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Author: Kathleen B. Hass, PMP

BA Practice Lead Handbook 10 – Business Analyst Practice Sustainability: A Focus on Innovation

The remaining articles in this series will be about sustainability: building a BA practice to last. This article will focus on the need for BAs to become creative leaders driving innovation.

In this complex global economy, your organizational change initiatives need to result in innovative solutions; incremental changes to ‘business as usual’ are no longer enough for organizations to remain competitive. Yet, many CEOs do not believe they have the creative leadership needed to capitalize on complexity to bring about innovation.

So what does innovation have to do with business analysis? For BAs to reach their full potential and add the most value to their organizations, they must become creative leaders of innovative change.

Traditional BA activities are still important, but a new focus on innovation is the 21st century call to action.

Business Analyst as Creative Leader of Innovative Change

Serving as a key project leader with a perpetual focus on adding value to the business, the business analyst becomes a powerful change agent.

The business analyst comes to the forefront of project management to close the gap in areas that have historically been woefully overlooked in mission-critical business transformation projects. Areas that are the purview of the business analyst and that require much more attention for project success include: 

  • Conducting enterprise analysis with an expert team of diverse background and capturing the details about the most valuable opportunities in a Business Case by:
    • Defining business problems and identifying new business opportunities for achieving innovation and remaining competitive
    • Understanding the business and the effects of the proposed solution across the enterprise
    • Insisting on innovation, fostering creativity, rejecting business as usual, welcoming ambiguity and disruptive change
    • Maintaining a fierce focus on the business benefits the initiative is expected to bring to the enterprise in terms of value to your customers and wealth to your bottom line
    • Validating that the new solution capitalizes on the opportunity and will contribute the expected business benefits. Managing the benefits expected from the new solution during and after project completion.
  • Translating the business objectives into business requirements using powerful modeling visualization tools. Using an integrated set of analysis and modeling tools and techniques to make the as-is and to-be business visible for all to see, understand, and validate. Using disintegrated desktop tools is simply ineffective because BA deliverables cannot be kept current and consistent, and therefore lose their value as reusable organizational assets.

For BAs to become creative leaders of innovative change, they must operate at the enterprise level and delve into strategy execution. BAs need to think of themselves as change agents, visionaries, and credible leaders.

Business Analyst as Change Agent

The prevalence of large-scale organizational change has grown exponentially in the 21st century. All indications are that change is here to stay. John P. Kotter, professor at the Harvard Business School, is regarded as an authority on leadership and change. Kotter’s prediction:

The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.

Kotter foresees that as the rate of change increases, the willingness and ability of knowledge workers to acquire new knowledge and skills is becoming central to career success for individuals and for the economic success of organizations. BAs that are able to develop the capacity to handle a complex and dynamic business environment are vital to their organizational survival. These BAs will grow to become unusually competent in advancing organizational transformation. They will learn to be creative leaders of innovative change. 

Powerful economic and social forces are at work to force innovation and change, including the rise of the Internet, global economic integration, maturation of markets in developed countries, emerging markets in developing countries, and the turbulent political and financial landscape. Competitive pressures are forcing organizations to reassess their fundamental structures, products, and the way they interact with their customers. The amount of change today is formidable. Some react to this change with anger, confusion, and dismay, and it falls upon the business analyst to lead the transformations most organizations must undergo. In her role as change agent, the business analyst brings a fresh new approach to projects in many ways:

  • Fosters the concept that projects are business problems, solved by teams of people using technology as a strategic tool
  • Works as a strategic implementer of change, focusing on the business benefits expected from the project to execute strategies
  • Changes the way the business interacts with the project team, often significantly increasing the amount of business resources/expertise dedicated to projects
  • Encourages the technical team members to work collaboratively with the business representatives
  • Builds high-performing teams that focus more on the business value of the project than on the “way cool” technology
  • Prepares the organization to accept new business solutions and to operate them efficiently
  • Measures the actual benefits new business solutions bring to the organization.

