Any organization that changes and evolves performs business analysis. How do you develop your business analysis function? How do you support the professional growth of practitioners who play a vital role in enabling successful change?
Here are a few questions to start with to assess the business analysis maturity in your company:
- Do you have a high staff turnover among business analysts?
- Do your major projects start and finish with the same lead business analyst, or is it typical to have a few people take over from each other before the project is completed?
- Is there a perception among business stakeholders that technology groups do not understand them?
- Is there a perception among technology groups that business does not articulate their requirements well, and that there are too many ambiguities?
- Is there a general feeling of frustration that requirements workshops are ineffective and do not progress fast enough?
- Is requirements quality often cited as a reason for project failure?
If these points hit close to home, then your organization needs to work on promoting good business analysis practices.
To determine what is required for a mature business analysis practice, let’s look at this model from the book “Business analyst: a profession and a mindset”:
A business analyst, like any other professional, needs to acquire skills, training, and knowledge. On-the-job experience is extremely important for a job where each new assignment will be in some way new and unique. This experience will expose an analyst to a variety of techniques, methodologies, and tools more efficiently than formal class training.
The analyst’s knowledge and experience will influence choosing the most efficient technique for each situation. Drive to help the customer will come from a business analyst’s motivation. And the ability to get to the root cause of problems, understand human nature, communicate with different audiences, and use diplomacy in difficult situations, will come from the business analyst mindset.
What can you do as an organization to support the development of the right mindset in your employees, and attract and retain the analysts who possess it?
Approach this challenge from several directions:
1. Foster supportive culture
- Acknowledge the importance of business analysis in the process of organizational change. Even non-technological improvements and process changes benefit from applying analysis techniques to solve business problems.
- Create a business analysis practice or centre of excellence where analysts can learn from peers, share best practices, explain and clarify complex requirements and business rules, and create standards.
- Encourage peer reviews of business requirements packages. Any business analyst should be able to review the work of a peer to assess readability, clarity, logic and structure, ask good questions and help indicate potential issues. This will not only improve the quality of individual contributors’ output but can also help detect missed cross-project impacts.
- Develop a culture of sharing knowledge and experience. If you have knowledgeable analysts who are hoarding knowledge for their job protection, this may lead to an unhealthy, excessively competitive environment, and ultimately to inferior results for the organization.
Resources: BA Mindset video series
2. Apply efficient and consistent methodology
- Establish a robust change management methodology. Whether you call it “software development life cycle,” “project management methodology” or “agile culture,” ensure that you have a clear framework in place to manage the work.
- Define the business analysis process as part of the overall methodology.
- Define clear expectations of business analysis deliverables and artifacts, and develop standards, templates, and best practices. Train your new employees and junior analysts on the standards that your organization follows.
- Create a shared business models repository. Maintain a catalogue of actors, business rules, scenarios, process blocks and use cases. Sharing the artifacts and modelling blocks among analysts and projects will support the standardization and alignment of individual initiatives with the overall enterprise architecture.
- Don’t offer requirements management tools as a replacement for methodology. Tools can’t do magic without the right attitude and methodology in place.
Resources: Business Analysis in One Day (training program)
3. Support training and mentorship
- Provide time and funds for professional training. Online webinars and courses, participation in local IIBA chapters, and attending business analysis conferences all provide valuable exposure to best practices, new ideas, and fresh points of view.
- Value domain knowledge and provide business analysts with opportunities to learn through industry-specific training, job shadowing, secondment to a variety of projects and business functions.
- Invest in developing your staff first, instead of looking for external hires. Upskilling and reskilling are financially sound strategies that also help build employee loyalty.
- Create opportunities for senior analysts to train and mentor junior team members. Reward mentorship with acknowledgement and opportunities for advancement. Any formal external training will be much more expensive, and a mentorship opportunity can be an intrinsic reward for the mentor.
- Create a lending library for business analysis books. Just the fact that a company would spend money on creating such a resource makes a statement about the importance of business analysis and the expected quality of requirements.
Resources: Business Analysis for Professionals Changing Careers (self-paced course)
4. Nurture facilitation skills
- Pay attention to your business analysts’ meeting facilitation skills. This has a critical impact on requirements quality. Provide facilitation training and coaching – with an experienced coach, it can be quite effective. This is also an excellent investment in your analysts’ professional development.
- Boost facilitation function for important requirements workshops, especially with large disparate groups or very important stakeholders. For example, provide a facilitator plus a scribe, assign a second analyst as a partner and a backup for the lead analyst, or hire an independent facilitator to manage the participants while the business analyst can focus on the analysis itself.
Resources: Business Analyst: a Profession and a Mindset (paperback or eBook, Chapter 11)
5. Connect business architecture to business analysis
- Involve analysts in feasibility studies and cost-benefit assessments. This can help you conduct your feasibility assessment more thoroughly to improve the decisions and, as a bonus, capture some early analysis results and potential gaps.
- If the company does not have a business architect, consider creating this role. A business architect, if positioned well in the organizational structure, can provide direction to business analysis activities and become a uniting force for the business analysis practice.
Resources: Business Architecture Modelling Basics (article)
6. Manage the team wisely
- Find the right person to lead your business analysis team. Not every people manager will intuitively know how to manage workers with this special combination of hard and soft skills that analysts need to possess. A person used to managing repeatable processes will need additional training to understand the nature of business analysis activities and the unique challenges to be dealt with on each project.
- Consider selecting someone with prior business analysis or architecture experience to manage your analysis group.
Nurturing a business analysis practice is an investment well worth the effort and resources. If you are unsure where to start, give this mandate to a seasoned and mature business analysis or business architecture professional, who will know firsthand what works and what does not.
Provide support to the business analysis practice in the form of resources, training, time, and respect. Consider this an investment into your internal business consulting group with leadership potential.
And most importantly, when your business analysts deliver surprising, or sometimes startling insights through analysis, give them airtime and listen to their findings. If you nurture and respect the business analyst mindset, it will pay off handsomely.
Contact Yulia for individual coaching, training programs, or helping your organization mature its business analysis function. Corporate training programs offered include Business Analysis in One Day and Data Management for Business Analysts.
Based on the article that first appeared at DataManagementU.com