columns (from…, to…, visible indicators) and from 6 to 12 rows.

Step 3 – Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The table from Step 2 above becomes the basis for what you communicate to your demand-side and supply side stakeholders. And, I mean ‘basis’.  In other words, don’t put the table on a PowerPoint slide and send it out to your stakeholders — that’s not communication! After all, as a BRM, you’re in the relationship business! Use it to inform your conversations, behaviors and actions! That way, you are continuously establishing and reinforcing the BRM vision. If you ‘walk the talk’, so will others over time. If you call out ‘from…’ behaviors that you see, and use these ‘teachable moments’ to reinforce what could be, you are behaving as part of the change you and your business partner (or IT partner) have agreed you wish to bring about.


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