Creating and Sustaining the Project Vision

A common vision of project objectives and resulting business benefits is essential for a project team to bring about significant change. A clear vision helps to direct, align, and inspire team members. Without a clear vision, a lofty transformation plan can be reduced to a list of inconsequential projects that sap energy and drain valuable resources. Most importantly, a clear vision guides decision-making so that people do not arrive at every decision through unneeded debate and conflict. Yet we continue to underestimate the power of vision. As a BA, insist on a common vision, as stated in the business case, revisit it often, and use it to drive decision making.

Building your Credibility

When acting as a change agent, the business analyst needs to develop and sustain a high level of credibility. Credibility is composed of both trustworthiness and expertise. A credible leader is one that is trusted, one that is capable of being believed. Above all, a business analyst must strive to be a reliable source of information. In addition to these elements, colleagues often judge others’ credibility on subjective factors, such as enthusiasm and even physical appearance, as well as the objective believability of the message. At the end of the day, professional presence, ethics, and integrity are the cornerstone of credibility.

Credible business professionals are sought out by all organizations. People want to be associated with them. They are thought of as being reliable, sincere—and creative. The business analyst can develop her credibility by becoming proficient in these critical skills and competencies, all of which should be part of your professional development plan:

  • Practicing business outcome thinking
  • Conceptualizing and thinking creatively
  • Demonstrating interpersonal skills
  • Valuing ethics and integrity
  • Using robust communication techniques to effectively keep all stakeholders informed
  • Empowering team members and building high-performing teams
  • Setting direction and providing vision
  • Listening effectively and encouraging new ideas
  • Seeking responsibility and accepting accountability
  • Focusing and motivating a group to achieve what is important
  • Capitalizing on and rewarding the contributions of various team members
  • Managing complexity to reduce project risks and to foster creativity
  • Welcoming changes that enhance the value of the solution or product.

Understanding the Real Business Need: Innovation

Business analysts are now being challenged to rethink their approach—to not just record what the business is doing or wants to do, but to operate as a lightning rod to stimulate creativity and innovation. To do so, business analysts are rethinking the role of the customers and users they facilitate, looking at them as creative resources that can contribute imagination and inventiveness, not just operational knowledge. The business analyst who works across and up and down the organization, getting the right people at the right time and in the right place, can fan the flames of creativity.

Transitioning to Creative Leadership – What does it Look Like?

Creative leaders have many distinguishing beliefs and observable behavioral characteristics. According to John McCann, educator, facilitator, and consultant, creative leaders:

  • • Believe in the capability of others, offer them challenging opportunities, and delegate responsibility to them
  • • Know that people feel a commitment to a decision if they believe they have participated in making it
  • • Understand that people strive to meet other people’s expectations
  • • Value individuality
  • • Exemplify creativity in their own behavior and help build an environment that encourages and rewards creativity in others
  • • Are skillful in managing change
  • • Emphasize internal motivators over external motivators
  • • Encourage people to be self-directing.

Constructive Dialogue

A skilled and credible facilitator can set the stage for groups to engage in productive dialogue that incorporates creativity, ambiguity, tension, and decisiveness. The business analyst is perfectly positioned to be that credible leader and facilitator, one who sets conditions that lead to creativity in motion: You will know it when you see it: Participants are willing to have their ideas and beliefs examined and reexamined; participants look upon each other with respect and realize the benefits that come from open, candid, lively discussion.

Expert Facilitation

As a creative leader, the business analyst combines constructive dialogue with expert facilitation as creativity-inducing tools for stimulating the sharing of unique ideas. Not only does the collective “IQ” of the groups the business analyst works with rise, so can the CQ, the creativity quotient. In fact, business analysts who encourage creativity and guide groups at all levels through the innovation process can increase an entire organization’s CQ.

Thinking Outside the Building

The greatest future breakthroughs will come from leaders who encourage thinking outside a whole building full of boxes.
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

What kind of barriers should business analysts expect to encounter when they try to become the invaluable creative leaders organizations need today? The creative leader must learn to penetrate a formidable set of customs that exist in any organization. In a Harvard Business Review column, Rosabeth Kanter calls these organizational cultural barriers “inside the building thinking.” These may pose the strongest obstruction to creativity and innovation. 

