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The Business Analyst as a leader


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The Business Analyst as a leader

  1. 1. Expert Reference Series of White Papers The Business Analyst as a Leader 1-800-COURSES
  2. 2. The Business Analyst as a Leader Adam McClellan, Project Management Professional, Certified ScrumMaster, Six-Sigma Greenbelt Introduction Who leads projects? That’s an easy one… the Project Manager, right? Well, yes… but there’s more to the answer. The Project Manager is indeed ultimately responsible for the project’s success or failure—and is the proverbial “single throat to choke.” However, the primary Business Analyst on any project also has an essential leadership role. Think of it in terms of the classic triple constraint. The Project Manager owns the cost and schedule. But scope ownership is less clear. The Project Manager is responsible for project scope as outlined in the project plan. But there’s another component to the scope corner: product or solution scope. And in this corner, the Business Analyst has to lead effectively for the project to be successful. Without a doubt, cost and schedule matter to an organization, but most often the key to enduring success lies in delivering the value that is promised in a project’s business case. And that value isn’t just lying around waiting to be picked up and delivered—it has to be synthesized from a multitude of stakeholders. The needs have to be prioritized against one another, conflicting wishes reconciled, and the value generally challenged and wrestled into shape. A passive Business Analyst can’t do this, but a leader can. And increasingly, successful Business Analysts are contributing these leadership skills to the projects that they serve. Getting a sense of this change requires contrasting traditional views of the Business Analyst role to the increasingly dynamic way the role is being played today. To round things out, we can look at the ways in which Project Managers and Business Analysts can effectively co-lead at key points in the project, as well as the organizational benefits of embracing the Business Analyst’s leadership role. The Traditional Business Analyst Compared to the Project Manager, the Business Analyst is a relatively new role. Using professional associations as a rough measure, you’ll note that the Project Management Institute dates back to 1969, while the International Institute of Business Analysis emerged only in 2003. Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 2
  3. 3. However, the role has been around long enough that we can begin to see phases in its development. Think of the first one as the traditional view (you can call it old-school, if you like). Translating between IT and the Business The initial casting of the Business Analyst role in many organizations was, “the person who helps the business and IT talk to each other,” the idea being that the two were separated by a sizable gulf, which required a full-time job to fill. This constrained view of the Business Analyst’s place on a project often led to a neutral, translator/interpreter approach to the role. It tended to focus on documentation and deliverables rather than personalities and the creation of enduring business value. There is value to the idea of facilitation (and occasional mediation) between these parties. However, the divide between them has narrowed over the years, and in many organizations was never that profound from the start. A Contributor’s Skill Set The traditional framing of the Business Analyst viewed the role as one of many individual contributors answerable to the Project Manager for a defined set of project deliverables. As a result, the core skill set tended to focus on: 1. Modeling and writing ability: Being able to capture requirements voiced by the business and representing them in both graphical and written forms. 2. Technological knowledge: General comfort with tech-speak; even better to have familiarity with the technology under development. 3. Analytical ability: It’s in the job title, right? In earlier constructions, this tended to focus on scrutinizing the requirements as stated to ensure that there were no gaps or conflicts and that the logic underlying the functional requirements was correct. 4. Meeting and review facilitation: Adeptness at managing discussions in a room full of people, and in getting stakeholders to hang on your every word as you read the requirements document aloud. None of these are unimportant skills, and they all have a place in the toolkit of the modern Business Analyst. But they were based on a limited view of the role, which shortchanged both the project and the organization by restricting the Business Analyst’s ability to advocate for the best achievable solution. Not a bad start, but ultimately incomplete. The Business Analyst Role Evolves Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. -International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) definition One of the benefits of having a professional organization to support a role is that it frees you from seeing yourself strictly as others define you. And since the IIBA’s foundation in 2003, the Business Analyst role has not only gotten a clearer definition of its traditional duties, but its scope of responsibilities has broadened—scope creep that benefits both projects and practitioners. The upshot is that the Business Analyst has been steadily moving into a position of responsibility for the integrity of the solution. And fulfilling that responsibility means assuming a leadership role. Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 3
