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.
@StephenMorganMP A letter (& e-mail) are winging their way to you… re: Public Accounts Committee, Urging broader recognition of Business Analysis on government projects; and proposing a BA framework ought to be adopted. Excited to await your reply 🙂 #baot #pmot (cc/ @IIBA ) pic.twitter.com/RJJB3Q9FoP
— Adrian Reed (@UKAdrianReed) December 31, 2017
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
It 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:
- 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? 🙂