Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to a number of my peers who work in different companies and different industries who have been facing a similar set of challenges. A common problem in the project world seems to be that some business stakeholders just don’t understand the role of a BA. In a worse case scenario, they might not even understand why they need a BA, and in fact they might think that project governance processes hinder innovation.
I believe these challenges are absolutely solvable. Solving them however is an ongoing process, and involves plugging the credibility gap, building relationships and promoting the BA role within the organisation. It is essential that stakeholders of all levels understand the value a BA can add, and the best way to demonstrate this is through visible, consistent and effective delivery.
At a strategic level this will certainly mean getting more exposure for BAs and analysis activities at board level. It’s essential that the senior decision makers understand the value of structured analysis, both within projects but also as an aid to strategic decision making. This is a long term vision, and involves getting BAs involved much earlier in the project lifecycle, long before a solid concept has even been formed.
On a more tactical level (and “on the ground”), there are a number of practical ways that we can build up our credibility and “sell” the BA role during our day-to-day interactions with stakeholders:
1. Quantify value: One of the single most attractive ways of demonstrating value is to quantify it. How much have you saved your organisation in the last year, through operational savings or innovative project approaches? Putting value on this turns heads, and gets attention.
2. Deliver effective change: It’s absolutely essential to actually deliver effective change. Showing the value of good requirements, for example, is easy if you have a range of successful projects to draw on.
3. Kill the “us” and “them” mentality: So often, as internally facing Business Analysts, we talk about “The Business” as if it is an external entity that lives and breathes. Forget organisational boundaries, and form effective cross-functional teams that are there to get the job done. What is good for “The Business” is almost certainly good for you…!
4. Build trust-based relationships: Concentrate on relationships with your stakeholders. Keep them informed, engaged and always follow through on your promises. Reputation is everything! Good stakeholder management is essential.
5. Have a reputation for innovation: Don’t stick to a static set of analysis techniques; always consider which is most appropriate, and don’t be afraid to challenge stakeholders! Remember to focus on the problem rather than the solution. Doing this is likely to lead to some potential solutions that the business hadn’t thought of, some of which may be innovative and quirky (but might get the job done more effectively)
6. Act as an objective consultant: One significant advantage that a BA has is objectivity. Use this to your advantage; provide an objective and “real” view of the world to your clients or stakeholders. Expose the bigger-picture, and work with your stakeholders to understand where their project, change or innovation fits. Objectivity allows us as BAs to challenge in a way that a business stakeholder may be unable to, and so we should never shy away from the “difficult” or “politically sensitive” questions (although we should always do this from an appropriate position of co-operation and rapport!)
Gaining wider recognition for the valuable role that Business Analysis plays in the modern organisation is an ongoing task, but these steps would be a good starting point. I hope that you find them useful!
Do you have any tips on how to promote the BA role within an organisation? I’d love to hear them – please feel free to comment on this post.