As a BA Manager who works in a consultancy with a dispersed bunch of brilliant Business Analysts, it’s hard to show our Business Analysts we really care and value what they can bring to the wider Business Analyst team.
Problem Statement (aka problem scream!)
How do we encourage our dedicated Business Analysts to engage with their colleagues who are located elsewhere, and contribute to our central BA practice, when they already have a team to interact with every working day?
Although my current role is within a consultancy, I’ve also worked in organisations as a BA Manager. In these organisations, Business Analysts have been dispersed or situated outside a central practice, to be found in business units, IT departments or form part of other business teams. I’ve also been a Business Analyst working the coal face and engaged or otherwise with all sorts of BA practice structures.
What I think I’ve learned about engaging dispersed BAs
- Your madly dedicated Business Analysts will become attached to their clients/project teams/business units. They will like the people they work with, they will participate in social activities with those people they work with, they will quote those people too. Don’t panic. Learn from their engagements what does draw them in, and seek to use those learnings to create similar or better at home base. Plagiarism of ideas here is a good thing.
- Business Analysts are all unique - that’s no surprise! You can’t cater for all your unique people in all activities or events that you organise to bring them together. Don’t sweat it! Hosting an event/activity with 70/30 fit for your people, even 60/40, is damn good. Explain what you’re doing and why, and the return to be gained by participants. Your team will decide their level of involvement, or even better, their peers will often exert the pressure for them to participate where you can’t.
- Find your outliers and middle ground: your participators and your non-participators, and your sometimes participators, and get to know a bit about them. I’m not saying bell curve them - they are people and I’m not into bell curving people. But I am into personas and trying my best to wear different hats, and say to myself “if I was xxxx what might I think of this event/communication/approach?”
- Don’t assume that your communications have got the message across. You may deliver by email, you may deliver by a regular “circular”, you may have “gatherings”, but until you (or someone in your practice) gets face-to-face and talks the latest news directly to an individual there is still a good chance you will “surprise” a Business Analyst with some news long after they should have known about it.
- Elicit from them, with quality business analysis techniques, what would engage them. Just don’t ask them too much and make sure you USE the information they supply. A BA practice needs to practice what it preaches. They will tolerate you getting it wrong occasionally but they won't tolerate you not learning to get it right.
These are some of the tools myself and my colleagues have used to keep dispersed Business Analysts engaged within our BA practice:
- Regular coffee catch-ups at client sites
- Regular gatherings offsite - to network, bond over food and drinks
- Regular learning sessions - from colleagues or guest speakers, or team training
- A few full days together offsite during the year
- Facilitated a higher level of availability of senior managers for BAs i.e. give us this consideration and we guarantee value for time
- Fortnightly circulars with a variety of content
- Existing Business Analysts involved in recruitment process for new Business Analysts
- Involved Senior Business Analysts in running “BA for a Day” opportunities
- Put BA representatives into other team/specialist meetings, or onto collective committees. They then have a responsibility to engage with the central practice and they learn something new too.
- Business Analysis Team Posters - list Business Analysts who reside in their unit, and central practice details, with offers for free talks to teams on what we do
- Collectively, by small focus groups, or as individuals, engage Business Analysts in leading projects of change for the practice
- Listening, learning, evolving, getting it wrong sometimes, but genuinely caring for individuals and delivery.
Being a BA Manager with a dispersed workforce of Business Analysts is hard work but great fun too. It drives you and the team to explore and innovate in a way that might not have otherwise come to mind or had such a high priority if you had a centralised team.
This does mean of course that these learnings are just as applicable to a centralised team of Business Analysts. Since it’s all about engagement, perhaps a centralised practice should raise the priority on these sorts of activities?
There is nothing new in my experience, but somewhere there might be a new BA Manager who needs some starting hints, or an “older hand” like me who knows it's never too late to learn new tricks.
Which reminds me, the key learning might be this one:
- You don’t have to figure out how to engage a dispersed Business Analyst workforce all on your own. I didn’t. I learnt from my leaders, my network, from trial and error, from a variety of roles I’ve held, from the vast universe of the web, by sharing what I do know and asking people for their sharing in return.
I’d love to hear your experience (techniques that work and those that don’t), in keeping a bunch of dispersed Business Analysts engaged with each other and their practice.
Don't forget to leave your comments below.