  4. 4. Change Enablement All projects deliver change in some way—sometimes incremental, sometimes profound. And if that change is defined in the wrong way or if the organization or customer isn’t ready to receive it, project failure results. Every member of the project team plays a role in ensuring that the change is delivered well. But the Business Analyst is fundamentally responsible for facilitating that change. The Analyst has to consult the business owner, wrangle project team members, and effectively assess impacts and receptivity among end users in order to keep the project’s solution and the target environment aligned. For instance, consider an enterprise that’s developing a member loyalty program. Jan, the business owner, has stated that the cornerstone of the program will be a loyalty portal, supported by “white glove” customer service. Jan has assigned Alex, the Director of Social Media, to act as the point-person on the business side. Alex is confident that the enterprise will be able to meet these customer-service standards because, as Alex believes, “You’re calling people to help and reward them. How hard can that be?” However, all of the enterprise’s existing customer-service capabilities are based on receiving complaints or support inquiries from an undifferentiated customer base. Chris, the Business Analyst on the project, needs to step up and demonstrate leadership by preparing the organization for change by: 1. Calling out the disconnect between Alex’s expectations and the organization’s capabilities, and providing guidance on how the gap can be bridged. 2. Raising awareness of the upcoming change with the appropriate people in the customer service area and highlighting the impacts and opportunities that it presents. Emerging Focus on Business Value Another key point in the IIBA’s definition is the importance of delivering value. Traditionally, this was framed in terms of helping stakeholders articulate their wants and perceived needs, putting them on paper, and ensuring that they remained part of the solution that is delivered at project’s end. And it’s true that there’s a lot of business value that can be found that way. However, the value that the project must deliver is ultimately the one articulated in the business case. Projectstakeholder needs and wishes may help deliver this value, or they may not. Someone needs to assess that, and that someone is increasingly the Business Analyst. In some organizations, the Business Analyst’s role in business-value definition has matured to the point in which the Analyst is an active participant—if not the main driver—of defining the project business case. In these cases, the Business Analyst has an even greater stake in ensuring the integrity and appropriateness of the solution being delivered. Returning to our previous scenario… Dissension has arisen within the project team between Alex and Kelly, a Team Lead in Customer Service who’s providing subject-matter expertise to the project. Kelly keeps returning to two calls in the past week where a customer expressed frustration with the flagship product’s user interface. “If we’re going to provide ‘white glove’ service,” Kelly asks, “shouldn’t we be fixing that?” Alex’s simple point is that this work isn’t in the project scope. As the project’s Business Analyst, Chris needs to show leadership on two fronts here. First, by backing Alex’s point that the problem space that Kelly has raised isn’t in the project scope. But it shouldn’t stop there; Chris should also take the initiative to follow up with Kelly separately to investigate the user interface issue. If it’s persistent or Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 4
  5. 5. profound, there’s going to be both hard and soft benefits enough to consider by either bringing it into scope for the project or addressing it through a separate initiative. Defining and Recommending As noted earlier, the traditional positioning of the Business Analyst was often as a neutral party—Switzerland on the project team. Not biased towards any particular outcome, the Analyst was intended to facilitate discussion among project team members and other stakeholders and bring them to an outcome in which they can agree. This “Business Analyst as project therapist” approach definitely has its value. Without a doubt, most projects already have enough egos and opinions to keep the conversation hopping; they don’t need another one thrown into the mix. But to say that teams need someone who can guide them in discussion towards a solution doesn’t mean that that guide shouldn’t be contributing their own knowledge and insight. Back on the Customer Loyalty project, Alex and Kelly are disagreeing again over the best way to handle calls that are received from members with Platinum loyalty status. Alex advocates for sending these calls directly to call center Team Leads, because, in Alex’s words, “I don’t want some newbie cutting their teeth on my Platinum members.” Kelly’s point is that managers are responsible for monitoring metrics across their entire organization and responding appropriately. They only handle escalations, and so the demands placed on them can’t accommodate regularly taking calls. Here, Chris can show leadership as a Business Analyst not only by defining the underlying need (ensuring that Platinum members get the highest level of service), but by taking a side and discouraging an approach that would overload the call center managers. This advocacy has to be done carefully and thoughtfully, and based on facts rather than personalities. But when it is done well, more value is delivered to the organization than through just mediating the discussion. Moving into a Leadership Role These activities require Business Analysts to actively engage, challenge, and hold the members of their project team accountable. In short, they call for the Analyst to act as a project leader. Note that we’re talking about a project leader, not the project leader. The Project Manager retains responsibility for the project as a whole, but the Business Analyst can (and should) play a vital role in leading the team in solution definition and validation. Having this kind of stand-up Business Analyst on a team benefits the entire project team—and the Project Manager more than anyone. A Richer Skill Set Results This increasingly well-rounded view of the Business Analyst’s role on the project and within the organization requires additional skills that traditional Analysts weren’t typically expected to have, such as 1. Organizational psychology: Understanding what drives people’s behavior as individuals and as part of a larger group in order to help move them towards the desired solution. 