Monthly Research
& Market Commentary

CIOs: "If BRMs Fail, WE Fail"

Assets/Capabilities / 25 Jan 2016 / By Ibrahim Jackson

Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) are recognizing the importance of strengthening their business relationship management (BRM) capability.

It isn’t enough to implement business relationship management and believe it will be successful on autopilot. In order to be strategic and thrive with business counterparts, CIOs must champion BRM programmes by creating a supportive environment, ensuring the right people are in the right positions doing the right things and by providing necessary tools and techniques..  Let me elaborate on these points:

Establishing a Supportive Environment

For Business Relationship Management to lead and drive value throughout the firm, a supportive culture must be in place whereby a consistent narrative around BRM is expressed by Business and Technology partners.  It’s also necessary to cascade this messaging throughout your organization to position the BRM as a trusted advisor able to co-develop strategy and projects with their aligned business partner.  BRMs rely on colleagues within other business functions to provide transparency and awareness of future and current plans, just as much as BRMs rely on their IT counterparts to be accessible and supportive in enabling technology capabilities.  This is how BRMs gain trust and advocacy in both areas.

"Successful BRMs tend to have strong communication, consulting and negotiating skills, as well as the personal power (and management backing) needed to sustain credibility, empathy and trust even while coping with difficult situations." 
David Moschella, Research Director, Leading Edge Forum

Having BRMs Who are the Right Fit for Your Organization

I’m often asked if it’s best to recruit BRMs from within IT or from other business units.  I have found that BRMs need technology know-how and business acumen as minimum requirements.  To these basics, advanced BRMs add personal presence, entrepreneurial passion and a high level of autonomy with accountability to drive significant business results. Visionary CIOs act as role models for their BRMs, maintaining the most senior relationship with key business executives.  They understand by making investments in these individuals, that high achieving BRMs will have a career trajectory ascending into executive roles which may be inside or outside of IT.

Techniques, Frameworks and Tools

CIOs and technology executives appreciate that BRMs having unique styles and understand business relationship management is not a one-size-fits-all approach.  However, there are techniques, frameworks, and a variety of simple tools to encourage consistency and completeness when capturing and sharing insights. These can also help shape demand towards appropriate solutions and drive world class experiences through IT.  Methods for linking business drivers with technology, developing situational awareness, exploring emerging technology, operating with agility and a number of other practices can strengthen your business relationship management capability.

“My advice is to start with questions about the business and not about technology, and speak in language they can engage with.”
Mike Bowden, Former CIO and Advisor, Leading Edge Forum

Getting into the early meetings

“The acid test of a successful BRM is whether they succeed in being included in the early meetings regarding a major business or change initiative. It is in the early meetings, before decisions have been taken on the basic approach and required business changes, that the BRM has the best opportunity to add value.  LEF research indicates that the BRM will only be invited to participate if business colleagues value their input in general, and not just on IT issues.  If, however, the BRM is called in only after the direction has been set, then this is a sign that strong relationships have not been established, and that the BRMs contribution is going to be tactical at best.”
Kirt Mead, Senior Consultant, Leading Edge Forum


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