A Journey to Parliament

Those of you that follow this blog will probably know I am somewhat of a self-confessed ‘BA Geek’.  When I am not blogging, I am trying to find other ways to raise awareness of our profession, and to encourage organisations to make use of BA tools and techniques.  I still find it genuinely odd that in some organisations, business analysis is not given the recognition that it deserves.  It feels like as a discipline we are (metaphorically) in our awkward teenage years.  We know that we have a huge amount to contribute, sometimes our ideas are new and challenge the norm, but we often feel misunderstood (and, if we’re completely honest, perhaps we don’t always communicate our worth in the most effective way).  Perhaps it’s not a very elegant analogy, but I’m sure you get the point!


One particular interest of mine is studying project failures.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the years delving into the detail of why governmental projects fail.  “Why focus on the public sector?” I hear you ask!  The main, practical, reason is that when a public sector project fails it tends to happen very publically—the information is made available for scrutiny.  I am certain there are just as many project failures in the private sector—certainly I’ve worked on a few ‘stinky’ private sector projects over the years—but getting at the data is much, much harder.   The irony is that there are excellent BAs in the public sector—some of them are my contacts and friends.  Yet the failure reports and research suggest (to me at least) that BAs aren’t always engaged at the right time and in some cases might not be given the voice that they desire.


This led me and some of my fellow IIBA-UK volunteers to submit evidence to a Public Administration Select Committee inquiry back in 2014, an initiative I was particularly proud of as we managed to get cross-organisational agreement from IIBA UK, BCS and the BA Manager Forum.   I have been part of committees that have made other representations to government too, hoping that a regular ‘drip feed’ of information will help raise awareness.


“But why bother with this?”, some of you may ask.  Good question indeed!  My driving motivations are:


  • Save Money: I believe that good quality business analysis in the public sector (as in any sectors) will save money. In fact, looking at some government failure reports it could save a lot of money.  This is compelling in the private sector too… but the optimist in me likes to think that public sector savings could lead to more hospital beds, more public services, in a time when increasingly decision makers are having to “do more with less”.  And creating better public services excites me a lot more than “creating shareholder value”.


  • Set a Standard: I truly believe that once a national government adopts a BA standard, the level of awareness will be raised by default. Things will be better for all  Much as all major government projects must use a particular project management methodology, how awesome would it be if they had to adopt a flexible, tailored business analysis methodology (overseen by a skilled senior BA)?  And it’s highly likely that the private sector would follow…


A Letter to an MP…

I was thinking about these goals as I sat in front of my PC screen in that quiet, reflective time between Christmas and New Year.  In conducting some research, I discovered that my Member of Parliament (Stephen Morgan MP) is a member of the Public Accounts Committee.   The very committee that is responsible (along with the National Audit Office) for providing scrutiny on government decisions and projects…


“What if I could get him to listen….?” my inner monologue told me, as I grabbed another Christmas chocolate (Christmas being one of the few times it is acceptable to eat chocolate any time of the day..).


So the ideologist in me was moved to action.  I wrote a letter, MPs like letters right? Maybe—but I decided to make it multi-channel: I wrote, e-mailed and sent a tweet.



Perhaps it was because I was e-mailing and tweeting in the Christmas break, when things are quieter than normal but I got a response almost instantly inviting me to meet in Parliament, have a discussion and sit in on a session of the Public Accounts Committee.  Score!


My Day in Westminster

A Call for Recognition of Business AnalysisIt took a few months to arrange, but in February I went to parliament.  I prepared a short ‘briefing paper’ in advance—I had been advised to make sure this was one page or less.  With narrow margins, I just about squeezed it into a single page.  I printed it off just seconds before I had to catch the train.  The optimist in me calls this approach “agile” 🙂


I met Stephen Morgan in Portcullis house, the newer building opposite the Palace of Westminster—but it turns out there is a tunnel between them.  There were lots of ‘no photography’ signs so unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any photos.  But I did manage to get one of me and Stephen.