What does this mean for the business analyst in her role as facilitator, charged with helping groups engage in productive dialogue? Business analysts must be cognizant of the fact that their first inclination—and the first tendency of their stakeholders—will be to limit their options by focusing on similar companies doing comparable things. So it is up to the business analyst to be aware of and encourage the group to penetrate the inside-the-building boundaries.

To unleash creativity, business analysts must challenge their stakeholders (users, customers, managers, project managers, developers, and executives) to use not only systems thinking, but also complexity thinking and out-of-the-building thinking to look at the entire ecosystem that surrounds their organizations. It is only then that they can set the stage to bring about lasting innovation.

Becoming a Creative Leader

Leadership is the capacity to mobilize people toward valued goals; that is, to produce sustainable change—sustainable because it’s good for you and for the people who matter most to you.
—Stew Friedman, author, innovator, management professor at the Wharton School

Stew Friedman, professor of management at the Wharton School, former head of Ford Motor’s Leadership Development Center, and author of Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, posed this question to business leaders across the country: “What kind of leadership do we need now?” The most common response was adaptive, flexible, and innovative. Because of the current sense of turbulence in the business world and in our lives, the leadership attribute that comes to mind most often is a means for dealing with chaos, which Friedman calls playful creativity. 

Every person can have a capacity for leadership, regardless of organizational level or title. Leadership should not be confined to work but extended to one’s personal life, community involvement, and family life. So how do we become creative leaders? We need to actively work at it by experimenting with how things get done at work, as well as in other parts of our lives. It is not the experiment that counts, but what we learn from it. Did we really create something new? What worked well, and what didn’t?

Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

BAs must continually strive to overcome the three great inhibitors to creativity: fear of failure, guilt about appearing to be self-centered, and ignorance of what’s possible. If BAs are not focusing on removing these barriers through experimenting, imagining, and continually trying new things, then they are “missing opportunities to strengthen their capacity to gain control in an increasingly uncertain world.” Hence, Friedman asks: “So, what small wins are you pursuing these days? How will they improve your ability to be creative and to have greater capacity to adapt to the rapidly shifting realities of your life and work?”

Creative leaders produce sustainable change. Strive to become a creative leader—and strive you must, because creative leadership is gravely needed for your organizational survival.

Leaders rely on their credibility and ethics to succeed; never sacrifice your integrity. Create the most sophisticated professional development plan you have ever had. Focus your plan on communications, creativity, innovation, facilitation, and team leadership. Include all types of learning:

  • Formal training and certifications
  • Informal mentoring
  • Experiences that stretch your capabilities
  • Self study
  • Reading, reading, reading.

Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously. People want to work with leaders who are credible and present themselves well, but they also want to have fun. Learn how to balance seriousness with playful creativity. Spend a lot of time planning your meetings, the techniques you will use, the outcomes you need. Then take a step back and make sure the experience will be fruitful, rewarding, and yes, fun for all participants.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

If you are a BA Practice Lead, insist that your BAs conduct real enterprise analysis to drive innovation before a Business Case is created and used to propose a new initiative. If your BAs are assigned to a project and these activities have not been adequately performed, help them pull together a small expert team and facilitate them through this important due diligence. And continually ask: “Are we really innovating?”

Portions of this article are adapted with permission from The Enterprise Business Analyst: Developing Creative Solutions to Complex Business Problems by Kathleen B. Hass, PMP. © 2011 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved. The Enterprise Business Analyst: Developing Creative Solutions to Complex Business Problems

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.


The BA Practice Lead Handbook 9 – Measuring the Effectiveness of your Business Analysis Practice

In previous articles, we discussed ultimate measures of business analysis success: value to the customer and wealth to the bottom line of your organization. We stated that the real work lies ahead; the work to ensure sustainability, continuous improvement, and delivery of real business benefits. We focused on:

  • Continually increasing the capabilities of your BA team and the maturity of your BA practice,
  • Measuring the business benefits of your BA practice and of projects in terms of value to your customers and/or wealth to the bottom line, and
  • Creating and executing a strategic communication plan to demonstrate the value of business analysis to all stakeholders.

