10 Tips for Getting Started with Business Relationship Management

InvGate October 17, 2018
- 4 min read

Is your organization thinking about introducing a business relationship management (BRM) function and role(s)? If so, you might be surprised to know that it’s not that new for IT service management (ITSM), with both ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000 (the international standard for ITSM) introducing the BRM role and process back in 2011. This recognized the changing role of IT service delivery and support organizations and the need for a “mechanism” that brings together the wants/needs, capabilities, and expectations of IT service consumers and providers.

But where should you start? And what should your organization focus on? Please read on for 10 tips that will help you to get started with BRM.

1. Fully understand what BRM is and what it entails.

Thankfully, the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI) offers up a wealth of guidance and advice (that goes far beyond the 2011 content). The BRMI describes itself as: “… the world’s premier membership, professional development, and official certification organization dedicated to building and maintaining BRM professional standards and serving the single global BRM community.”

2. Identify the key stakeholders for your BRM activities and their high-level wants/needs.

This includes understanding what they expect from BRM and the most valuable/critical services and how they make a difference in business operations. Also ensure that the introduction of the new BRM capability is well communicated, maybe even marketed.

3. Recognize that you won’t need to start from scratch.

Your organization will probably have some existing ITSM capabilities that can be brought into the BRM-fold and built upon. For example, there might be regular service review meetings with service owners and/or business unit reps/champions.

4. Build your BRM capability around the customer(s).

Too many IT organizations have previously assessed their performance based on a basket of metrics focused on the mechanics of IT service delivery and support. Potentially measuring the wrong things (or the right things but in the wrong places) such that service level agreement (SLA) targets are met but the customers are still unhappy. The introduction of BRM is an opportunity to start to focus on what really matters to different customer types.

5. Start small and build up your BRM capability.

Don’t try to do everything at once – start by getting the basics right. And don’t try to be perfect from day one – otherwise you might never get started. As with any other change project/program, try to deliver quick wins that focus on the things that are most important to customers (while also being achievable with the available resources). Then communicate the successes to help reinforce the need, and backing, for BRM.

6. Make the focus of BRM value creation (and delivery).

ITSM has traditional used reporting to look back (at performance) and service review meetings to look both back and forward (at future demand). But what’s the focus here? Is it just the sharing of numbers, relative to targets, or is there something tangible that can be held up as a real success indicator? Use the new BRM capability to rise above the numbers to focus on the business value that the IT organization can, and does, deliver.

7. Ensure that the right type of people are employed to fill BRM role(s).

One of the biggest mistakes is seeing it as a project role that can be filled by someone who is currently surplus, i.e. without a templated role). Instead, there’s a need to fulfill the role(s) with people with the right set of competencies. These will include skills/capabilities such as: company knowledge, business acumen, an understanding of how internal IT services and support are delivered, communication skills, empathy, and negotiation skills. Holding a BRM qualification, or having the desire to obtain one, while not critical should be a good indicator of potential success (where the other required capabilities have been demonstrated).

8. Make the BRM role “important.”

A Business Relationship Manager will benefit from having a certain level of gravitas. Some of this will come from their personal level of knowledge, skills, and experience – i.e. their personal reputation – but their perceived position in the organization as a whole will also matter, including their ability to influence other people and outcomes. You might want your BRM role(s) to report directly into the CIO to add to its importance (and influence).

9. Set realistic goals and metrics for BRM.

This might start with improving/removing IT issues that cause customers pain. For instance, reducing the lead time for new business requirements. Or improving the customer satisfaction and employee experience scores through a combination of visible improvements and a better “relationship” between service provider and service consumers. Break performance assessment into critical success factors (CSFs), key performance indicators (KPIs), and lower-level metrics.

10. Don’t forget to look in as well as out.

While a Business Relationship Manager will be looking out at customer wants and needs, they will struggle to operate without suitable contacts and allies within the IT organization. Thus, there’s a need create valuable relationships inside the IT organization that can be leveraged when change/improvement is needed. Without these a Business Relationship Manager will be “writing checks that their body can’t cash.”

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So there you have it, our 10 tips for anyone looking to get started with BRM. Would you have included any others? Please let us know in the comments.

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