Laura Brandenburg created a Business Analyst Manifesto, in it she wrote:
Out of chaos, we create order.
Out of disagreement, we create alignment.
Out of ambiguity, we create clarity.
But most of all, we create positive change for the organizations we serve.
BAeautiful, isn’t it? (Alright, enough with the BA puns now – Ed)
Having a great Business Analyst on board can save you money, dramatically and measurably increase the success rate of a project, improve the buy in of stakeholders, ensure new technology is a right fit and make sure that it has a smooth rollout … top table talent!!
So, why are BAs so undervalued?
Based on a vast library of blogs on the topic, our own conversations with BAs and social media forums, the value attached to the role of the Business Analyst is less than that associated with Project Managers. It’s not just anecdotal either, feedback from recent tenders shows the amount customers are prepared to pay for a BA is less than a PM.
To attach less value to a role that delivers so much in terms of value feels very strange.
I like to think of Business Analysts as the bridge between your business challenges or problems and the solution to them. Imagine, if you will, an island. An island where a volcano is erupting, spewing molten lava everywhere, threatening everything. What value would you put on a bridge between this island and one where everything is calm and safe? That’s the value we should attach to our BAs
I recall a conversation with a CIO. This particular CIO didn’t fully appreciate the need for a BA at the start of his projects, despite my evangelising and protestations. Why pay for a BA to establish an answer he felt he already knew?
He jumped straight for a solution, CRM and, as it happens, one of the market leaders! He thought it was a safe bet. Whilst he hadn’t mapped out all his requirements, he had faith that the market-leading product could meet his every need. So, he went straight into a partner selection process and then swiftly into project delivery.
I saw him again a year later, he was bemoaning the expense of additional development and lamenting the bolt-on applications that were required for his CRM to meet the need of different departments within the business. If only someone could have foreseen this!!
He admitted that his biggest mistake was not engaging a BA, if he had, his solution would have been right from the start, not a catalogue of add-ons being shoe-horned in at the end.
The role of a Business Analyst is rarely an easy ride. This is why it deserves more respect. Show me a successful business and I’ll probably show you an organisation that hired one or more effective Business Analysts. In fact, I could show you many corporations, companies and organisations that owe their very existence to their Business Analysts.
Business Analysts “perceive, conceive and achieve” (as my BA friend Colleen says) the solutions that improve company performance, proficiency, productivity, and efficiency.
The best Business Analysts spend time reviewing data, analysing, and interpreting facts and figures. They interact with stakeholders and end-users, with people who work at all levels of your organisation to gain a unique insight into the actual business. My favourite Business Analysts have a tenacious curiosity.
They possess strong communication skills – essential for translating, for instance, an end user’s frontline concern into language that get a project signed off by the board. As well as being great communicators they are great listeners too and can elicit information from end users, operational colleagues, experts, and executives.
They perceive where problems exist and then …
Whilst doing the above, the most effective Business Analysts are already also conceiving solutions and making calculations about the effect any change will have on your business.
Having identified a procedural problem, business challenge or operational area for improvement, your Business Analysts then move into a solution design phase. This is where much of the real value of the Business Analyst is to be found.
Rather than jump into a solution and make, sometimes costly, adjustments along the way your BA maps out the territory of each ideation in advance allowing measured judgement.
The implementation stage. The business analyst’s input even at this stage should not be underplayed. Changes to the way a business is run are often not popular but without these changes, the very survival of the business could be at risk or at least its efficiency negatively impacted.
The best BAs have wonderful soft skills to persuade or convince stakeholders of the value of proposed changes.
So, BAs are the oil that greases the wheels of the change management process, they are key to implementing the vision and mission of a company, they are the brains behind the success of business change and help turn proposed changes into a reality.
And yet they’re still undervalued.
I wonder sometimes whether it’s an image issue.
Maybe BAs are not as vocal in trumpeting their successes as say, Project Managers – I remember sitting in a board meeting once where an IT Project implementation was being praised, the PMs rightly took their moment in the spotlight whereas the Business Analyst’s attitude was more along the lines of ‘just doing my job’.
Perhaps the heightened accountability that seems to come with the role doesn’t help with the image. Being accountable means taking responsibility – for everything. It’s great to take responsibility for a successful delivery into service but, for the Business Analyst, accountability means taking responsibility for any failures also.
Great BAs don’t deflect blame or seek to point the finger, look for external factors or find excuses when things do not go to plan. No, great BAs see failure as part of success and take responsibility for finding and implementing any necessary corrective actions. Their only aim is to set a wayward project back on course. Flagging up issues is a risky game; you know the old idiom “mud sticks”!
So, as well as being transparent about failures along the way, could it be BAs need to get better at celebrating and shouting about the success that correcting the failures led to? My friend Colleen, the Business Analyst agrees. She said recently, “I remember as a kid, a trip to the beach and my father taking a wrong exit from the motorway and having to go round and round the roundabout to get into the right lane for the slip road back on. Funny we talk often about that day at the beach but rarely about the wrong exit shenanigans.” Business Analysts need to shout more about their day at the beach!
You can access the value that a BA can bring to your IT Projects and business, without committing to increasing your payroll. Stoneseed’s Project Management Office Assessment can identify process and resource issues and search out inefficiencies and Business Analysis as a Service (BAaaS) can give you access to this valuable resource as and when you need it.
But in the meantime, let’s all start BAying for BAs to get the recognition they deserve! (I’ll get your coat-Ed)