That all seems well and good, but there must be more measures of BA practice success. In article #7, Tom T. posted a comment that asked these important questions about metrics and measurements of business analysis performance, which are essential to the sustainability of your BA Practice (see BA Practice Framework below). The commenter asked:

  1. How can I measure and manage the productivity and quality of my BA team?
  2. Should there be a “standard” timeline for producing requirements? I doubt it, but there should probably be some sort of guideline in estimating how long the process should take.

  3. Are there specific quality measures which can and should be implemented? Probably, but they all “add overhead” to an already cumbersome and time-consuming process.

  4. Without solid historical evidence (of our own), how do I justify the need for additional reviews and inspections?

  5. How do I even get people to accept the need for compiling solid historical evidence?

  6. For me, it’s not about the requirements tools, it’s about the oversight. Tools and templates for that don’t seem to be nearly as abundant.

The BA Practice Framework

hass july16

Sustainability. Demonstrate value through performance measures

So let’s examine the questions posed by Tom T. His first question: ‘How can I measure and manage the productivity and quality of my BA team?’ is really two different questions, one about productivity of the team and the other about quality of the business analysis products and services.


According to, productivity is a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs. Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period. Productivity is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.

According to productivity is:

  • The quality of being productive or having the power to produce
  • In economics, productivity is the ratio of the quantity and quality of units produced to the labor per unit of time

So, productivity measures the cost to construct or manufacture outputs in a production environment when the same product or service is delivered repeatedly. I submit that this measure does not apply to business analysis deliverables. Each business analysis output is unique and tailored to the needs of projects. The question is not: ‘How many business analysis products can our BAs produce in a week?’ Indeed, in this world of scarce resources and time to market demands, the fewer and lighter the BA artifact the better.

Having said this, you as BA Practice Lead should begin to capture historical data on how long it takes to develop, manage changes, and validate requirements for projects of varying complexity. Refer to prior articles for information about the four levels of project complexity. Historical data will enable you to plan new efforts more accurately, and determine what types of projects require longer timeframes.


Quality, however, is another matter altogether. The quality of business analysis products and services is paramount to establishing and sustaining a successful BA Practice. According to, quality is:

  • A peculiar and essential characteristic
  • An inherent feature
  • Capacity
  • A degree of excellence
  • Superiority in kind
  • A distinguishing attribute

Therefore, the essential characteristics of high quality requirements artifacts must be identified and assessed to determine the level of quality. To do so, the BA Practice Lead needs to establish a quality assurance program for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of business analysis products and services to ensure that standards of quality are being met.

Characteristics of High Quality Requirements

Are there specific quality measures which can and should be implemented? Some say for requirements to be useable, they must consist a set of characteristics and attributes. It may be helpful to use a checklist similar to the one presented here to help quickly validate the quality of a set of requirements. Note: the checklist should be different for projects of low, moderate, and high complexity – obviously, the higher the complexity, the more rigorous the validation sessions. See former articles to determine the complexity level.

The characteristics of good requirements can also vary based on the specific business and technology domain being addressed. The following checklist provides the characteristics that are generally acknowledged.

Requirement Validation Checklist


  • Technical team members:
  • Business team members:
  • Author/BA:
  • Others:
  • Original initiating documents to be used to ensure completeness of requirements:
         o Business Case
         o Project Charter
         o Statement of Work