2. Financial knowledge: Knowing how project and operational budgets work well enough to appreciate the impact of the solution under consideration. In some cases, enough knowledge to construct a thorough, sound business case. 3. Negotiation: Both inside and outside the project team, being able to handle high-pressure, give-and-take conversations, and getting solutions that serve both the project’s and the enterprise’s goals. 4. Conflict resolution: When tempers flare, stepping in authoritatively to effectively address the underlying issue. It also means not flinching or blustering when heat is directed your way. Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 5
  6. 6. 5. Influencing: Facility at guiding team members and other stakeholders to view the solution in the appropriate light, even though lacking direct authority over them. 6. Enterprise perspective: Understanding how the tree you’re working on relates to the rest of the organizational forest. Project Managers and Business Analysts as Partner Leaders The Business Analyst should not take on the Project Manager’s responsibilities of project delivery and oversight, which includes budget, schedule, and change management. The two roles and corresponding skill sets are complementary, and when they’re played reasonably well, both parties will benefit. Which leads to the question… What does “reasonably well” look like? Criticality of Initial Project Phases Anyone who has completed a few projects knows that the early phases of a project are key to its success. Failure to aim at the right target, outline a comprehensive solution, or gain access to the necessary resources can throw a project wickedly off course and require great efforts to compensate at a later point. It’s also in these early project phases that the Business Analyst’s leadership role is the most pronounced. After all, it’s here that the project is chartered, business value articulated, and the requirements for a value-added solution identified—which means that getting the Project Manager comfortable with the necessary leadership of a Business Analyst is critical. Who Owns Which Parts of the Triangle(s)? Defining who’s responsible for leading what is imperative. Version 4.0 of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) took the original scope-schedule-cost triangle and expanded it. The three new constraints in play are: 1. Resources: The people, money, and material available for the project’s use. 2. Risk: The level of uncertainty surrounding the project. 3. Quality: The degree to which a delivered solution provides value to the business. This expanded constraint set can be represented as a six-pointed star: Schedule Risk Resources Scope Budget Quality Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 6
  7. 7. The question is: Who has responsibility for leading in each corner? The Project Manager is clearly responsible for obtaining the appropriate resources and applying them effectively to the work. Risk is less clear. Here again, it’s helpful to differentiate between delivery risk and solution risk. The Project Manager is rightly focused on anything in the enterprise environment that could affect the project’s ability to implement the promised scope on time and within budget. But any project has a relationship of reciprocal solution risk with the rest of the enterprise. Meaning, the project introduces its own set of risks to the enterprise’s operations, and the enterprise contains a set of risks that may result in the solution not working as intended. And managing this risk set well requires effective leadership from someone with enterprise perspective and expert knowledge about the solution being constructed. Most often, that is the Business Analyst. Quality is even more contentious, as you can fairly argue that the Project Manager, Business Analyst, and Lead Tester all have significant roles to play. The Project Manager is ultimately responsible for delivering a solution that meets at least minimal quality standards, and the Lead Tester must ensure that the solution both works as designed and can be integrated into the rest of the enterprise. But the Business Analyst is also called to lead in this corner in two key ways. The first is ensuring that the solution they lead to the team during the requirements phase is conceptually sound and delivers the promised business value. The second is remaining engaged in downstream activities after active requirements work is done to validate that the designs and test plans result in a maximally functional solution. How Do You Co-Lead Effectively? We tend to think of project team leadership as a one-person show, but that’s a simplification. Large and diverse groups look to more than one person to provide them with a sense of direction, purpose, and assurance that their goal is achievable. Project teams benefit when they embrace this reality. That being said, the Project Manager remains the one person who is ultimately accountable for the successful execution of a project. So what does it take for both the Project Manager and Business Analyst to effectively act as leaders? 1. The Business Analyst needs to think like a Project Manager. Not to do the Project Manager’s job—but understand what that job is, its responsibilities, pressures, and the implications on cost and schedule of the solution being delivered. 2. The Project Manager needs to embrace the Business Analyst’s ownership of solution scope. Even on a medium-sized project, there’s too much on the Project Manager’s plate for them to effectively analyze and synthesize the different value strands that constitute potential solutions. And even on the smallest project, the shift in mindset from cost and schedule to solution and quality can be difficult to pull off. As a result, it’s key for the Project Manager to appreciate the fact that there’s a Business Analyst on the team to take these responsibilities. 3. Reinforce one another’s roles to the rest of the team. Unite at the start, have each other’s back, and clarify the responsibilities of each role. 4. The escalation for irresolvable differences has to be clear and transparent. Project work involves at least some disagreements, and sometimes the disagreement can’t be resolved through discussion. For these situations, know in advance what the escalation path is for these types of issues. And when one person is ready to escalate, let the other party know before doing so. Few things break trust as effectively as a blind-side escalation. Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 7
