The Three Cs of Business Analysis
Recently I returned to work from an extended leave and was immediately thrown into the deep end of the pool with an assignment on the next phase of a major project. There was hardly time to get my bearings before needing to elicit requirements and write user stories, much less be able to understand how the product owners want the product to function. As a result of my rapid reintroduction to the project, I came to quickly appreciate the Three Cs of Business Analysis: Connection, Communication, and Collaboration.
Building connections is one of the most important things a business analyst can do. Forming relationships with stakeholders, development and QA teams, product owners, and many other individuals is vital to reaching a good output. I had the benefit of previously working with many of the same individuals, which made it much easier to jump back in quickly, as I already had those established relationships. However, for those individuals with whom I had never worked, the lack of time to build those connections has made it more challenging to understand their processes and how I can contribute to help them perform their jobs more effectively.
Obviously, the longer you are with a company, the more time you have had to establish and strengthen connections with those stakeholders around you. Even something as simple as a quick chat in the breakroom or reaching out with a simple question goes a long way in deepening those relationships, which makes life much easier when you need to work with those individuals on a project. Connections are resources of information, and the more resources you have, the easier it is to obtain information when you need it.
Whether you have good relationships or are just getting to know your stakeholders, establishing good communication practices is a top priority. Each stakeholder may prefer to receive communication via different methods, so understanding the best way to communicate questions or information with each individual is something that should be established early in your relationship. Some stakeholders prefer email, some do better with IM, others need direct communication via a meeting; and if you attempt to communicate with someone in a less-than-desirable method, there may be delays in obtaining the needed information. I have dealt with product owners who rarely respond to emails but will respond to an IM within an hour; I have also known other stakeholders who are the exact opposite.
In my case, since I had previously worked with many of those stakeholders, I already had a good idea of how best to collaborate. This made it much easier to quickly jump back in and get the answers I needed to my questions. For those individuals with whom I had never worked, we’re honestly still figuring it out. Obviously, whether you are co-located also makes a big difference in establishing relationships and best practices for how to communicate. Being able to walk to someone’s desk vs having to send a meeting invite does matter and can make it more challenging to get started.
The third C is what completes the circle…collaboration. We can build connections and learn how to communicate with those individuals, but it will all be for naught unless we collaborate. The Webster’s definition of collaboration is simple but explains exactly what we need to do: “To work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” As business analysts, our job is to bring stakeholders and team members together, which means we must be the bridge that allows all interested parties to be part of the discussion. Now, what that looks like in reality can mean many different things depending on the scenario. It could look like:
- A requirements elicitation session with stakeholders
- Working with UX designers and product managers to understand how the design will allow the requirements to be met
- Meeting with developers/testers to review stories and understand the level of effort
- Reviewing the level of effort with product owners to determine priorities
Being part of the collaboration discussion with stakeholders on a project, as well as simply facilitating the discussion so various stakeholders can collaborate amongst themselves, are both tasks we perform as business analysts. If decisions are made in a silo without that collaboration, the result can be missed requirements, incorrect implementation, and dissatisfied clients. We must collaborate in order to understand the big picture and how requirements fit within the design and how the implementation functions, so we can ensure the client receives the intended outcome.
Forming connections, establishing good communication practices, and collaborating with all individuals involved in a project are three of the key pieces to building a successful product. They also make it much easier to float when you’re thrown into the deep end of the pool on an inflight project!