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Running Effective Meetings as a Business Analyst

According to an online meeting company, Fuze, there are 25 million meetings per day in the U.S. More than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings.

Not scheduling meetings for Business Analysts is next to impossible. Meetings with Subject Matter Experts and/or with stakeholders are critical for a Business Analyst to elicit and gather requirements. That being said, it becomes even more important for Business Analysts to run effective meetings. The definition of an effective meeting is you as a Business Analyst have achieved what the desired result/ outcome is. For instance, during a requirement gathering session analysts need to rely on their listening skills to unearth detailed requirements. In order to get to those detailed requirements you would not only need to rely on your listening skills but also set the stage and the structure to enable you to get to those details. Failure to get to the details could get to missed requirements or inaccurate requirements that causes waste of time and money as well as delays in project implementation.

How does a BA run effective meetings? Here are a couple of thoughts as to how you can run effective meetings:

A. Prepare, prepare, prepare: I cannot emphasize the importance of preparation. Do your homework. I adhere to the following 5 whys:

  • Why are you having this meeting
  • What will you be discussing at this meeting
  • Who needs to be at this meeting
  • When will this meeting be held
  • Where will this meeting occur?
  1. Why: To prepare for a meeting, the first step is to ask yourself ‘why am I meeting with the SME/ stakeholders?’ If you know the why, come up with a couple of goals and objectives on what you hope to achieve from the meeting. For instance, at the end of the meeting do you want clarity of requirement x? Do you want to get some background on the project or do you want to finalize the scope. The rest of the W’s are critical to running an effective meeting.
  2. What: As mentioned in 1 above, if you know the reason behind your meeting and you have established your goal for this meeting, you can identify what you will be discussing at the meeting. Put an agenda together that outlines the topics that will be covered and what you as the BA are expecting for an outcome.
  3. Who: Identify who needs to be at the meeting. Work with your project manager and/ or business partners to understand who needs to be at this meeting once you know the goals and objectives of this meeting. Send the invite the attendees and confirm that they will be able to attend. This is important because a lot of times just sending an invite without actually verifying their availability can cause situations where important attendees don’t show up and causes the meeting to be moved a couple of minutes into the meeting.
  4. When: Once you know who the attendees are establish when you will be meeting. Look at calendar’s and confirm the availability. This is more of a logistical task. If you know a key attendee can’t attend, either seek the help of your Project Manager to clear out their calendar’s or move the meeting to a convenient time where everyone is available.

B. At the meeting

  1. Once at the meeting, establish ground rules upfront. For instance, if a topic needs to be discussed in detail and you only have an hour, mention upfront that you have established a parking lot and will be adding sticky notes if conversation go past a set time. Timeboxing may not always work, but aim towards timeboxing conversations so that you can keep the meeting rolling.
  2. Go around the table introducing the attendees or have them introduce themselves and their role as it relates to the project. Of course, if the level of comfort is high among the attendees (they all know each other and are familiar with the roles) then skip this one.
  3. Pay close attention the time. Is the meeting is going in the right direction? If not, think about ways to bring it back to course. One way of doing this is to mention the goal of the meeting and what you hoping to achieve to bring folks back on track.

C. Closing the meeting

  1. A few minutes shy to the end of the meeting, summarize what was discussed and the next steps.
  2. Send out meeting notes to ensure everyone is on the same page.

There is a lot that goes into having an effective meeting. However, I have found the more a BA follows a flow it gets easier and easier. Analysts spend a lot of time in meetings and rather than having unproductive ones, why not take some simple steps to get what you want out the meetings and make it a productive one.