  8. 8. In short, the two roles need to understand their common goals, communicate well, and put the project and enterprise’s interests above their own. Embrace Business Analyst Leadership to Strengthen Your Organization Not only do project teams benefit from recognizing the leadership potential of their Business Analysts, but the enterprise as a whole can be strengthened from the solution focus and continual learning that Analysts bring to their work. Build on Your Delivered Business Value As the result of their leadership during the solution-definition phases of a project, Business Analysts are intimately familiar with the value that the project solution delivers to the organization. They learn tremendous amounts not only about the solution, but also about the business areas and customers that will be putting it through its paces. In the classic setup, once the project concludes, the Business Analyst’s knowledge tends to get put on a shelf. In some cases, the Analyst may become an application expert, but the business expertise that they gained during the project has nowhere to go. Rather than letting that knowledge dissipate, organizations can benefit from placing their Business Analysts in informal leadership positions in impacted business areas post-implementation. The business areas benefit from the Business Analysts’ fundamental understanding of the solution and former problem space; the Analysts benefit from the opportunity to provide guidance and leadership outside of the project context. Ultimately, it’ll reinforce their appreciation for building solutions that can sustain and be sustained by the business. Reinforce Your Analytic Mindset We tend to distinguish between thinkers and doers. However, in the modern business environment, thinking is doing. The creative and thorough analysis of strategies, processes, technology, and data is essential to keeping your enterprise functioning, growing, and improving. And it’s not just analyst teams that need to have this mindset. Continuous improvement requires people throughout an organization—at all levels, and in all departments—to have an appreciation for understanding, analyzing, and enhancing the way that they work. Given this need, consider how many managers, directors, and VPs in your organization have an analytical background. Chances are, it’s not enough. And if you have a pool of skilled business analysts, you have a pool of analytically minded potential leaders waiting to be tapped. Grow Your Analysts’ Leadership Skills No one’s suggesting that you can take a Business Analyst by the elbow and stand them up over a department of 50 people with no prior management experience. Nor is it the case that every Business Analyst makes a good leader. Just as with any other role, it varies from person to person and requires effective cultivation. So look at the highly skilled individual contributors in this pool with an eye to how they can lead. Embrace their leadership role on projects and the guidance that they have to offer the broader organization. Mentor them in the complexities of not only navigating organizational politics and personalities but harnessing their skills and knowledge to move your enterprise forward. And give them the opportunities to accept responsibilities outside of the project realm in which they’re fully accountable for the actions of their team. Your organization, your projects, and your analysts all will benefit. Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 8
  9. 9. Learn More Learn more about how you can improve productivity, enhance efficiency, and sharpen your competitive edge through training. Core Business Analysis Classes Business Analysis Essentials Effective Business Cases Effective Facilitation for Business Analysts Requirements Development, Documentation, and Management Project Management Classes for Business Analysts Project Management Fundamentals Managing Challenging Conversations Effective Stakeholder Relationships Managing Conflict on Teams Risk Management Preventing Project Failure Managing High-Risk Projects Leadership Classes Developing Your Emotional Intelligence Expanding Your Influence: Understanding the Psychology of Persuasion From Doing to Leading Project Management, Leadership, and Communication Visit or call 1-800-COURSES (1-800-268-7737) to speak with a Global Knowledge training advisor. About the Author Adam McClellan has over a decade of experience as a project professional, including multiple stints as a Business Architect and Business Analyst experience. As a Project Management Professional, Certified ScrumMaster, and SixSigma Greenbelt, he brings a combined focus on high-quality solutions and timely delivery to his work and has experienced first-hand the valuable knowledge and enlightening conversations to be had at all levels of an organization. The philosophy at the heart of Adam’s approach to work can be summed as: 1. 2. 3. 4. Know the problem you're trying to solve. The solution may be simpler than it looks. If you think every solution is simple, you're fooling yourself. Always keep driving to a solution. Adam lives with his family in Durham, North Carolina, where he operates his consulting practice, Brightrope. Copyright ©2014 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved. 9