A while ago, I wrote a post about the importance of Business Analysts for startups and smaller businesses. It was necessary, since BAs are underrepresented in this type of organization although they can bring them many benefits.
To the opposite, larger corporations usually hire dozens of Business Analysts. Their problem is often that they simply hired them because best practices dictate to do so, not because they genuinely think need them. BAs in this situation are frequently ending in a decorative position where they cannot perform their real duties and bring expected benefits for the organization.
In order to help those big corporations and save them from unclear requirements, here are 4 ways they can use Business Analysts to improve their performance (and free those poor BAs from their flower pot positions).
1. BAs in large organizations understand your internal customers
Larger organizations usually rely on very specialized workers, and IT staff follows the same pattern. While it’s not a problem in itself, it can lead to a silo mentality among employees, which can in turn lead to a misunderstanding of everyone’s role in the organization’s business processes. Why is this bad?
Silo mentality can create problems especially when implementing new solutions in answer to real business needs. When John the developer and his team work on a solution for Katie and her team in HR without really understanding their needs (or worse, thinking they know what Katie needs), they might miss critical elements to make sure that their solution fit in the whole organizational ecosystem. This creates inefficiencies and lost opportunities in the organization, which could have been prevented by involving Eric the BA (or any available BA). How so?
The Business Analyst (which is also a specialized role) could have helped Katie and her team to identify and structure their requirements, as well as evaluate various solution approaches to fulfill their needs. Moreover, he could have explained those requirements to John and his team so that they would have understood why Katie’s team needed them.
In a specialized environment such as a large organization, the Business Analyst is critical to ensure that everyone has the same knowledge about the solution to be implemented.
2. BAs in large organizations focus on processes and needs first, not on solutions
Large corporations often need complex business processes to support their strategy. Moreover, they often have to deal with legacy activities that are performed just because well, they were always performed. This, joined to a specialized workforce, often leads to business process blindness.
A bad understanding of business processes can make stakeholders focus on solutions and technologies first (link), completely skipping the requirements identification phase. This can contribute to underperforming solutions at best, to a waste of precious resources (time, money, lost opportunities) at worst.
In my previous example, Eric the BA would have first focused on understanding Katie’s team processes, how they relate to other processes in the organization, and what were the problems Katie was trying to solve. From there, we would have been able to bring various solutions (even non-IT solutions!) and prioritize them to maximize the value to the organization.
By understanding your internal customers as well as your IT department, BAs fulfill a crucial role in optimizing organizational resources and ensuring a common understanding among stakeholders.
3. BAs in large organizations are the scope keepers of your projects
Work specialization calls for improved transition between stakeholders involved in a project, to minimize loss of information and resistance between various groups. Project managers often play this facilitation role in organization, but they usually focus on task execution within time and budget, and not necessarily on the content of these tasks and their ultimate meaning for the organization.
However, the best gatekeeper of the solution is the BA. Because of their understanding of the solution as a whole, and how it fits the organization, they are able to get everyone aligned with it so that they better understand the rationale behind their tasks (which can improve morale and motivation of the team).
Moreover, when changes are required to the solution (which WILL happen before the it is implemented), the BA is the best one to manage expectations of the stakeholders toward the requested change, and to evaluate the impacts on the solution as a whole. This will give the project manager all the information needed to better deal with integrating the change in the project.
In case Katie has a new need to be supported by her solution, Eric could have first checked with her if the need was already handled by the solution, or if a change was indeed required.
4. BAs in large organizations facilitate transitions between project phases
Because of his role as the gatekeeper of the solution, the BA is the best actor to facilitate the transition between every project phase and ensure that new stakeholders involved in the project understand the big picture and know why they are performing their tasks.
In situations where project phases can last for weeks or months, it can be hard for various stakeholders to stay aligned with the solution and the changes that might occur over time. Moreover, since there are a lot of people involved, information going through the grapevine might introduce noise in the implementation team. In this context, the BA can be really helpful in bringing back everybody on the same page and reduce bad rumors impacts on the team.
This position would have allowed Eric to explain John and his team the context of Katie’s project and various change requests, as well as bridge back the solution to Katie’s team to ease its implementation.
By being versatile, a Business Analyst can be the scope keeper of your late, multi-millions dollars projects. Don’t make like most owners that implement IT solutions unrationally, and hire a Business Analyst!
And if you need help selling Business Analysis to your management, there are good resources out there to guide you in this journey!