ID Number Quality Characteristic Explanation Criteria Met (Y/N) If No, Defect and Rework Required Defined Another Review Needed (Y/N)
  Clear Requirement is clear and concise so it can be used by virtually everyone in the project. Selected types of requirements are expressed formally using technical language, e.g., legal, safety, and security requirement, and they are mapped back to the requirements that are more easily understood. However, in most cases the language used to document requirements is as non-technical as possible.      
  Unambiguous The requirement is concisely stated without recourse to technical jargon, acronyms (unless defined elsewhere in the Requirements document), or other esoteric verbiage. It expresses objective facts, not subjective opinions. It is subject to one and only one interpretation. Vague subjects, adjectives, prepositions, verbs and subjective phrases are avoided. Negative statements and compound statements are avoided.      
  Visible A diagram can express structure and relationships more clearly than text, whereas for precise definition of concepts, clearly articulated language is superior to diagrams. Therefore, both textual and graphical representations are essential for a complete set of requirements. Transforming graphical requirements into textual form can make them more understandable to non-technical members of the team.      
  Unique The requirement addresses one and only one thing. Each requirement is unique, describing an exclusive need to be met by the solution. Each requirement has an identifier that does not change. The reference is not to be reused if the requirement is moved, changed, or deleted.      
  Complete The requirement is fully stated in one place with no missing information.      
  Consistent The requirement does not contradict any other requirement and is fully consistent with all authoritative external documentation.      
  Traceable The requirement meets all or part of a business need as stated by stakeholders and authoritatively documented.      
  Current The requirement has not been made obsolete by the passage of time.      
  Verifiable The implementation of the requirement can be determined through basic possible methods: inspection, demonstration, test (instrumented) or analysis (to include validated modeling & simulation). Acceptance criteria describe the nature of the test that would demonstrate to customers, end users, and stakeholders that the requirement has been met. Acceptance criteria are usually captured from the end users by asking the question, “What kind of assessment would satisfy you that this requirement has been met?”        

Attributes of High Quality Requirements


Attributes are used for a variety of purposes including explanation, selection, filtering, validating and assuring quality. Attributes allow the BA team to associate information with individual or related groups of requirements, and often facilitate the requirements analysis process by filtering and sorting. Assessing these attributes during quality reviews is one way to focus on the quality of business analysis requirements artifacts. BA Practice Leads should build a checklist of the attributes that are most important to their organization to build in the desired quality of BA products. The checklist may look something like this.

ID Number Quality Attributes Explanation Criteria Met (Y/N) If No, Correction / Refinement Needed Another Review Needed (Y/N)
  Complexity Indicator Complexity indicates how difficult the requirement will be to implement. Highly complex requirements have numerous interdependencies and interrelationships with other requirements. Complex requirements necessitate more rigor to define and model, and more verification to demonstrate their validity.      
  Owner Ownership specifies the individual or group that needs the requirement. The absence of ownership indicates the requirement may not be valid.      
  Performance Performance addresses how the requirement must be met; how fast the process must be executed.      
  Priority Priority of the requirement rates its relative importance based on business value. Low priority requirements typically have a low return on investment, and are likely not produced.      
  Source Source of the requirement identifies who requested it. Every requirement should originate from a source that has the authority to specify requirements.      
  Stability Stability is used to indicate how mature the requirement is. This is used to determine whether the requirement is firm enough to prioritize it and to begin work on it.      
  Status Status of the requirement denotes whether it is proposed, accepted, verified with the users, or implemented.      
  Urgency Urgency refers to how soon the requirement is needed to meet the business objectives, the market window.      
  Functionality The requirement can be implemented so that it performs the functions and features needed, and complies with the relevant standards. Issues related to data security are considered.      
  Usability The requirement is intuitive, easy to understand and to use. The customers/users must be able to perform their tasks in a consistent and efficient manner. The solution appears to be simple, and hides the complex technology from the customers/users.      
  Reliability The requirements have a high probability of failure-free operation of a business process in a specified environment for a specified time.      
  Efficiency and Performance The requirement can be implemented efficiently in the target environment, performing the tasks in an appropriate time frame while utilizing a reasonable amount of resources.      
  Maintainability The requirement is easy to maintain, enhance, and refine as the business need changes.      

Characteristics of High Quality Requirements Development Processes

Another measure of quality is the process used to develop the requirements. If you don’t have a defined process, it is important for you to implement one for your BA team. The process should include the minimal types and numbers of requirements artifacts for projects of differing complexity. Remember, ‘just enough’ process is good enough. Perhaps your process should include the following steps. Again, it may be helpful to use a checklist during validation sessions to ensure your standard process is followed. A set of attributes are presented below for your consideration.

