big-question-logo-300x185This question surfaced as I was working on the new Business Relationship Management Interactive Body of Knowledge, fondly known as the BRMiBOK (which has to be one of the ugliest acronyms around!)

The BRMiBOK is a wiki-based resource for members of Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI). It runs on the Symcordia® platform, based on the Confluence Enterprise Wiki and Collaboration software.

Is Business Relationship Management a Job?

Although in practice it goes by many different titles, most people think of Business Relationship Management as a job—an organizational position with a formal job description. I know hundreds of people with a job as a BRM. I’ve trained many of them, consulted to some of them, and coached quite a few of them. A high proportion of the hundreds of BRMI members have BRM jobs, as do many of the several thousand members of the LinkedIn Professional Business Relationship Managers group. Some actually have the title Business Relationship Manager, but others go by Business Partner, IT Partner, Account Manager, and so on.

Confusing the topic, most banks and financial institutions actually do use the job title “Business Relationship Manager,” and there are tens of thousands of them! Unfortunately, in this domain, the banking BRM bears little in common with the types of BRM served by BRMI, or trained to the standards demanded by the BRMP® certification.

As a job, the Business Relationship Manager is typically a full-time position, hopefully (though not always) with a clear career path defining where BRMs come from, and where they might aspire to go to next in their career progression.

So, to answer “The Big Question” of this post’s title—yes, Business Relationship Management can be a job.

Is Business Relationship Management a Role?

As a role, BRM implies that the person filling that role may also fill other roles—Project Manager, Program Manager, Senior Business Analyst, are fairly common roles we see being filled by people who also fill the BRM role. This arrangement is sometimes called “role-sharing.” In theory, the BRM role could be filled by multiple people in a job-sharing arrangement, though I have never actually seen this.

So, again, to answer “The Big Question”—yes, Business Relationship Management can be a role. However, given the challenges of successfully filling the BRM position, there are some dangers in having the BRM fill other roles:

  1. Bandwidth. To really be effective, unless it’s a very small and simple business, fulfilling the BRM mission, to stimulate, surface and shape business demand for a Provider’s products and services and ensure that the potential business value from those products and services is captured, optimized and recognized is both extremely valuable and rather intensive. So, short changing it can be hazardous to the health of the BRM and likely to limit successful accomplishment of the mission.
  2. Credibility. Serving the BRM mission requires that the BRM’s Business Partner have total clarity on the role and purpose of Business Relationship Management. To engage the BRM as a Program Manager one day, and as a thought partner in strategy formulation the next day may strain credibility and understanding.
  3. Mental whiplash. The demand shaping and strategic nature of the BRM role demands divergent and creative thinking. The procedural and organizational nature of roles such as Project and Program Management demand convergent thinking. It’s not that humans aren’t capable of both—but rapid context shifting from one style to the other can be hard to sustain. Like multi-tasking, it might feel workable, but when you look back you realize that it was neither productive nor effective.

Is Business Relationship Management a Competence?

The answer here is clearly “yes”—some are born with a degree of BRM competence, many can develop strong BRM competence, and others will never really be effective at managing business relationships.

I’ve worked with many BRMs who are “unconsciously competent.” When they decide to develop that competence, they can become “consciously competent” and thereby able to perform more consistently. They are also better at developing others, as their tacit knowledge becomes explicit.

Is Business Relationship Management an Organizational Capability?

This to me is the most interesting of “The Big Questions.” When I think of the term “capability”, I think about everything it takes behind the scenes that makes an service possible. This can include:

  • One or more processes.
  • Definitions of the roles needed to perform one or more procedures within a process.
  • Definitions of the competencies needed to perform a given role.
  • An appropriate supply of competent human resources filling given roles.
  • Tools and technologies needed to automate or execute necessary processes or procedures.
  • Management systems necessary to ensure the health and performance of the capability, including funding, organizational will, personal motivation, and so on.

And, dear reader, these are often the elements missing when a new BRM role, or job or group is established. The role may be defined, perhaps even be staffed by a competent performer. But without the organizational capabilities, the role will have a hard time realizing sustained success!

Would you like to develop your Business Relationship Management Competency? Would you like to earn a BRMP® Professional Certification? Register for our upcoming courses by clicking here.
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