Business Relationship Management: Best Practices for Success
Learn how to better engage with your internal stakeholders with these five tips to manage your business relationships.
Successfully managing corporate and employee relationships is critical for most organizations. Gaining insights into who knows who (and how they’re connected) can be valuable for all sorts of reasons.
The challenge is that most org charts are only designed to capture formal relationships and reporting lines… but all of your business relationships can mean something. It’s often worth tracking more than just the formal relationships between managers and their teams, or even colleagues that work closely together.
Why Track and Manage Informal Business Relationships
Although these relationships won’t be visible in your org chart, it might also be valuable to see that Tim in one department has a mentor-mentee relationship with John in another department. Or that Mary and Ali used to work or study together before they moved into their current roles. Or that some of your employees are good friends outside of work — and might share information or ask one another for advice.
You might want to track these informal relationships as a metric of success or strength in your company (perhaps as an indicator for increasing social capital). Or you might want to strategically plan your employee engagement by understanding who influences whom, or who might influence your project (even if they’re not directly involved).
Visualizing Complex Relationships in Large-Scale Businesses
In smaller organizations, you might be able to track data on both formal and informal relationships with a simple org-chart and detailed notes in a spreadsheet. But in larger organizations, identifying and managing the often-complex web of relationships between all your internal stakeholders can seem almost impossible.
Making this even more important in larger corporations is research suggesting that management-employee relationships are typically less satisfying in larger firms than in small ones, which is potentially linked to lower job satisfaction.
Fortunately, we’ve got some experience in helping large organizations manage their business relationships successfully. So, we’ve got a few tips and best practices that may help.
5 Tips for Business Relationship Management
1. Define Your Relationship Goals
It may not be practical to show every relationship — at the very least, you need to identify a starting point. So, start by defining what kind of business relationships you want to identify or show. For instance, you might want to focus on identifying:
- Relationships between/with executives
- Relationships between/with managers
- Relationships between/with contractors/suppliers
- People who are in the same department but in a different area
- People who are located within the same building or area
- People who are on the same shift
- People who attended the same place of education
- People with the same professional background
Once you know what types of business relationships you want to manage and focus on, you can start to build an interconnected web that you can use to strategically plan your engagement.
If you’re not sure where to place your focus, consider what those relationships might mean for your project outcomes or organization. How might that group of people influence each other and the outcomes? How can you ensure you’re reaching out to the right people to get the right outcomes? Or if you needed to find someone, could you find them via this network of relationships?
2. Map Your Stakeholder Relationships
In large corporations with multiple departments and hundreds (or even thousands) of staff across multiple locations, it can be incredibly challenging to identify the informal relationships between individuals.
Of course, each organization will typically have an org chart — probably even org chart software. But this way of identifying relationships can only go so far. You might be able to see what department someone is located in and who formally manages who, but it’s nearly impossible to capture less formal relationships and connections outside of this hierarchy.
When it comes to business relationship management in big organizations, it’s better to visualize those internal connections using a stakeholder map. What you really need is business relationship management software like Simply Stakeholders.
Inside Simply Stakeholders, you can use the stakeholders tab to easily see who’s connected to who and track communication, interactions, and more.
3. Analyze Your Stakeholders
The better you know your key contacts, the easier it will be to understand who they’re connected to and how they might respond to your communication and engagement. You can gain richer insights into your employees and their relationships by taking a stakeholder analysis approach.
This involves adding more information to your stakeholder records, such as their level of interest, impact, or influence on a project or your organization. Add demographic information, personal characteristics, and anything else that might be relevant. This can help you create a more complete picture of the people you’re tracking, and add extra context to their relationships.
4. Track Your Communication
A significant part of managing business relationships and planning your internal stakeholder engagement involves tracking communication. So, use your stakeholder software to track the conversations you’re having with people, their feedback and responses, and even the conversations they’re having with each other.
With access to all this data in one place, you can generate valuable business intelligence that can drive your decisions and allow you to engage more strategically.
5. Build As You Go
The relationships within your organization will continue to change and evolve over time, as staff come and go, move into different roles or departments, and connect with different people.
As you discover new connections and relationships, get into the habit of adding this information to your records to create a more accurate visualization. Then use that visualization to plan better engagements, improve your communication, and more effectively manage your business relationships as you go.
Want to learn more about stakeholder management and business relationship management? Take a look at our previous content on:
- Stakeholder Management Guide: Definitions, Processes & More
- Business Relationship Management for Nonprofits
- Corporate Relationship Management: When Asana & Spreadsheets Don’t Cut It Anymore
- How to Strategically Manage Your Stakeholder Relationships
- What is Relationship Mapping?
And if you’re interested in exploring our business relationship management software, reach out to our team at Simply Stakeholders. We’d love to see how we can help deliver insights into your key relationships.