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ITIL Business Relationship Management, the “Hidden” Process

The Business Relationship Management (BRM) process was introduced into the Service Strategy element of the ITIL Service Lifecycle in 2011, but you’d be forgiven for not being aware of this. BRM is perhaps a little ambiguous, and the line between it and its better-known cousin, Service Level Management (SLM), is certainly blurred.


To better understand the BRM process, it is important to first acknowledge the differences in focus between BRM and SLM:

  • SLM Focus -  Tactical and Operational
  • BRM Focus – Strategic and Tactical


The purpose of the BRM role is to establish and maintain positive relationships with the Business, providing input and guidance into the design and delivery of services that exist solely as a means to provide the desired Business outcomes.

A key element of the BRM role is the need to become aware of and understand any factors that may influence a change in the services that are required. A change in the desired Business outcomes, almost certainly means a change to service provision. As such the balancing act of ‘Supply & Demand’ falls squarely at the feet of the BRM. Equally, the pace of technological change must also be considered as an external factor that could influence service utilization.

In contrast, the SLM role is predominantly about the ‘here and now’ (Service Reviews) and the short-term future (Service Improvement Plans). To use PRINCE2 parlance, the Planning Horizon is never far away.

This author offers a number of documents related to IT management, project management, and other related concepts on Flevy here.

This BRM activity of looking ahead is crucial for both the Business and the Service Provider. If we do not know what’s changing in the Business then how can we plan for it?

The BRM is responsible for the Customer Portfolio. This is a database or structured document used to record the details of all of the Customers of the Service Provider. In addition, the BRM is responsible for the Customer Agreement Portfolio, in which all contractual arrangements between Service Provider & Customer are recorded.

From the Business point of view, the Critical Success Factor (CSF) that provides the measure of the Business Relationship Manager is the level of Customer Satisfaction (are we delivering value to the Business?). For the Service Level Manager, the measurement is all about the whether or not the SLA’s are being met.

So we have explored what the BRM role does for the Business, what about the Service Provider?

The level of engagement with the Business that is required from the Business Relationship Manager is such that one could be forgiven for wondering where the reporting line actually is. Indeed, this thinking often manifests itself in the more technical resources of the Service Provider (whose side is he/she on? etc.). We must remember therefore that while the BRM must focus on delivering value to the Business, and continually improving Customer Satisfaction, he/she is also the marketing agent of the Service Provider, ever on the lookout for ways in which to sell new or improved services.

While the BRM process is tucked away in Service Strategy, it should be clearly understood that BRM activities occur all across the ITIL Service Lifecycle. BRM must stay close to the progression of services through Service Design and Service Transition (testing, evaluation, and finally acceptance) all the time engaging with the Business, and ensuring that the service remains on track towards meeting the desired outcome. Once into Service Operation, the BRM role is involved in managing customer expectation through any Major Incidents that may occur, and ensuring that any planned service outages do not have a detrimental effect on the Business.

You can learn more about ITIL Service Management in this 129-slide PowerPoint, which covers the whole of the Service Lifecycle (Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement).

About Paul Smith-Allen

Paul Smith-Allen is a Service Delivery Manager and Project Manager certified in ITIL, PRINCE2 and MOR, with over 30 years of experience established within the Construction, Utilities, Building Services and Facilities Management sectors. Operating his own business (Dartview Consulting Limited), he is also a contributor to the Flevy document library. View his documents here.

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