  • Planning requirements activities. Planning the number and type of elicitation sessions to be conducted and requirements artifacts to be produced. Plans should follow your organizational defined standard process. So, Should there be a “standard” timeline for producing requirements? If you plan well, and begin to capture actual data on how long it takes to develop, manage changes, and validate requirements for projects of varying complexity, you will have an idea of the timeline that is appropriate. How do I even get people to accept the need for compiling solid historical evidence? You simply need to require your BAs to develop plans for their activities, capture actuals, and begin to build historical data and a target timeline for projects of varying complexity. It is your job.
  • Studying requirements feasibility to determine if the requirement is viable technically, operationally, and economically
  • Trading off requirements to determine the most feasible requirement alternatives
  • Assessing requirements feasibility by analyzing requirement risks and constraints and modifying requirements to mitigate identified risks. The goal is to reduce requirement risks through early validation prototyping techniques
  • Modeling requirements to restate and clarify them. Modeling is accomplished at the appropriate usage, process, or detailed structural level
  • Deriving additional requirements as more is learned about the business need
  • Prioritizing requirements to reflect the fact that not all requirements are of equal value to the business. Prioritization may be delineated in terms of critical, high, average, and low priority. Prioritization is essential to determine the level of effort, budget, and time required to provide the highest priority functionality first. Then, perhaps, lower priority needs can be addressed in a later release of the system.

Characteristics of High Quality Requirements Validation Processes

Without solid historical evidence (of our own), how do I justify the need for additional reviews and inspections? Requirements validation is the process of evaluating requirement documents and models to determine whether they satisfy the business needs and are complete enough that the technical team can commence work to finalize solution design and begin development. Validation is not an option. It is essential to catch any omissions, errors or defects before further investment is made to convert the requirements into working processes and systems. Build a fast and efficient requirements validation process into your standard BA processes for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of business analysis products and services to ensure that standards of quality are being met. Justify it by assuring that defects found early are vastly less expensive to fix than those found in the test phase, or in production. IBM Systems Science Institute estimates that it is 100X more costly to fix a defect after deployment of the solution than in the design phase, and 15X more expensive in the testing phase.

When using the checklists, the validation team compares the set of requirements to the original initiating documents (business case, project charter, or statement of work) to ensure completeness. Include both business and technical representatives in the review process.

  • Business representatives focus on the clarity and accuracy of the requirements, and
  • Technical representatives focus on whether the requirements are sufficient to finalize design and begin construction of the business solution.

Beyond establishing completeness, validation activities include evaluating requirements to ensure that design risks associated with the requirements are minimized before further investment is made in solution development. An often-used analysis technique to help validate and understand requirements is prototyping to make the proposed solution to the requirements visible. Bring developers into the requirements process; use them to build validation prototypes during the requirements elicitation and validation process.

A word about validation and reviews: These sessions are designed to catch errors, omissions, and defects. We want to catch and eliminate any defects prior to moving into the development process. Catching and eliminating defects early is a good thing. It is also a learning process for all participants, contributing to continually improving the requirements development process and outputs.

Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

For the individual BA, consider these strategies:

  1. In the absence of organizational requirements validation checklists, build and use your own
  2. Work with your PM to plan BA activities and deliverables, and capture actual time and resources used
  3. Work with your BA Practice lead and BA team to improve the quality of your BA deliverables.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

For the BA Practice Lead, consider these strategies:

  1. Develop organizational requirements validation checklists for low complexity, moderately complex and highly complex projects and programs
  2. Develop your standard BA practices for low complexity, moderately complex and highly complex projects and programs. Conduct quality assurance activities to ensure all BAs follow the standards
  3. Begin to collect basic data on the time, resources, and quality of your BA Practice using the completed checklists and BA plans.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The BA Practice Lead Handbook 8 – Running your Business Analysis Practice Like a Business

So, assuming you have read the prior seven articles in this series, and you are now beginning to put your BA Practice into operation, what now? Step back and review your progress to date. Be sure you have proven you are ready by:

  1. Developing the business case for a BA Practice,
  2. Securing a BA Practice Sponsor who has taken on accountability for the budget and business benefits of a mature BA Practice, and
  3. Establishing a steering committee or guidance team comprised of influential individuals within your organization to add clout and political cover.

