I recently received this question from a reader:

We are evaluating a strategy to centralize IT and implement Business Relationship Management (BRM) roles as part of the centralization. Where do you typically see the BRM’s reporting into in a centralized IT organization? Should they report directly in to the CIO, or can they be effective a level or two below the CIO?”

Rule #1 – Reporting Lines Are Weak Determinants of Success for the BRM Role

I have found reporting relationships to be a very weak determinant of success for the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role. Far more important are the competencies (especially business knowledge and relationship skills) of the BRM and the maturity of the business executives they partner with.

Rule #2 – Heft Matters!

Notwithstanding Rule #1, the “heft” of the BRM role – the weight and implied authority it carries does matter.  There’s a couple of reasons for this:

  1. BRM’s are often on a CIO succession path (either explicitly or implicitly) – i.e., have the skills and wherewithal to be a CIO down the road, and the BRM role may be seen as a developmental step.  This has implications for who you chose to fill BRM roles, and for their career paths.
  2. The story a CIO tells the business executives when establishing the BRM role is along the lines of, “I am giving you one of my senior staff members to help surface, shape and manage IT demand so that you get the highest possible value from IT investments and assets. In return for this ‘gift’ I expect you to treat this BRM as a member of your management team.”

As a result, the most common reporting relationship for successful BRM’s is directly to the CIO.  In some cases, the BRM has a dotted line relationship to the senior business executive for the unit they represent.  In other cases, the BRM role is solid line to the senior business executive and dotted line to the CIO.

Rule #3 – Context Matters!

There are many other contextual factors to consider here, including:

  • What is the scope of the BRM role – is it primarily demand management (shaping, surfacing and managing business demand for IT)?  Or does the role include supply management, service management or other responsibilities?
  • Do the BRM’s act as Project or Program Managers for major initiatives?
  • Do the BRM’s sit on any governance bodies, such as Portfolio Management or Service Management?
  • How do BRM’s engage with the supply side?  How do they engage with Enterprise Architects?
  • How mature is IT supply?
  • Howe mature is business demand?

BRM’s Can Be ‘Game Changers’!

The BRM role is a tough one to get right, but from my experience, well worth the effort!  An effective BRM can:

  1. Elevate business maturity
  2. Ensure that IT resources are being focused on the highest potential value activities and initiatives
  3. Ensure that those initiatives capture the highest possible value


Graphic courtesy of Linda Galindo

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