Some real take-away moments from the visit:

Stephen Morgan MP & Adrian Reed

  • House of Commons Library We visited the House of Commons library, and asked the librarian to search on various terms. Seemingly nothing relevant came up under “business analysis”, and “project failure” returned only three items.   Although our time there was very brief, and I am sure there are other search terms we could use, this perhaps indicates there is little awareness in Westminster of the discipline of business analysis.  The librarian stated she couldn’t recall ever being asked about business analysis before.


  • Public Accounts Committee: It was fascinating to see a parliamentary committee in progress.  It was actually very reassuring; a far cry from the theatrical politics that makes the news.  There was proper, useful scrutiny taking place.


  • Discussion: I was able to speak to Stephen Morgan about the role of business analysis, and in particular how the Public Accounts Committee ought (in my opinion) to be asking “who did the business analysis here?” on key projects and decisions.   We discussed how the Treasury’s ‘Green Book’ (an evaluation approach for major projects) doesn’t mention the discipline of business analysis at all.  I left him with a briefing paper, and followed up with some further ideas via e-mail.  There is the possibility of a further discussion with the National Audit Office in future. Fingers crossed!


In my view it is important that we all continue to ‘bang the drum’ for our discipline.  In a fast-paced and ever changing environment our organisations—public and private sector—need to have the ability to quickly adapt, experiment, change and learn.   If ever there were a time in history that better decision making, better analysis, and better project outcomes were needed it is now.


Are you with me? 🙂

Brian Hunt

An excellent initiative Adrian and I’m sure that Stephen Morgan understood that you represented the body of profession BAs that do excellent work in understanding business threats and opportunities to then propose, evaluate and implement solutions which are not always IT. There’s a massive education challenge with with too many employers and agents seeing the BA role as not much more than filling in spreadsheets on behalf of a project manager!

Adrian Reed

Hi Brian, thanks! Yes, I agree entirely. In fact, I made the point with Stephen that there is a vibrant BA community just waiting to provide input. There are professional associations, standards, and bodies of knowledge that can help.

I completely agree with you about the need to get the message across regarding the breadth of the role too!

Thanks again for the comment Brian, hope to catch up soon — Adrian

Janet Wood

Well done Adrian! Instead of muttering “somebody ought to do something”, you stepped up, became somebody and did it. I hope your first step bears fruit and results in Business Analysis being used where it can really do some good. Now we all need to follow in your footsteps. Who’s next?

Najima Basith

This was a really interesting read, particularly as I worked in the Public Sector in the past for Government within Informations Technology where we had a team of BAs and Systems Analysts within our Business Analysis Practice and I have to say a pleasant experience for me whilst I was working there and I think a lot of good learning, expertise and skills can be taken from the team to reflect it to wider government communities and even the private sector. I now work for Nationwide Building Society but I often draw upon my on the job practical
experience and training received whilst I worked in government as a Business/Systems Analyst.

Adrian Reed

Thanks Najima. Yes, I agree! It’s so important to spread and share the excellent practice that is taking place. And that applies to many aspects of change, decision making and service design… IT being just one component of course… 🙂

Thanks again for the comment! –Adrian

Nirav Mehta

Great job Adrian.

Government spent millions of pounds on various projects and sometimes fail to deliver results. Role of BA is very important for any government project and need to hear the voice of BA. If fund fund will utilize in a right and effective way on projects means more schools, hospitals and parks for the citizens.

Government and MP need to invite BA to investigate the real reasons behind the failure of the projects and need to learn from it.

You did a great Job. Always learn many things from your blog and webinars. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Tim Coventry

Well done Adrian! Unfortunately my letters regarding improving project success using good business analysis to the Australian Federal Minister received no replies & my follow ups have not achieved any outcome as yet!

Adrian Reed

Hi Tim, thanks! It sounds like you are following a similar approach in Australia; perhaps we should Skype sometime and exchange notes? I think there are a few of us, around the world, trying to convince our local governments to pay more attention to business analysis (in the UK, the irony is that there is *awesome* stuff happening in some areas of government, but others seem, from my research at least, to be unaware of business analysis completely). Perhaps we should form a global network that exchanges notes & experiences, so that we can help each other.

Incidentally, have you come across the Queensland Health Authority Payroll case study? It’s fascinating! If you haven’t seen it, let me know, I can probably find a link to some interesting documentation!

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