Sumo-wrestler-with-kid-e1384952556983I sometimes find my Business Relationship Management (BRM) trainees, coaching and consulting clients assume that BRM is a somewhat passive role, lacking in accountability and without ‘sharp teeth’. This perception is badly mistaken and can be harmful to the successful deployment of the BRM role.

Putting on the Boxing Gloves

Among my most popular posts this year was Business Relationship Management with Boxing Gloves. In that post I pointed out that BRM’s are:

  • Not “Order-Takers” where all business requests are seen as good requests, no matter what the potential to deliver real business value.
  • Not “Account Managers” who simply exists to route the business partner‘s requests to the proper people in the Provider organization.
  • Not “Gap Fillers” who become victims of dysfunctional Provider organizations–stepping in to fill any and all gaps in their business partner needs that are not being adequately met by the Provider.

The seasoned BRM knows how to deflect low value requests and turn them into high value opportunities, just as a boxer deflects his opponent’s punches and uses his opponent’s momentum to win the fight! They challenge dysfunctionality in the Provider organization, bobbing and weaving to move the Provider to a more responsive role. They are willing to throw a punch when necessary, appreciating that to not do so is to become a punching bag for someone who is not stepping up to the plate–who is not taking accountability for what they are supposed to deliver.

Being Clearly and Proactively Accountable

A second popular post was my last post, Are Business Relationship Managers Accountable for Anything? In that post I pointed out that the BRM owns the customer relationship and is fully accountable for the customer experience! The customer experience in turn is a complex product of factors including customer satisfaction, business value realization, customer service experience, and the customer’s rational and emotional reactions as they try to accomplish their goals using the Provider’s capabilities and services.

This notion of “relationship ownership” and the corresponding “accountability for the customer experience” are not concepts familiar to most internal IT organizations, but they represent a very real and extremely important accountability–one crucial to the success of the BRM role!

When Push Comes to Shove–Who’s Side Are You On?

It’s easy to say that the BRM sits between a Provider organization and their internal business customer and represents each party to the other, but what does that really mean in practice?

  1. The BRM represents the “voice of the customer” to the Provider. If the Provider is not meeting valid (and valuable) needs of the business customer, the BRM has to know who and how to confront on the Provider side. They have to understand the Provider’s Service Management ‘system’ and how to request new or changed services or service levels. Of course, they have to be very familiar with the project, program or portfolio intake process, and how to tee up new initiatives that survive the justification and prioritization process.
  2. The BRM must be able to support and defend Provider policies and processes, or, if they don’t believe these are in the business customer’s best interests, they much know how to lobby for changes.
  3. The BRM must have the communications and persuasion skills to shape and challenge business demand. If the demand seems to be of low business value, they have to be able to help their business customer recognize this and help guide them to a more valuable need. They must be able to help customers connect the dots between business strategy and goals to Provider services and initiatives, and if the dots don’t connect, they must know how to connect them or to re-frame a “want” into a real “need” that has business value.
  4. The BRM must know how to go back to business cases and establish the degree to which expected benefits are being achieved, and what to do about initiatives that are not achieving their expected value.
  5. The BRM must have the communications skills to achieve all this while only taking one side–that of their company or institution.

All these points reinforce the fact that Business Relationship Management is very much a contact sport–it takes skill, finesse, agility, and, of course, strong, trusting relationships and partnerships. This is a tough role to fill and is not for everyone. But for those with the chops, it’s an incredibly satisfying and valued role–one that can really make a difference! But not if you are constantly in retreat!


Image courtesy of Rude Baguette