Furthermore, be sure you have established the infrastructure needed to operate a mature BA Practice by implementing the initial iteration of:

  1. The BA Center of Excellence
  2. A capable BA team, and
  3. Effective BA standards.

The BA Practice Framework

Hass Img01 March19

According to our BA Practice Framework, the real work lies ahead: The work to ensure sustainability, continuous improvement, and real business benefits. So, now what? How to you build a BA Practice to Last? Your focus at this point is on:

  • Continually increasing the capabilities of your BA team and the maturity of your BA practice.
  • Measuring the business benefits of your BA practice and of projects in terms of value to your customers and/or wealth to the bottom line
  • Creating and executing a strategic communication plan

Continually increase the capabilities of your BA Team and the maturity of your BA Practice.

In previous articles we have provided models that you can use as roadmaps for building a capable team and mature practice. Refer to prior articles for the models and capabilities required for each level of maturity.

BA Practice Maturity Roadmap

Converting the BA Practice Maturity Model into the roadmap below provides you with a solid footing as you build on your BA practices. Undoubtedly, you have practices in place now that are contained in all four levels. It is important to realize that practices at higher levels are at risk if lower-level practices are not in place and functioning well.

Hass June18 IMG02

The Current State of BA Practice Maturity

Please refer to the diagram below which depicts the findings from the ground breaking research study, The Bottom Line on Project Complexity, the results of which were presented at the PMI Global Congress 2010 North America. The study correlated the current state of BA practice maturity with project complexity and project outcomes.

In the absence of a formal maturity assessment, it is difficult for you to know the current state of the maturity of your BA practices. However, research provides us with an industry benchmark, which you can use as a starting baseline. The study discovered that current practices are not yet mature enough to be successful on moderately complex projects – level 2 in the maturity roadmap presented above. So it is appropriate for you to assume your maturity level falls close to the industry benchmark identified in the research, which indicates that gaps still exist at level 2.

Hass June18 IMG03

The industries represented in the study were Insurance (Ins), Financial Services (FS), Information Technology (IS/IT), Government and Non Profit (NP), Health Care (HC), and Transportation (Trans). The diamonds represent the typical complexity level of projects within the industry. The research findings indicate that the average BA maturity level for these industries is 1.68 as represented by the black horizontal line in the diagram. But the complexity of projects mostly fell at level 3, highly complex projects. Therefore, there is a gap between the complexity level of most projects and maturity levels of BA practitioners working on the projects. The BAs were also asked to predict the probable outcome of their projects in terms of budget, schedule, and scope of solution features and functions. The diamonds are color coded to represent the degree of challenge the BAs predicted will be evident at the end of the projects.

The Bottom Line on BA Practice Maturity

It is appropriate for you to assume your maturity level falls close to the industry benchmark identified in the research, which indicates that gaps still exist in our ability to perform well on moderately complex projects, level 2. If this assumption is correct, your highly complex projects are likely to be between 10% and sometimes greater than 30% over schedule, and budget, and reduction in scope. Refer back to the prior article in this series, and begin to work to close the gaps, first at level 2, and then at level 3 in the BA Practice Maturity Model. Increased BA maturity has a strong correlation to improve time, cost, scope, and business benefit performance.

Measure the business benefits of your BA Practice and of projects in terms of Value to your Customers and/or Wealth to the Bottom Line

The traditional measures of project success have been performance to schedule, budget, and scope. However, the most important measure of project success is the business benefits realized after the new business solution is deployed.

How do we Measure Business Benefits?

Business benefits from the project solution are initially predicted in the Business Case that was created to secure funding for the project. Ideally, you as BA have been continually updating and validating the assumptions and predictions contained within the Business Case. Business benefits are measured in terms of:

  • Value to the customer
  • Wealth to the bottom line

For your most important projects, there are several steps you can take to ensure you can measure business benefits of projects, which is the key responsibility of business analysts.

  • If you don’t have a business case for your project, and the project is critical to your organization, call together a small expert team to build the business case. Identify all costs, including the cost to operate the new/changed business solution. Then, predict business benefits in terms of customer value and bottom line results.
  • Present the business benefits predicted in business case to the executive sponsor of your project and ask, “Does this accurately describe the benefits you are expecting from this project?”
  • Continue to validate and update the business case throughout the project. If the case begins to erode, reconvene the expert team to review options, restate the business case, and recommend the most feasible change in course to the executive sponsor.
  • After the new solution is deployed, the BA serves as a Business Realization Manager. Measure the value of the new solution, and make improvements and adjustments to the solution or how it is used, to optimize business benefits.

