If you're reading this you probably either are one, you know one, or your a project manager who thanks the powers that be every day that you have a good one on your team. Now, that favorite business analyst that you've worked with a couple of times on various projects... is it a man or a woman? If you're the business analyst with all the skills, what gender are you? And if you were to stand in a group of good business analysts... what is the prevailing gender? Look to the left... then look to the right... you know the game.
Seriously though... this is not a serious question. No, we're just having fun here... no gender biases. Just a curiosity to see what others are thinking. I have a poll on my Facebook consulting page pertaining to this – I would appreciate it if you stopped by with your vote. And while you're there, please join in the same type of poll about project managers. Which gender makes the best project managers? Is there a difference? I've written a similar article on ProjectTimes.com about which gender makes the best project managers so please give that one a read as well.
What factors can affect who we deem the best? I'm assuming our thought processes may be swayed by these three factors...
- The gender of the majority of business analysts we've worked with (perception thing)
- How most of our successful projects were staffed at the BA role in relevance to gender
- The relationships – good or bad – that we established with business analysts on projects
In general, the projects I've worked on have probably been more male-dominated from the project manager role through business analyst to tech team. More project manager colleagues have been woman than those in the business analyst role – for reasons I can't really explain. That said, let's move on to some of the key characteristics – at least from my point of view – of good business analysts and see if that provides any insight...
Skilled communicator. A great business analyst needs to be a great communicator. Everything on the project that the business analysts leads or participates in from extracting to documenting design specifications, to working with the project team during development of the solution, on to assisting the project client with user acceptance testing (UAT), to managing third party vendors to closing out the project during implementation / roll-out and everything else in between that I missed in this long winded sentence involves good communications skills if it's going to be done right. Who has the edge here... men or women? It's just me, but I probably vote women.
Detail oriented. There is little argument that the role of the business analyst requires a detail oriented person. Detail oriented focus is needed by the business analyst on the project for a variety of reasons: to assist the project manager and fill in on that role is required throughout the engagement, to work closely with the customer sponsor and their team and the delivery project team to define and document requirements, and to help track and resolve issues throughout the engagement. Which gender is more detail oriented? Looking at my own skills and experiences with colleagues and – on a personal side – comparing myself to my wife... I vote women on this one.
Critical thinker. Why critical thinker? On technical projects – and that is the type of project I've led or worked on for many years - business analysts are responsible for evaluating multiple options before helping a team settle on a solution. While discovering the problem to be solved, business analysts must listen to stakeholder needs but also critically consider those needs and ask probing questions over and over again until the real need is surfaced and understood. Because of those activities, critical thinking and evaluation skills have to be high on the list for good business analyst. Who's better at this... men or women? I've known colleagues from each gender who were great at this and others who were passable. For me, this one is a toss.
Strong customer interface. The great business analyst plays a key role in customer communication and management. I'd say that on most of my projects the business analyst has interacted with the project customer as much or more than I have. This engagement needs to be aggressive at times, but always polite, thoughtful and not too invasive as we need to be aware that our project clients have other work engagements than just the important project that we are leading for them. Who does this better? The general perception is that women are usually less abrasive than men, I think, so I hand this one to the female gender.
Good facilitator. The business analyst is going to be required to facilitate many meetings and sessions during the project such as periodically leading the team meetings, formal project status meetings for the project manager and other meetings as needed. This role will also facilitate functional design sessions with the team and customer as well as technical design sessions with the tech team. Other planning meetings, requirements meetings and meeting with the customer on UAT activities will also be required. From a facilitation standpoint... which is founded in detail oriented skills and organizational skills... I think I would vote women on this one. Do you agree? Yes, it depends on the person and type of project as do all of these skills and roles that are required. It also depends on the industry and the customer... that's why this is all really just an exercise in discussion and debating... no right or wrong answers.
Summary / call for input and feedback.
As with the role of project manager, at the end of the day it's all about project success. No matter what the business analyst is working on – team management, leading project planning discussions and efforts, keeping the customer engaged... and happy, and moving the project along from deliverable to deliverable, task to task and milestone to milestone, it's still all about getting things done well and in a timely manner to keep keep customer confidence high and keep the team and the project moving forward on schedule and on budget and in a timely fashion. Which gender does that better?
Readers – what are your thoughts and experiences with this? What gender have the most successful business analysts you've known and worked with been? Why do you think that is the case? Were they more equipped to meet these or other key characteristics or is it more related to the workforce in general or hiring practices within the organization? Please share your thoughts and discuss...and please join the poll!