For those that have been following along with my blog, this is my first post in a long while. I won’t bore you with explanations or excuses – I’ll just acknowledge the fact and move on.

I’ve been in some interesting conversations recently that ultimately come down to the question that forms the title for this post – What’s The Difference Between Business Relationship Management (BRM) Role and BRM Capability? And, perhaps most important, do the differences matter?

The BRM Role

First, courtesy of Business Relationship Management Institute, some definition:

“Business Relationship Management embodies a set of competencies (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) that foster a productive, value-producing relationship between a Provider organization and their Business Partners. These competencies can be leveraged through organizational roles (for example, in an IT Provider, the CIO typically has a role of BRM for the enterprise), a discipline (for example, all Business Partner-facing Provider roles should be skilled in Business Relationship Management), and an organizational capability (for example, a Provider organization should be effective in shaping and channeling demand to the highest value opportunities).”

All well and good, but more is needed to answer the questions – especially, “Do the differences matter?”

It is good, sensible, management practice to have people with the right competencies fill a given role. As long as they have the right competencies and the time and motivation to apply those competencies through that role, things may seem to be working.  You might hear comments such as:

“Fred has really made a difference to the ways we engage with our IT organization!”

“Fred has helped take us beyond our usual ‘order taking’ relationship with IT. He actually brings us constructive ideas and opportunities for using information and technology within our business unit!”

But what happens when Fred leaves that role? Or when senior executives undermine Fred’s relationships with business executives? Questions such as these begin to highlight the distinction between BRM Role and BRM Capability.

BRM Capability

Again, turning to  Business Relationship Management Institute, and the BRM Playbook (officially published March 1) some additional definition:

“A capability is everything it takes, both visible and behind the scenes, in order to produce a good or service.  A well-managed capability defines:

  • Processes
  • Roles required by those processes
  • Competencies needed to fill those roles
  • Tools and techniques used to execute the processes
  • Management systems that create incentives for performance and improvement
  • Behaviors that drive value realization and convergence, leading to a culture that embraces these concepts and makes them”

In other words, a BRM Capability incorporates the BRM Role, but adds an all important infrastructure (broadly defined.) Of particular note is the addition of institutionalized processes, tools, management systems and culture.

These additions to the role dramatically magnify and amplify the BRMs efforts and results.  As Archimedes famously said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” BRM Capability provides that lever and fulcrum to those in the BRM role.

Why Does BRM Capability Matter?

As hinted at above, when a competent BRM leaves that role, absent the necessary infrastructure, the positive impact that the BRM created will likely deplete quickly. With the infrastructure in place, there is resilience to changes in BRM staffing.

BRM roles without institutionalized BRM capability can tend to become silos of good practice. Silos are fragile. Months of demand shaping effort can evaporate in a heartbeat if a CIO tells a business executive, “Disregard what your BRM said. We are here to do whatever you want!”


Image courtesy of SimpliLearn