What is a business relationship manager? A key role for bridging the business-IT divide

Business relationship managers help integrate IT into the organization by fostering inter-departmental communication and collaboration in service of business goals.

What is a business relationship manager? A key role for bridging the business-IT divide
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What is a business relationship manager?

A business relationship manager (BRM) acts as a liaison between IT and other business units in the organization. As departments increasingly rely on technology, organizations often find they need to establish stronger communication between IT and outside business units. The BRM role is typically a senior-level position, for which candidates need a wide range of experience, hard and soft skills and education to fill the job requirements.

The business relationship manager role

As a BRM, you’ll need a deep understanding of the IT department, but you’ll also need the skills to effectively communicate with multiple business units and to understand their technological needs. You’ll be a main point of contact between IT, HR, finance, marketing and other departments that rely heavily on technology for daily business. BRMs can work at a high-level, overseeing the relationship between IT and multiple departments or they might work in one specific business unit as a liaison between IT and another department.

BRMs are integral to organizations that are trying to “drive towards collaboration and a culture of creativity, innovation and value that reflects the business strategy as a whole,” according to the BRMInstitute. It’s a vital role for companies that have traditionally kept IT separate from the rest of the organization, operating as an independent department without significant interaction with outside business leaders. Now that companies rely on IT throughout the entire enterprise, BRMs are helping break down silos to create a more holistic IT department.

Business relationship manager job description

While job descriptions and responsibilities may vary between organizations and industries, these are the general responsibilities of a BRM, according to BRMInstitute:

  • Coach business leaders on how to communicate to IT what they need to improve business performance.
  • Develop multi-year business capability roadmaps with enterprise architecture.
  • Review requirements with change management and business transformation teams.
  • Develop a “healthy and well-managed initiative portfolio” with the project, program or portfolio management organization (PMO).
  • Communicate with business leadership to evaluate joint initiatives and proposals to see how they align with established roadmaps and business priorities.
  • Identify business value when developing ideas with a focus on digital awareness, risk assessment, business continuity and business capability requirements.
  • Identify strategic business function opportunities both short-term and long-term and track adoption across the relevant departments.
  • Build and manage a relationship team to oversee “convergence and strategic partnering” across the organization, including with executive and senior leadership.
  • Engage with project and program leads from each business unit to ensure they understand the objectives for joint strategic efforts.
  • Maintain creativity and innovation by staying on top of industry and technological trends.
  • Ensure joint initiatives are set up for success and align with the corporate strategy.

Business relationship manager skills

A successful BRM needs a wide range of soft skills to help foster communication and to break down silos, but you’ll also have to understand the IT side of the business, as well as several business units throughout the organization. You’ll be tasked with leading people, communicating with executive leadership and bridging gaps between IT and other business units.

According to BRMInstitute, the most important skills for a business relationship manager include:

  • Relationship-building
  • Strategic thinking
  • Assertiveness and diplomacy
  • Energy and focus
  • Strong communication skills
  • Highly skilled negotiating and problem-solving skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to be collaborative and to encourage collaboration
  • Ability to focus on business value results instead of solutions
  • Ability to positively influence others and to break down organizational silos
  • Strong writing, speaking and presenting skills
  • Strong understanding of IT, HR and finance

Becoming a business relationship manager

To become a BRM, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in business, IT, finance, accounting, economics or business administration. Depending on the level, some positions will also require an MBA or equivalent graduate-level degree; some companies might also accept professional educational certificates.

If you are just getting started in your career, you’ll want to look for entry-level and junior-level BRM positions. It’s likely that, even at the entry level, you’ll need some work experience. But if you’ve worked in IT or in another relevant department, that will be valuable work experience for your resume. If you’re more experienced in your career, you can look to more senior-level BRM positions that often require anywhere from five to 10 years of experience in a relevant industry or role.

Business relationship manager salary

The average salary for a business relationship manager is $85,995 per year, with a reported salary range of $55,000 to $135,000 per year, according to data from PayScale. Skills associated with higher pay in this role include business analysis (29%), IT management (28%), people management (24%), strategic planning (24%) and project management (17%).

Business relationship manager education and training

While you’ll need — at the very least — a formal undergraduate education if you plan to become a BRM, there are other ways you can get trained on the relevant BRM skills and tools. Whether you’re trying to make a career change to become a BRM or if you’re interested in breaking into the industry after graduation, these courses and training programs will help you gain an edge on the competition.

You can find BRM training programs and bootcamps from the following vendors:

  • BRMInstitute
  • PinkElephant
  • Watermark Learning
  • APMG International
  • ITSM Academy
  • ITSM Zone
  • International Institute for Learning (IIL)
  • Learning Tree International

Business relationship manager certifications

The BRM role is still a relatively new role for IT, but there are several certifications available from the BRMInstitute. These include:

  • Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP)
  • Certified Business Relationship Manager (CBRM)
  • Master of Business Relationship Management (MBRM)

The certification scheme consists of three leveled-certifications, with BRMP being the entry level certification. After you’ve earned your BRMP, you can move onto the CBRM and then finally the MBRM levels. The MBRM certification is only earned once an applicant demonstrates that they’ve “gained above average knowledge in BRM.” These certifications will help validate your knowledge and skills as a BRM, while also letting hiring companies know how experienced you are in the role.

This story, "What is a business relationship manager? A key role for bridging the business-IT divide" was originally published by CIO.

  
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