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“What is Business Relationship Management?”
Business executives, managers and other professionals often ask this question, and even when people are familiar with the term sometimes the Business Relationship Management discipline is misunderstood. However, it is important to really grasp what Business Relationship Management is – and is not – because a strong BRM capability can significantly help your company reach its corporate goals. The following points clarify the Business Relationship Management discipline, and illustrate why organizations should care. More information about BRM can also be found at the BRM Institute.
Strategic Partnering to Bridge Demand and Supply
Strategic partnering is key to the Business Relationship Management discipline (referred to as “BRM” throughout this article). BRM creates a unique vantage point at the intersection of the Provider (e.g. information technology or human resources) and the Business Partner (e.g. sales and marketing, production, customer care). By having “one foot” in the Provider team and the other in the Business unit, a BRM capability allows a shared understanding of both. Strong strategic partnerships are forged, bridging the groups that supply the services and the business units that need them. This strategic partnering helps stimulate demand on the Business side, while ensuring the Provider can support it.
BRM helps shape business demand and supply in a variety of ways. Often BRM is represented in both the Provider and Business management teams, where it can influence strategic thinking and leadership activity. A BRM capability helps the business mobilize the right projects and programs to meet demand, and go to bat for initiative support. It also raises the Business units’ awareness of the Provider (e.g. information technology), relaying “This is what the Provider can actually do, and this is the value it can deliver.” BRM then influences the appropriate supply, using an understanding of what the business requires from the Provider in order to meet demand. It mediates and brokers between the Provider and Business, as needed. All of this is accomplished through expert BRM training, tools and knowledge in order to balance the needs of the Business with Provider capabilities.
Getting the Right People at the Table
Business Relationship Management asks, “How can we get the right people at the table to meet Business needs?” It ensures the optimal Provider team is built to achieve what the Business requires. This involves identifying which resources are needed from the supply side, as well as when and how they should be engaged. In short, BRM ensures the appropriate resources are on the team, everyone on the team has the same focus, and they are working on the right activities for the organization
Ensuring Value is Realized
A BRM capability ensures business value is realized for the company. It drives portfolio management through understanding both Business strategy and Provider services / costs, and influencing investments for maximum corporate advantage. A BRM capability also identifies whether things are on track with the solution, pre and post launch, preventing business value leakage.
What BRM is Not
It is helpful to also spell out what a Business Relationship Management discipline is not:
- BRM is not sales. BRM is an internal organizational discipline; sales roles are externally focused and sell to consumers or other businesses.
- BRM is not account management, which tends to be weighted too heavily towards a supplier role versus the customer role. This could undermine strategic partnership or team work.
- BRM is not a point of contact for all issues. Although BRM can be tactical when required, the main mandate is to be strategic. Therefore, most tactical or operational issues should be handled by other groups within the organization.
- BRM is not project management or service management. These roles tend to link too closely to the delivery of a service or a specific business initiative.
- BRM is not a panacea. BRM cannot solve all issues, although it may go a long way towards mitigating them.
Knowing what Business Relationship Management is, and is not, is a necessary step towards developing a BRM organizational capability. Strategic partnering is the essence of BRM, and it helps stimulate demand on the Business side while ensuring the Provider can support it. Secondly, BRM ensures the appropriate people are at the table, everyone has the same focus, and they are working on the right activities for the company. Finally, BRM helps ensure business value of investments is realized over time. Consider expert training and coaching to implement BRM capability, and set your company up for success.
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