How BorgWarner Became a Relationship-Centered Organization with BRM Certification


Many organizations start by creating a business relationship management (BRM) team when they want to solidify relationships between stakeholders and team members. While it’s a valuable first step to becoming a relationship-centered organization, it’s not enough.

Today, more than ever, organizations strive to maximize value for all stakeholders. They recognize the importance of a value optimization culture based on trust, collaboration, and shared ownership. They also acknowledge that relationships are a driving force for building this culture.

All organizations have a certain degree of relationship management capability. Of course, some are more mature than others in that regard. And organizations with a BRM team show more willingness to develop their business relationship management capability.

But what does being a relationship-centered organization mean?

It means that companies must be deliberate about how they build relationships. They must build the journey, plan for it, and measure it. To reach higher levels of business relationship management maturity, they must also take the necessary steps. And that means everyone is involved.

A BRM team is not enough to make a relationship-centered organization. Often, only people with “relationship manager” in their title recognize the importance of relationships in business. However, nurturing relationships is everyone’s responsibility. Imagine if only a few people in your organization understand and value relationships. You will constantly face roadblocks.

In a relationship-centered organization, everyone understands and values business relationships. Therefore, the organization thrives. That is the case with BorgWarner.

The Challenge: Centralize IT to Deliver More Value

BorgWarner is an American automotive supplier based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The company has over 49,000 employees globally and operates in 93 locations across 22 countries. They supply parts to every major OEM.

The organization has committed to becoming relationship-centered. Since 2015, it has consistently built the BRM competencies of its IT staff, but the work started much earlier.

In 2009, BorgWarner moved to centralize its IT department. To that end, they created two new roles. One was the service delivery manager, which focused on infrastructure. The other role was business relationship manager. BRMs focused on building relationships between IT and the business partner.

“BRMs focus on the relationship to ensure business requirements translate to business value,” says Theresa Adriaens, Senior IT Manager, Powerdrive Systems, at BorgWarner. “This helps IT build credibility with their partners, and it provides the ability to transfer from tactical to strategic.”

The BRM role at BorgWarner had three purposes:

  • to enable the strategic direction of IT with the business
  • to get IT involved earlier in the decision-making process
  • to help the business and stakeholders make the right decisions

The decision to centralize came during an economic downturn when IT was very lean and had limited resources. And so, the company needed to generate the most value possible from IT investments. For that reason, BRM training became critical.

The Solution: BRM Certification Training

“We chose to certify our BRMs as Business Relationship Management Professionals (BRMP) for two reasons,” says Adriaens. “First, to ensure consistent knowledge of all BRM practices within the organization. Then we can grow the credibility of our BRMs in the eyes of the organization both locally and globally. Our goal was to have a common language for everyone to speak to the business.”

BorgWarner engaged IT Chapter in 2020 to certify their BRM teams.

IT Chapter’s international team of BRM trainers created a worldwide training program for BorgWarner. The trainers delivered training in multiple time zones to accommodate everyone.

Trainers and in-house BRM experts also provided additional coaching and exam preparation sessions when required. Furthermore, participants could access IT Chapter’s state-of-the-art learning management system (LMS). In the LMS, they found all the learning materials for their BRM role. The knowledge library also included simulations of the certification exams.

As a result, BorgWarner colleagues achieved a 100% passing rate for the certification exam. But that was only part of their success.

During the classes, BorgWarner colleagues worldwide spent three days together, exchanging thoughts and ideas and sharing their experiences. This experiential learning helped develop the BRM mindset throughout the organization. It also contributed to the progress of relationship maturity.

Developing the BRM Mindset

BRM mindset—The mental attitude or belief system that inspires and influences how business relationship managers evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value, and satisfy the purpose.” —The BRM Institute

You can’t build a BRM mindset without evolving your culture. Consequently, you can’t become a relationship-centered organization without that profound change. However, cultural shifts and evolution are hard to achieve and can’t be done overnight.

To change the culture, you need to change behaviors in the organization. It means changing how you make decisions, share information, collaborate, plan jointly, etc. It requires a clear vision of the future behavior you desire. In addition, you need the ability to understand and analyze current behavior and identify the gaps. BRMs are uniquely qualified to accomplish these tasks. Their mission is to shape the organizational understanding of the desired behavior.

The BRM mindset requires new knowledge and the use of a common language. The Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) certification provided BorgWarner with both.

BorgWarner’s IT team members gained consistent knowledge of all BRM practices. Then, they could bring back that knowledge and apply it in their respective regions. Similarly, the training allowed the organization to use a common language, templates, and approaches to make their projects succeed in all business units. This consistency provides additional value to each business partner.

Essential Tools that help BRMs create a relationship-centered organization

The BRM Institute offers a comprehensive collection of BRM templates and tools through the BRM Institute Campus (available to members only). Each organization uses a combination of these tools and templates to suit their circumstances. These tools aren’t necessarily software or automation—even though automation is always a good idea. Templates, for example, save time and limit errors when used as a starting point.

Some of the most used and valued tools include:

  • The BRM Competency Model to understand which competencies are required and assess each BRM’s competencies. It provides the necessary input to build individual competency-development plans for each BRM and for each BRM team. Our clients have shared how eye-opening this model was for them.
  • The Relationship Diagnostic helps BRMs understand to what degree the provider organization (e.g., IT) meets the business partner’s expectations. This set of tools and methods also helps evaluate the quality of the relationships.
  • The BRM Maturity Model helps organizations and individuals assess their current state of business relationship management. It doesn’t measure the BRM role but rather the relationships within the organization. The model contains five levels. Each level represents the effort and investment required to reach the next level.
  • The Strategy on the Page is a tool that helps organizations develop a strategy to build more mature relationships. The strategy determines the vision, the goal, performance measurements, and more.

Becoming a relationship-centered organization

BRMP certification has allowed BorgWarner to grow the credibility of their BRMs globally throughout the organization. Today, the company boasts over 125 certified BRMs. 86 of those BRMs reached certification through IT Chapter’s BRM Certification training. As a result, BorgWarner has truly become a relationship-centered organization.

We now have over 125 certified BRMs within the organization. This allows us to use a common language, templates and approaches to make our projects succeed for our business units. BorgWarner has become a true BRM community across the entire organization.” —Theresa Adriaens, Senior IT Manager, Powerdrive Systems, at BorgWarner

BorgWarner’s deliberate and consistent approach to developing its BRM team has provided tremendous value to the organization. It has transformed IT from an order-taking organization to trusted advisor and strategic partner.

IT holds value-based discussions with business partners based on the desired business outcomes. By being involved early in the decision-making process, they can focus on solution-based discussions instead of forcing the business to pick a specific technical solution. And those discussions maximize value for all stakeholders.

If you are ready to transform your company into a relationship-centered organization, choose the BRM certification that works best for you or contact us for guidance.

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