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Business Analysts are Set-up to Fail

There is so much talk about business analysts not getting the respect we deserve; no one knows what we do, not enough people know the value we add, and on and on. Some camps even go so far as to say we do not need business analysts. What are we to do? I say we stand up and fight and show our value on the “playing field.” The better we do our job (show results), the more respect we will get. The better we do our job, the more our team members and customers will realize the value our role adds. The better we do our job, the more responsibility we’ll be given. Let’s be honest, if we prove our value the money will follow. Does all that sound good to you?

To make this a reality, the people we work with need to have the “BA Experience.” The “BA Experience” is when a person playing the business analysis role elicits the true needs from the customer and communicates those clearly so the right solution is delivered. You’ll know there has been a BA experience when everyone involved with a project yells, “Wow that was great! I need that BA on every project!” The problem is my unscientific research shows that most business analysts are set-up to fail, which prevents teams from having the BA experience. The way organizations have their business analysis organization set-up is the number one reason business analysts are fighting an uphill battle.

The skill set necessary for analysts is wide and deep. Take a quick look at the IIBA’s BABOK and tell me you mastered all of those techniques. I have been doing this for many years and still learn things everyday. Due to the large skill set needed there is talk within the IIBA to start special interest groups, or niches, for BAs, like process analysts, data analysts, or analysts for a specific industry.

Even though it is not easy to master business analysis, how do many companies organize their BAs? They have a group of BAs that individually get assigned to projects. Each BA basically has the same responsibility for their project regardless of their skill set. A more senior BA has for the most part the same role and responsibility on projects as a junior BA. What happens is the projects that have the more senior BA are very happy and want that BA on every project. They had the BA experience. The more junior BA struggles a little because they have less experience and/or less training. These teams that have the junior BA often have an unfavorable or bad experience. Often, due to that experience, team members will claim they don’t need a BA on their team.

This flat organization structure (see Figure 1) causes a situation where teams want certain people (the senior BAs) on their team, but the company as a whole is not seeing the overall value of business analysis.


Figure 1 – Flat BA Organization Example

The main reason for the junior BA’s struggle is a lack of support. Many BA managers don’t have the time or the experience to be mentors to the junior BAs. The senior BAs have the experience, but no time. They are booked full time on projects.

Let’s look at this from the customer’s point of view. Would you want a person with little hands- on experience performing your heart surgery? No way! This is what junior BAs are up against. I want the doctor who can perform heart surgery with her eyes closed. I am more than happy having a new doctor assist the experienced doctor, but I want to know the experienced doctor is running the show.

This is why I promote a tiered BA organization structure. (See Figure 2)


Figure 2 – Tiered BA Organization Example

Here are three main components of the tiered structure.

  1. Senior BAs kick-off projects (“run the show”). In this model the senior BA kicks-off the project, gets a good understanding of the project purpose, and develops a plan for the business analysis effort. During the project the junior BA will take on tasks that fit their skill set.
  2. The senior BA is a mentor. In this model the senior BA is not 100% dedicated to project tasks. The junior BA needs to grow, so the senior BA will help guide and mentor the junior BA during projects. This allows the junior BA the opportunity to try new techniques in a safer environment.
  3. Promote the work of the junior BA. As the junior BA gets more experience, they can be given more responsibility. When you are in heart surgery do you know how much work the new doctor is doing? No, you are knocked out. This concept applies to the tiered structure for BA organizations. Once the project begins, the team may not be fully aware of how much is being done by the junior BA. For the growth of the junior BA, it will be important to communicate what that individual is doing so the team gets more comfortable with the junior BA.

What this does is give the team the comfort level of having that experienced BA involved in every project. What will happen is companies will start to see the value of business analysis.

I know at least one question you may have. How do you distinguish between a senior BA and a junior BA? Good question. We’ll have to address that in another blog post! I’d love to hear how your BA organization is structured, what is working and where you see room for improvement.

Keep up the great work,


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Jonathan “Kupe” Kupersmith is Director of Client Solutions, B2T Training and has over 12 years of business analysis experience. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in various industries. He serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) through the IIBA and is BA Certified through B2T Training. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone! Contact Kupe at [email protected].