To manage enterprise change effectively, a business analysis capability is essential.
It starts with recognizing the need for business analysis.
To build up the capability, the organization then needs to establish a foundation for requirements management. Methodology, process, tools, and knowledge sharing among business analysts all play a key role.
The next question is, how to develop and grow the business analysis practice?
How to increase maturity and grow the business analysis team into a Center of Excellence?
Business analysis team
While some companies place their business analysis resources within individual business units, creating a business analysis team is usually a better option.
Business analysis professionals need many skills and competencies to be successful. Many of these skills are what is often called “soft skills”, even though the “durable skills” term is becoming more widely used.
These skills, such as communication, negotiation, facilitation, and conflict resolution, grow best through continuous use, best practice sharing and mentorship.
The benefits of a close-knit group of professionals that support and mentor each other are usually evident in established business analysis teams.
If an organization is still considering how to develop a business analysis capability, creating a business analysis team, even a small one, is an excellent approach.
Every organization will benefit from having a system in place to store, develop, manage, and share organizational knowledge.
Business analysts, due to the nature of their work, are often some of the most frequent consumers and contributors to the knowledge bases.
Understanding the structure, business model, key concepts and business rules of an enterprise play a key role in current state analysis and discovering requirements, assumptions, and constraints.
Without access to documented knowledge, every business analyst will have to discover it again and again. Needless to say, this is a waste of resources.
Even an incomplete and fragmented knowledge base can cut down the discovery and initial business analysis time significantly.
In addition, in the course of requirements analysis, business analysts discover and create new knowledge that can (and should) end up in the enterprise knowledge base.
If a project includes modifying or building a new business process or creating a new product bundle, this information is part of the new baseline — the new “as-is” state of the enterprise.
Having this knowledge captured will serve other business analysts on the next project and will ensure consistency in understanding how the business works.
Good quality requirements can be reused from project to project.
As each initiative builds on others or creates connected components of the larger business system, inevitably there will be common elements.
These can be captured as business rules, terms and concepts, KPI definitions, activities in the end-to-end process, data quality constraints, or persona journeys.
A shared enterprise requirements repository with a rigorous traceability structure can serve as both a source of knowledge about the current state and a mechanism for reusing common business requirements.
Making this work requires not only appropriate tools but discipline, an established process and an understanding of what requirements tools can or cannot do.
Connection to architecture
In most small and many medium-sized companies, the architecture function is collectively provided by the existing staff on a shared-responsibility basis.
An IT Manager may play the roles of solutions and integration architect, a program manager will take on many enterprise architecture functions, and an experienced business analyst will also be the business architect.
Their deliverables may be limited to a few diagrams and documents necessary to manage the big picture of the enterprise systems and functions.
In larger companies that establish in-house architecture teams, the relationships between the latter and business analysis groups are not always as close as they should be.
Nurturing a close collaboration between a business analyst and a business architect is one of the best ways to ensure that individual initiatives in a large company stay aligned to the same enterprise goals and business needs.
Growing BA resources from within
It is not always necessary to grow the BA capability by hiring.
Hiring is expensive, takes a long time, and involves the risk of not getting the right person. Assessing business analysis skills from a resume and an interview is also an art.
Besides getting a person with BA experience to help interview and hire candidates, another approach is to grow more business analysis resources from within the company.
Reskilling is used in many organizations to provide career growth paths for employees while utilizing their institutional knowledge and reducing the hiring risks.
With more reliance on technology in every aspect of business, the importance of business analysis capability in organizations will only increase.
Companies that are concerned with their long-term sustainability and ability to grow must ensure they build a strong BA function.
Building a community of practice is a good start. With the right investment into skills, mentorship and fostering the business analyst mindset on the team, the initial community will eventually grow into a Center of Excellence, to the benefit of the whole enterprise.
Yulia Kosarenko is the author of the book Business Analyst: a Profession and a Mindset. She teaches business analytics at Humber College in Toronto, creates online courses and offers consulting and corporate training to help organizations build mature enterprise architecture and business analysis practices.
This article was first published in the BA Digest in April 2022.