There is an organizational myth that suggests that any area that does not produce a tangible product is simply “overhead.” Organizations that subscribe to that theory are usually focused on winning the battle and not the war, and ultimately pay the price for that thinking. For these “overhead” areas are the differentiators, the ones that drive forward-thinking strategies, innovation, and growth. They are the fuel that helps organizations succeed in their mission.
One area that is constantly questioned – and poorly understood – is the Business Relationship Management capability, or BRM.
It is true that an organization does not “need” BRM to survive. For that matter, nor do they need a strategy group, a communications team, or a business development area. All you need to survive are the basics. But is that the ultimate mission for your organization? Is the status quo your goal?
The world is littered with stories about organizations who thought that just “running” the business is what mattered. They met their metrics and kept the organization operating just fine. Everything was right in the world because employees were getting paid, products and services were being produced, and financial goals were met.
But then something interesting happened: they were outpaced by a world they didn’t see coming. New competitors entered the market, industry innovations changed their relationship with customers, and business operations became immensely faster and cheaper, to name a few. The world changed and they didn’t see it until it was too late. They were so stuck in their traditional ways that they failed to see that the world in which they operate was now completely different.
They didn’t have the differentiators to help them recognize, and navigate, their own future.
BRM is that differentiator. BRM sees things through many different lenses, finding the gaps between capability and need, and the connection between opportunity and strategy. BRM helps challenge the status quo to drive organizational growth. BRM finds ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness in an organization in a way other areas cannot.
So, if you are in a position of influence, wouldn’t you want a group that:
Perhaps the better question is: “Why wouldn’t you want that?”
Successful BRM teams become part of the fabric of an organization and can be a driving force for positive change. They see things from so many vantage points that they become an indispensable resource for growth and innovation. High-performing BRMs have such depth and breadth within an organization that they become key advisors to management, and many end up eventually move into management roles themselves.
And yet, for some reason, BRM teams continually have to justify their existence because traditional thinkers are too focused on individual metrics related to hard deliverables. That makes complete sense for operational teams, but little sense for the strategic ones. Performance must indeed be measured, but by weighing how it impacted and influenced, not on how many widgets they produced.
It is the intangible benefits – the differentiators – that BRM provides. While that may be harder to measure directly, there is no mistaking their intrinsic value to an organization.
We live in a world of change. Maintaining the status quo simply does not work. Successful organizations are always looking forward and not back. They always seek better ways of doing things, new ways to attract and retain customers, and opportunities to lead their industry. Successful organizations invest in the areas of the organization that can help lead them down this path. They invest in the differentiators.
So, if you are an executive of an organization and your goal is to simply maintain the status quo, then carry on as you are. But be prepared for what is coming. History shows what happens to organizations with that thinking, regardless of industry.
But if your goal is to always be better than you are today, to stay a day ahead of your competition, and to constantly seek new opportunities, then invest in those areas that can help you get there.
There is no more impactful area than BRM to do that. BRM is the ultimate differentiator.
About the author
Jeff Warren is President of Barkley Consulting Group, a Consulting Firm specializing in helping organizations build, execute, and evolve BRM organizations and develop BRM professionals. He has spent over 15 years building and leading BRM teams that deliver real value and lasting success to his clients. Jeff is a frequent coach, guest lecturer, and speaker at industry workshops and conferences.