The BRM role is complex – BRMs are strategists, problem-solvers, communicators, and planners. They must balance the need for operational excellence with the desire to help business partners achieve growth. They must balance technical expertise with business acumen to help stakeholders make informed decisions. They operate as part of the business units they serve, yet are members of the IT departments to which they report.
Many BRM organizations succeed in some of these areas, but not all. In many cases, the focus is more on the operational side of things. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the business leaders, this is simply “table stakes.” They expect BRMs to do the operational things, to manage demand, ensure efficiencies, solve problems, and give the business unit an advocate and a voice. It is undoubtedly helpful but doesn’t add the value a business leader is looking for from BRM.
Business leaders want to grow their business. They want to achieve competitive advantage, offer new services and experiences to their customers, and increase their revenue. They are consumed with business plans and goals, and how they can create more brand recognition, interest, and excitement. Business leaders want to grow.
Therein lies the conundrum of BRM: how to help a business flourish and grow, but at the same time ensure that operational needs are not only met, but running effectively. No one would suggest that BRMs turn a blind eye to the operational side of things – that would be disastrous. Instead, think about how BRM can influence the ability of business units to grow and succeed by bringing them new ideas, insights, and opportunities. Think about becoming proactive in the innovation space.
BRMs can achieve these goals in a few ways.
- New Thinking and Ideas
BRMs can bring new ways of thinking to help business units become more efficient, grow, and evolve. Run Design Thinking workshops to fuel innovative thinking in the business unit to help elicit new ideas that address business needs, challenges, and opportunities. Seek ways to help them see things differently – and not always by infusing technology!
By bringing new thinking and ideas to business units, BRMs are seen as agents of change with a real business focus – not just from an IT perspective.
- Identifying Technology Trends
Business leaders aren’t as aware of technology trends as we might think. They are bombarded with marketing materials, cold calls, and unrealistic articles. Stakeholders will look to you to make sense of it all, to help them find new approaches they haven’t thought of before. Staying on top of trends, communicating them to stakeholders in a storytelling fashion, and continually looking for different, better ways to do things will highlight BRMs as innovators and educators focused on helping businesses grow.
- Taking Action on Opportunities
Define innovation opportunities by marrying business need with creative thinking. Create “opportunity catalogs” that you can share with your business partners. Engage others to prototype and test solutions on a small scale to see if they would address larger issues before building a full-scale solution. Drive the effort and make sure it gets off the ground and addresses the original opportunity.
A key aspect of BRM success is delivering results. Taking action on ideas and opportunities shows business partners that BRMs are action-oriented and not afraid to trial their ideas to show success.
- Conduct Educational/Inspirational Events o Technology Showcases to allow stakeholders to see, touch, and experience new technologies.
- Design Thinking Workshops to bring a new way of thinking to your business partners that they can put into use immediately.
- Executive Briefings to bring key business leaders to meet with technology executives.
- Silicon Valley Tours to help inspire business leaders with new ideas, educate them on trends in the industry, and immerse them in the epicenter of innovation.
Consider holding events for your business partners for them to get a sense of the power and advancement technology, and how it can affect their business. Think about:
Using these tools, business partners will view BRMs and their mission in a different light. They will see BRMs as strategic thought leaders who have a solid understanding of their business and a passion for helping them grow. They will see them as team members who infuse valuable insights into the business conversation. They will see them as innovators.
Most importantly, they will find BRMs to be vital to their success.
As Henry Ford said: “If you always do what you did, you will always get what you got.” In a world that is constantly changing, we need to do better than that.
About the author
Jeff Warren is President of Barkley Consulting Group, a Management Consulting Firm that combines real-world experience with thought leadership to bring transformative solutions to organizations. Jeff has spent over 15 years building, deploying, and evolving Business Relationship Management
(BRM )programs that deliver real value and lasting success to his clients. He is a coach, guest lecturer, and speaker and works in an advisory capacity for start-ups in the technology sector. In addition to his consulting practice, Jeff also serves as the Program Director for Design Thinking at Stony Brook University.