Becoming a BA leader
Being in the business analysis profession for more than a decade, at some point in my career I’ve noticed that many experienced BAs prefer to work alone rather than to lead a team.
They say it can be so difficult that it is easier sometimes to get the work done just by yourself.
But the business analysis profession keeps growing and getting mature. And developing leadership skills is one of the key things allowing an analyst not only to grow professionally, but simply to stay on track.
So, in this article I would like to share some thoughts about the specifics of leading a team of BAs, certain typical difficulties inexperienced BA leaders can face, and several ways to make leading a BA team more efficient and (what is important) less tough.
Talking about specifics of leading a BA team, we need to take into account the following key areas: people, environment, amount of work and solutions’ complexity. Well, everyone knows that, as a rule, BAs are bright, highly educated and enthusiastic people with broad mindset, environment BAs work in is usually quite creative, scope of work can be really huge, and the solutions can be quite complex so it requires some time to dive in and get to the details.
Now having that in mind, let’s take a step aside and look at leading a team of BAs from a different angle. So, perhaps the most important thing that you realize when you start leading other BAs is that now you are responsible not only for your own work and deliverables ‑ but for the way other people do their job and for the artifacts other BAs create. And many experienced BAs promoted to lead a team keep acting as they were still to do everything by themselves: diving into every tiny detail, or acting as a single source of truth when it comes to defining various BA processes or practices to be used.
No wonder, that these and many other difficulties can be faced in such situation:
- Too many things to be done
- The time is not enough
- People do not always do what and how they have been told to
Taking into account the specifics of leading a team of BAs, it is easy to understand that quite often these issues come out as a result of not optimal way of leadership selected and leading/guiding practices used. For example, using authoritarian patterns may not always be the best idea in a creative environment of independent and well-motivated professionals. Or, as a person leading a team of several BAs sometimes you just cannot afford to spend time on diving too deep into every single detail.
Not even mentioning the possibility of delivering low quality results, these difficulties, if you are facing them long enough, can put you on a risk of burning down and, furthermore, getting disappointed with the profession. Hence, they should be addressed immediately. Good news is that these difficulties in BA leadership can be overcome!
But how to do it in the right way? How to avoid all these negative impacts? I think there are three key ingredients:
- organize teamwork properly,
- build productive working relationships,
- spend time on educating and developing other BAs.
Organizing teamwork properly
Talking about organizing work of multiple BAs, it should be mentioned that it is always better to divide the scope of work and any regular responsibilities taking into account your fellow BAs preferable options and capabilities. Obviously, it would be better to start doing it from the very beginning of the project. But what is more important – try to do it in advance. That would help you to manage people’s expectations and hence keep your team more motivated.
Also, always discuss the processes with your team, and make a mutual agreement on them. That would unite people, make each of them feel as a valuable part of the team, and help them to grow professionally.
And it is always important to analyze your team’s actions and outcomes on a regular basis. It helps you to define the possible gaps at the earliest convenience and make the necessary adjustments when required.
Please note that it always takes some time for the people to get used to a process. So, expect that a single discussion may not be enough: setting up BA cooperation processes is a process in itself, and it will require you to make the necessary adjustments when needed.
Also, when setting up the processes and/or assigning responsibilities, please try to make sure there is always Second-in-charge – a person capable of taking responsibility for something in case the primary owner is absent, the one who can quickly step in and help out when needed. That is an important thing inexperienced leaders may miss 🙂
Make sure you are not all about the BA daily routine – note that now you should have enough time for the leading activities.
Building productive working relationships
Creating a productive working environment can be successfully achieved with the help of the following principles:
1. Make sure people can see the whole picture, so they will be able to understand the reasons behind your actions, and hence both work more productively and develop themselves more efficiently.
2. Be open for ideas. It is impossible for a person to always be right, always see the best way. So, be open to fresh ideas!
3. Encourage and motivate. Encourage your team members to come up with suggestions, to propose solutions. Remember that it would not only motivate them, but help them to grow and mature as well.
Educating and developing other BAs
Developing other BAs will allow you to make sure that your team performs as expected and provides the artifacts of high quality (and that is really important) without your direct participation, but just under your supervision. Plus, it can allow you to save your time significantly 🙂
Use this commonly known pattern proven to be the best practice: explain the subject in detail first, then do it yourself and allow your mentee watch and learn. Afterwards, let them practice it, then perform it under your guidance. And finally, your mentee will be able to do it on their own in time and in required quality:
- Performing with guidance
- Performing independently
Do not expect people to have a complete understanding by default, always explain Why (Why something is necessary, Why it is needed in this particular way, etc.) And at the same time, do not hesitate to play a mentor role – allowing people to find the answers by themselves but under your guidance can be really beneficial.
So, many typical difficulties that can be faced while leading a BA team are caused by inappropriate leadership practices used. And taking into account the specifics of leading a team of BAs, those issues can be successfully leveled with the best practices listed above.