I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined forces with a couple of colleagues to begin a new venture – The Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI). BRMI is a not-for-profit association for Business Relationship Management Professionals, providing professional training and certification, and facilitating exchange of knowledge and leading practices. My role as Principal with The Merlyn Group, my consulting firm and provider of the Symcordia® Knowledge Management and Collaboration platform, and my role as co-founder of Formicio in Europe will continue (yes, I’ve been a busy lad in my semi-retirement!)
Empowering the Emerging Business Relationship Management Role
Regular readers will be aware that Business Relationship Management (BRM) has been a recurring topic in this blog. It’s a topic I’ve been passionate about since the early 1990’s when a 3-year, longitudinal multi-company research study I was leading at Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Innovation surfaced the emerging BRM role as a key business-IT alignment mechanism. Those early beginnings culminate (or, at least kick off a new chapter) in the formation of the BRMI this week. Founded as a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation, this represents an opportunity to connect even more deeply with the BRM community, and, corny as it may sound, ‘give back’ to that community and to the IT profession in the twilight years of my career.
How Did the Business Relationship Management Institute Come About?
It is said that the best stories narrate themselves. Founding Business Relationship Management Institute is just such a story. The three BRMI co-founders embarked on the journey to establish the Institute, years before we met each other.
I have been involved in the BRM profession since 1995, when I collaborated with professors from Oxford and Cranfield Universities in the United Kingdom and Nanyang University in Singapore to develop and teach a BRM program for a global oil company. I’ve continued to develop and lead training and development programs for BRMs and consult extensively on this subject via The Merlyn Group.
In 2010, Aaron Barnes, a senior BRM, who built and was leading a successful team of BRMs at a major big box retailer, felt the need for a forum for professional BRMs to share knowledge and develop their competencies. In January, 2011, Aaron formed the Professional Business Relationship Managers (PBRM) group on LinkedIn thus establishing a foundation for what would eventually evolve into the first official BRMI global community.
In late 2011, just as Aaron invited me to co-moderate the rapidly growing LinkedIn group, Dr. Aleksandr Zhuk, an expert technologist, professor, with years of experience in teaching online, and a fellow member of PBRM LinkedIn group, also saw the desperate need for a widely available BRM training and certification. Connecting the dots, Aleksandr conceived of a global professional organization to provide training, certification and serve all other needs of the rapidly growing BRM community. Business Relationship Management Institute was born.
In January 2013, Aaron invited Aleksandr to join us as co-moderator of PBRM group and all three of us met, for the first time, to exchange ideas on how to best serve the BRM community. As soon as Aleksandr brought up the idea of Business Relationship Management Institute, we recognized that each of us has already been working toward making it real. The time has come to join our forces to realize our shared vision for BRMI—a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving the needs and protecting the interests of the global BRM community.
Our Position on the BRM Role
In 2011, ITIL® and ISO/IEC 20000 standard for IT Service Management formalized the existence of a dedicated Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role and corresponding process, recognizing the need for BRM as a new best practice and IT Service Management standard requirement. According to ITIL®:
The role of the business relationship manager (BRM) was established to execute certain customer-facing activities in various processes, such as service level management. However, as the role matured it became clear that there was a discernible process to support the role…The purpose of the business relationship management process is two-fold:
- Establish and maintain a business relationship between the service provider and the customer based on understanding the customer and their business needs.
- Identify customer needs and ensure that the service provider is also able to meet these needs as business needs change over time and between circumstances.
ISO/IEC 20000 standard for IT Service Management adds that:
For each customer, the service provider shall have a designated individual [BRM] who is responsible for managing the customer relationship and customer satisfaction.”2 According to ISO/IEC 20000-2:2012, to be effective, “The BRM process should ensure that mechanisms are established to manage the relationship between the service provider and customer(s).”
At BRMI, we fully recognize the importance of structured well-tuned processes and agree with ITIL® definition of the two key functions fulfilled by the BRM. We also believe that ISO/IEC 20000 standard’s requirement for having a dedicated BRM for each business customer provides a solid guideline for establishing a well-balanced effective relationship between a business customer and a service provider with the BRM acting as advocate for the customer.
Yet, many years of our collective experience in the field also suggest that effective business relationship management is as much, if not more, about strategic-level leadership as it is about effective processes. Being a successful BRM means much more than periodically interfacing with business stakeholders and IT process owners by means of a process—regardless of how well-tuned this process might be. An effective business relationship manager is, by definition, a master of building working strategic-level relationships, one who possesses all the interpersonal and business skills this entails. Effective BRMs carry real strategic weight in their organizations. Therefore, the BRMs who deliver maximum business value hold senior management positions placed in well-balanced alignment with senior business and IT executives.
At BRMI, we also believe that, like anything else in the age of turbulent changes, the BRM role is not static—it evolves. Therefore, the BRM role is best approached through a maturity perspective—both the maturity of business demand for IT services and products, with regard to its ability to turn IT investments into realized business value, and the maturity of IT service provider and its ability to fulfill evolving business needs. Maturity of business demand and IT supply affect the BRM role and its ability to deliver results.
We will be exploring these viewpoints, and many other aspects of the BRM role through the BRMI blog. We’ll also develop an evolving “blog roll” of sites we believe should be in every BRMs reading list. We hope you will all join with us on the BRMI site in this global conversation about the emerging and evolving role of the Business Relationship Manager!