ITIL®’s BRM: How Business Relationship Management Shows the Love

  • Julie Montgomery
  • Feb 7, 2014 4:59:00 PM

by Thom Salo, Executive ConsultantBusiness Relationship Management BRM

Love is in the air. Can you feel it? It’s Valentine’s Day. Spring is just around the corner and love is breaking out all over. But, how is your IT organization’s relationship with the business? Are you feeling the love from them? Are they feeling the love from you? If not, perhaps it is time for you to consider adopting the ITIL process that I call the “Show the Love Process” - the Business Relationship Management process.

What is Business Relationship Management?

Business Relationship Management (BRM) was added to ITIL 2011 as a Service Strategy process. The purpose of BRM, as stated in the ITIL Service Strategy book, is “to provide the link between the service provider and customers at the strategic and tactical levels.” It is through BRM that the IT organization develops an understanding of the needs of the business. It is how the IT organization communicates value of services to the business. You could be providing “knock your socks off” customer service, but if you have no formalized way of communicating with the business, how are you going to know? That’s where the BRM process comes into play.

To help explain how BRM can help, we’re going to turn to renowned relationship expert, William F. Harley, Jr. Harley has authored and published a number of self-help relationship books. There are two principles that he describes in his book “Give and Take: The Secret to Marital Compatibility” that can be applied to our situation: the “Policy of Joint Agreement” and the “Love Bank.” Harley specializes in relationships between people, but some of those principles can be applied in this business context. In the end, a business relationship is a relationship between people, right?

I Do...Love My IT Services

The basic premise behind “The Policy of Joint Agreement” is to not do anything without enthusiastic agreement between you and your partner. In the context that Harley presents it, he’s talking about a spouse. In our situation, we’re talking about our relationship with the business. The BRM process, along with its partner process Service Level Management (SLM), ensures that we understand the requirements of the business; that we are aware of our ability to meet those requirements; and then come to a mutual (read - joint) agreement to meet those requirements. Sounds simple enough, and it is. Too many organizations enter into agreements, or Service Level Agreements (SLA), without a clear understanding of what the business needs or their ability to meet those needs. The BRM helps bridge this divide in understanding between the business and the IT organization.

Get our complimentary IT Service Level Agreement Template to get started now. 

Keeping IT Services In the Black

With this next section, I’m going to stretch this analogy a bit, and I hope I don’t lose you. Stick with me on this last part, and you’ll see the real, secret, value of including BRM in your ITSM program. So far we’ve been discussing the more mechanical aspects of the BRM process – agreements; but here is where the real magic happens – the “Love Bank.”

According to Harley, long-term strength in relationships, in part, comes from what he describes as a positive balance in the “Love Bank.” Every relationship has a bank of feelings. Having a positive balance ensures a happy relationship; a negative balance brings about a deteriorating relationship, perhaps even a split-up or divorce. When you do something your partner appreciates or you fulfill a need they have, you make a deposit. When you do something negative, you make a withdrawal from the account. In our case, a deposit is made when you hit, or better yet, exceed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) target. A withdrawal happens when you miss those targets.

But how do you know your balance in the love bank, and how do we keep it in the black?

Through the BRM process, the Business Relationship Manager, along with the Service Level Manager, helps you understand what the business considers to be a deposit and what the business considers to be a withdrawal. This role engages closely with the business regarding the status of the account, utilizing BRM principles.

A Further Twist on Business Relationship Management

You could be doing all the right things, but if you’re not communicating with the business, it may feel neglected. The feeling of neglect can spell doom in any relationship. You may be making withdrawals without even realizing it. Having a BRM allows the business an outlet and a place to raise concerns or to just ‘talk.’ Sometimes that is all it takes. The business simply wants to know that somebody cares about its concerns and is interested in its needs.

To develop a strong relationship with the business, we need to adhere to a Policy of Joint Agreement and we have to maintain a positive balance in our Love Bank. Instituting a BRM process will help us achieve these objectives. Commit to being a better partner with the business and establish a Business Relationship Management process.

Show the business some love!  Get started today by getting our complimentary copy of a Sample IT Service Level Agreement.


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