The Remote BA
The purpose of this article is to offer suggestions to the Business Analysts working remotely from your team and your stakeholders.
This article is an extension to my previous article which encourages the Active BA. With today’s technology and your initiative it is possible to remain a strong and active BA without the face to face engagements which used to dig into requirements and resolve issues.
My key suggestions are below. I encourage readers to add comments below with their own ideas.
- Use all the technology available to you.
- Be proactive at reaching out to your team and stakeholders.
- Enhance your online meetings with online presence and visual aids.
Long distance teams are quite common in today’s IT projects, and there are a number of offerings for team collaboration. Use them all. If the dev team has a Slack channel, then join it and monitor it every day. If the PMs are using Microsoft Teams then sign on and learn that too. You may need to install multiple web and video conferencing tools because one stakeholder group uses Go To Meeting and another uses Amazon Chime. Become proficient in both so that you are a proactive attendee.
Proficiency in communication tools is essential to 1) keep up the flow of ideas, discussions and feedback, and 2) maintain the soft skill of Presence when conducting meetings.
The role of Business Analyst is to provide the bridge between business and technology teams. Much of this occurs during hallway chats and office drop-ins. You pass the PM’s desk and stop to say Hi. They have a small issue that you help with by reaching out to the stakeholder immediately with a quick question. It is essential to replace these informal communications by being comfortable with all tools to the extent you can casually reach out across the ether. Replace the office walk-by with a brief daily update to each of your contacts in whatever mode they are working in. Keep the bridge together by proactively reaching out to teams and stakeholders.
Conducting successful requirements sessions over collaboration tools starts with the same basics as your on-site meetings – Preparation and Presence.
Preparation was covered in my earlier article, The Active BA. The concept applies to on-site and n-line meetings. The soft skill of Presence requires new approaches for on-line meetings.
Rule #1 – use a web camera. Maintaining the illusion of face to face communication is essential to make the remote connection and prevent audience drift. Use the tool function to keep the attendees visible during all screen shares.
Rule #2 – use visual aids as much as possible. Use screen shares with a powerpoint or other visual display to keep focus on today’s agenda and current topic. If the purpose of the meeting is just a daily catch up, then a screen of just faces is fine, but if the purpose of the meeting is to provide deliverables – answers, ideas, input – then do not allow your audience to talk to a blank screen.
Speak with strength when talking to your audience. The screen is now your stage and your role is still “Powerful BA”. Carry the same confidence that you use in a meeting room. If you like to walk the room while presenting in meetings, then get Bluetooth connectors and step back from your desk. Set up a white board in your home office. Practice and film your presentations for play back and review.
If the meeting is a daily stand-up – then feel free to stand up.
One final observation – check the background clutter in your home office or whatever room you are working from. Remove all distracting items. Align the camera to display your certificates and not your personal photos.