Depending on the structure of your organization, a Competency Center and, specifically, a Business Analyst Competency Consultant role, might be needed. Under a matrix management structure, BAs report to a BA manager for project assignments, general guidance, professional development, and performance evaluations while also reporting to one or more project managers for their day-to-day task assignments. However, when the BA manager role is removed from the structure and the BAs instead report only to project managers (whose responsibilities now include managing resources), then the professional development aspect is often overlooked since the main focus is on project delivery. To address this gap, consider creating a Competency Center that includes a Competency Consultant for each project team member function that is impacted by this structure. For example, you may need a PM Competency Consultant, a BA Competency Consultant, a Systems Analyst Competency Consultant, a Software Engineer Competency Consultant, etc.
Essentially, the BA Competency Consultant is responsible for the development of BA competencies for the entire organization’s BA community. The duties associated with this effort can include the following:
- Standing up and supporting a BA Community of Practice. This involves developing the content and facilitating regularly scheduled BA Forum sessions with the purpose of sharing valuable information related to business analysis so that all BAs can benefit. It is a blend of presentations with questions and answers, open discussions, panel discussions, break out groups, and group exercises. Sample topics include open discussions on “good enough” / lean requirements, discussions about various BA practices, an overview of user-centered design, and an open discussion of BA success stories.
- Researching and reviewing various online articles, blogs, discussion boards, etc. related to BA practices / techniques / tools and communicating relevant and valuable information to the BA community. The intent is not to develop and enforce standards but to provide various viewpoints and frameworks to allow each BA or team of BAs decide what will work best for them based on their projects and team members.
- Identifying knowledge and skill gaps related to BA competencies and developing a comprehensive training plan and roadmap. BAs can be categorized by the breadth and depth of their experience to serve as the basis for developing a specialized training curriculum. While some will benefit from foundational training and others from advanced training, those with wide and deep experience will not benefit from training. The training solution might include developing and delivering an in-house training program, utilizing online / virtual training, or attending training classes, either on-site or off-site.
- Conducting various mentoring and coaching activities:
- On an ad-hoc basis, the BA community knows that they can contact the BA Competency Consultant to get guidance on how to approach a task, which BA technique to use, or to discuss BA practices in general
- Mentoring by walking around and checking with the BAs to see if they are experiencing any roadblocks or issues that the BA Competency Consultant might be able to address.
- Conducting peer reviews of the work output of the BA community that are scored against a checklist and practices that they should start doing, stop doing, or continue doing are identified. Trends are tracked to identify training / communication opportunities, practices that are not adding value, and / or process improvement opportunities. Other goals include increasing the quality of key BA deliverables and facilitating the delivery of business value.
There are challenges related to implementing this solution and realizing the full benefit that it can offer. Because the BAs report to their project manager / resource manager and their focus is on getting their project work completed, it can be difficult to get the BA community to attend / participate in group sessions or to review / utilize the guidance that is provided by the BA Competency Consultant. Upper management support is required to overcome those challenges by reinforcing that their expectations of the BA community include both project delivery and the professional development provided by the BA Competency Consultant.
**This article was previously published in the IIBA Newsletter in Nov 2011**
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David Schrenk, CBAP, CSM is the Business Analyst Competency Consultant with Erie Insurance. He has over 25 years of P/C Insurance experience and over 12 years of experience in business analysis. He has acted as a BA or the lead BA on many large-scale projects involving his company’s customer and agent-facing front ends and back-end policy administration systems. In 2009, he accepted his current role where he is responsible for the development of BA competencies within the organization.