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Get Fit: Lose the Business Analysis Weight

Many of us started 2014 with a stack of goals and resolutions. Did you resolve to take a few pounds off by eating healthier, hitting the gym, or running a 5K?

What about your professional health and fitness? Do you have a few extra professional pounds dragging you down?

Some BAs are lugging a spare tire around their middle—outdated techniques or broken relationships hold them back from becoming their best professional selves.

So, let’s lose some BA weight and build strength, increase flexibility and improve efficiency. Here are a few ways to work smarter not harder in 2014.

1. Strengthen or Rebuild your PM relationship

BAs have many important relationships to manage, but the relationship with the PM might be the most important. The best BA/PM combos are true partnerships.

Sit down with your PM and discuss requirement process goals and improvements for 2014. Tell the PM what s/he can expect from you that is different, new, and improved. Explain what you need from the PM to support these goals.

Foster this partnership throughout the year:

  • Establish consistent communication channels: set up a weekly status meeting, touch base over coffee or lunch, create brief summaries of key meetings and share them, and/or create a visual, one-page BA dashboard that gives up-to-date status of your deliverables.
  • Find common goals and work together to achieve them. Figure out how to make each project successful and how to add value to your organization.
  • Solve problems together. When complex project issues arise consult the PM. Share information, strategize and collaborate.
  • Understand ALL potential project risks—not just BA tasks—so you can look out for your PM’s interests. Be the eyes and ears of the project team.

2. Trim the details

Scale back on details that are of minimal value. For every document, every presentation, every e-mail—ask yourself why each detail is important. In many cases, excess details blur the big picture. Stakeholders with a blurry big picture are a major risk to a project. This lack of context will cause way more pain than missing details.

  • When peers ask for feedback, clarify the type of feedback they want. Don’t focus on grammar details and typos when they ask for content and contextual feedback.
  • Review emails before sending. Is the length appropriate? Do you use bullet points and white space effectively? Are you asking for too many things from a really busy person in an email? Is e-mail the appropriate tool for the information you have to share? Would a call or meeting be more effective?
  • Review your documents before distributing. Are you creating documents full of details and sending all the details to everyone to review? Consider your audience. Does everyone need all that detail? Are there ways to effectively summarize the information? Can you add visual elements that provide context for your stakeholders? Can you decompose the information so it is easy to follow for everyone?

3. Kick your meetings up a notch!

Evaluate your facilitation toolbox. Toss those old tools and find a few new ones. You’ll see huge benefits in efficiency when you learn how to make meetings fun, collaborative, and valuable for everyone. Here are a few tips:

  • Determine what each stakeholder will learn or get from your meeting.
  • Keep the invite list as small as possible. Meaningful collaboration happens in small groups.
  • For workshops—plan activities elicit information strategically rather than just asking, “What are your issues?” or “What are the requirements for this feature?” or “What is the best way to fix this?” It’s highly unlikely these canned questions will produce creative or complete responses.
  • Make meetings engaging. Don’t sit around a conference room table for an hour. Get moving. Use whiteboards and Post Its. Find creative ways to elicit ideas or prioritize requirements.
  • Virtual Meetings-Multitasking is bad enough in person, but it’s usually worse on conference calls. (You’ve heard dogs barking and kids crying and toilets flushing right?) You have to encourage active participation, beyond just listening. Engage the eyes and the hands. There are so many tools out there, many of them free, that help BAs create interactive virtual meetings. Try virtual whiteboarding, virtual Post Its, virtual breakout sessions or virtual facilitation games.
  • Make them fun, collaborative, and with value for everyone. What will they learn or get from your meeting?

So, take a risk in 2014. Drop the dead weight and try a new technique, build stronger relationships and question the details. Assess your best practices and find efficiencies. Flex your BA muscles!

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.