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A Business Analyst’s Best Friends: The Business Manager

Wick FeatureArticle May7BAs need information. The best BAs get information by building and maintaining strong relationships with all project team members. From the CIO to the front-line employees, BAs rely on many “friends”. BAs need to anticipate their friends’ needs and learn how to influence cooperation.

In January, I set the stage for a series describing the BA’s best friends. This month’s friend is the Business Manager.

How does the Business Manager benefit from a BA?

The Business Manager’s team suffers or soars based on the quality of the BA’s work. If the BA is effective, these are the top five benefits to the Business Manager.

  1. BAs maximize the benefits of projects, which depending on the project, helps the Business Manager reduce costs, increase productivity, solve problems, etc.
  2. BAs minimize issues by eliciting complete and accurate requirements.
  3. BAs minimize implementation risks by support testing and training efforts.
  4. BAs ensure the solution will meet the Business Manager’s need.
  5. BAs see the big picture and anticipate issues and constraints outside of the Business Manager’s operation.

What makes a top-notch BA from the Business Manager’s perspective?

Business Managers see top-notch BAs as master observers and change agents. 

Observers: Top-notch BAs understand the needs and goals of the Business Manager’s organization from a 360 degree perspective. These BAs understand the Business Manager’s pressure from above, politics between peers, and the issues within the team. 

Change Agents: Top-notch BAs understand their role in the change management process. BAs help the Business Manager prepare the team for change by

  • successfully gathering input from all stakeholders
  • understanding and communicating all potential impacts (good and bad!)
  • maximizing the value of the change
  • ensuring a smooth transition

What frustrates a Business Manager about the BA role?

Have you heard any of these statements/questions from your Business Managers:

  • This document is way too technical for me.
  • I don’t have time to review all of these documents.
  • I already explained all of this, why do we have to go through it again?
  • My team is so busy. I don’t have any resources available to help you.
  • I told you how to fix the system. Why do we need document the current process?

All of these frustrations stem from your Business Manager’s need to maximize time. Long winded, jargon-filled, technical documents take too much time to decipher. Give the Business Manager pictures, a summary or have her team members sign-off on the details.

Also, be sure to help the Business Manager understand your process. Walk through your tasks with him. Help him understand why each step is important, what would happen if you skip a step, and which resources will increase the probability of a good outcome. 

How to say no to a Business Manager?

Most disagreements with Business Managers relate to scope. BAs need to say “no” when requirements do not align with the vision and objectives of the project. 

Here are four ways to say “no” and prevent scope creep:

  1. Ask questions: The primary goal of our project is X, how does this fit in? 
  2. Facilitate a prioritization process. Help the Business Manager and her team prioritize requirements based on the primary need of the project. The “scope creepers” will tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list. If they don’t then you may need to reevaluate the project scope and timeline.
  3. Frame the impact of the scope change in the language of the Business Manager: How would the change impact her team? How would the change impact profit, productivity, efficiency? How would the change impact the timeline of the project?
  4. Give options and alternatives—ways to address the new requirement without adding to the scope of the project.

How to influence a Business Manager to get what you need?

BAs need access to information and the Business Manager is usually the gatekeeper. How do you get the Business Manager to open the door to the kingdom?

  • Set Expectations: Discuss resource needs. Provide a project timeline with estimates for “human” resources. 
  • Respect Time: In many cases, Business Managers and their team members are overwhelmed by the thought of adding project work on top of their day-to-day operations. BAs build trust and influence by using time wisely: prepare for meetings, create agendas, be concise, know when to escalate, use facilitation skills that will elicit accurate and complete requirements quickly.
  • Give Context: Resolve issues with the Business Manager, by describing the impact from his perspective. Help him understand operational risks and impacts to morale, quality metrics, efficiency and productivity.

How to communicate the value of the BA role to the Business Manager?

Of all of the BAs best friends, the Business Manager has the best understanding of the BA role. Business managers:

  • See the BA as a liaison to other parts of the organization.
  • Move up the corporate ladder when great BAs help them maximize the value of business and technology changes.
  • Inspire innovation and collaboration when BAs help them identify options and alternatives.

What do you think? 

  • BAs: How do get the most out of each meeting with your Business Manager?
  • Business Managers: How has a great BA helped you move up the corporate ladder?

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.