Mentoring and coaching newly hired BAs in an agile organization
As an experienced Business Analyst in a fast-moving company with an extremely complex technology stack, I am often faced with the challenge to transform a new hire into an effective analyst. She will initially find it very hard to successfully navigate and benefit the organization. That gets even more complicated because in modern organizations we rarely have the opportunity to consolidate and clearly document our processes, tools, and software applications.
I am going to share my experience in arranging a lean yet effective mentoring program.
Problem statement: what’s the best way to bring a newly hired Business Analyst up to speed in the most efficient way?
The answer I elaborated on overtime was through mentoring and coaching. I believe that you need guidance and feedback to be able to gain complex core and technical skills as those required of a Business Analyst.
Mentoring is aimed at improving someone else skill sets
My objective was to conceive a full-fledged mentoring plan. I wanted this process to be generic and reusable. At the same time, it would not have to interfere with my other work commitments. As a first step, I drew a list of projects that I was or had been working on recently as these would most likely make up the new hire’s work background for a while. For each of them, I noted down the main concepts she would have to retain, as a sort of Acceptance Criteria.
I did the same with tools and techniques, and these were especially focused on the Agile software development process.
Getting to know the main stakeholders, teams, and their responsibilities was to be also part of our mentoring activities. These would give the new hire a sort of system view of our company, especially of the technology platform.
The result was a win-win situation: the new hire would feel more at ease with each class and soon started to contribute to her development team. I also improved my teaching and collaborative learning skills.
Coaching helps you achieve your goals
It is common knowledge that skills acquisition is only possible through practice and real learning does not occur unless you apply what you’ve studied to real-life problems.
Putting my early extreme programming skills at work, I introduced the concept of pair analysis in our mentoring program.
Whenever I had an analysis activity at hand (in fact, that was all days the entire day) we would sit together with the new hire and try to understand the requirements, share some assumptions, note the open points, contact the relevant stakeholders, take part in some meetings together, document and evaluate our solution options, etc.
A typical exercise was for her to write the User Stories for the requirements we had elicited together and then to explain them to the development team. Initially, she was charged with relatively simple problems, and as her skillset started to improve, I asked her to take on more challenging requests.
In terms of core competencies, I told her to prepare and facilitate lessons learned sessions with the development team. Every time she would have to change the format of the session and to follow up on the action items. Facilitating group discussions in the comfort of your team enhance your self-confidence and is an excellent way to improve your interactions and communication skills.
Personal development is always of paramount importance for a Business Analyst and even more so for a junior one. My advice span from books to read, to other training material or courses I had attended myself. Sometimes we would both listen to the same free webinar and discuss what we had learned afterward.
Key Performance Indicators
We were also able to establish some key indicators to assess how our mentoring and coaching process was performing. They were also used for other analysts joining our organization afterward.
The ones we selected are below:
- The time needed to bring the new hire up to speed (number of weeks)
- The complexity of the problems the new hire would be able to autonomously manage after a given amount of time. That assessment would be repeated at different points in time, e.g. 3, 6, 12 months.