Create and execute a Strategic Communication Plan

Refer back to article #2 in The BA Practice Lead Handbook Series, Why Business Analysis? What’s in it for me? Prepare unique communication strategies for the major stakeholders of your BA Practice. Your goal is to explain the value of Business Analysis, driving an understanding of the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) for all key stakeholders. Effective communications involves an enterprise focus, an emphasis on executing strategy and advancing enterprise capabilities, delivering innovative products and services, and measuring and communicating improved project outcomes.

Strategic communication requires targeted approaches for each key stakeholder. First, identify WIIFM for each key individual and group.

  • What’s in it for the CIO? The CFO? The CEO?
  • What’s in it for the Business Manager?
  • What’s in it for the Technologists?
  • What’s in it for the Project Manager?
  • What’s in it for your customers?

Then, devise a customized communicate strategy and key messages for each stakeholder. Convert the messages to a short, concise ‘elevator speech’. Determine the appropriate media and timing of the communication. Focus communications on how projects using mature BA practices produce value to the customer and wealth to the bottom line. After each communiqué, determine the effectiveness of the message, and make improvements to it.

Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

For the individual BA, consider these strategies:

  1. Make sure you have a valid business case for your project
  2. Ensure you can measure business benefits after the solution is delivered
  3. Work with your BA Practice lead and BA team to improve BA Practice maturity.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

It is critical for your BA Practice sustainability for you to run your practice like a business. Examine the strategy of your organization, and determine how your BA Practice contributes toward advancing that strategy. Focus on real financial measurements, those of concern to your management team. If your organization has a corporate scorecard, provide your measurements in the same format.

Work with the BAs on critical projects to ensure they are insisting upon a focus on value to the customer and wealth to the bottom line. Compile all project benefit estimates vs. actuals into an overall enterprise measure of the value of a focus on the business, business analysis, and business benefits.

In addition, compare your on schedule, budget, and scope results to those of the industry benchmarks identified in the study cited above. For instance, if you are in the Health Care industry, the study revealed your projects are highly complex, and your results are typically 30% over schedule, over budget, and with significant reduction in scope. Compare your actual results for projects that are working with the BACOE to the industry benchmark, and monetize the time, budget, and scope improvements to demonstrate the value your BA Practice has contributed to your organization.

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The BA Practice Lead Handbook 7 – What is the Current State of Your BA Practices? And How do you Close the Gaps?

Along with a team of capable, credible business analysts, a successful BA Practice requires effective, lean methods and tools to complete the implementation phase of the BA Practice Framework introduced in earlier articles, (see article #3, So you want to be a BA Practice Lead? OMG: What have you Gotten Yourself into?

The BA Practice Framework

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Step 1: Assess the Maturity of your BA Practice Standards

To determine the current state of your BA Practice maturity, conduct an assessment of the BA methods and tools that are prevalent in your organization today so that you can build from your current foundation. In article #6 in this series, we advised the BA Practice Lead to build a capable BA workforce by determining the complexity of current and future projects, and staff BAs accordingly. So at this point you should have a number of BAs capable of performing projects at the levels of complexity: (1) low complexity, (2) moderately complex and (3) highly complex projects. Perhaps your organization is also needing BAs who can perform at the highest level, (4) highly complex program/mega project level. If so, you have or are recruiting BAs capable of performing at these levels. Please refer to article #6 in this series, Will the Real Business Analysts Please Stand Up? – Build a Capable BA Team, to review the project complexity model and the BA Workforce Capability Model and the skills needed to perform at each level of complexity.

The next step is to determine what practices are currently in use by your BA team, both formal and informal practices. Ask your team of BAs to work together to document all of the practices they are using or have used to perform their work for each of the four project types, including:

  • BA methods, processes, procedures
  • BA requirements management tools, templates, job aids
  • BA manager tools, templates, oversight process

In addition, assess the following:

  • BA acceptance by PMs, Developers, Architects, Customers, Managers, other key stakeholders
  • BA measures of success and incentives
  • BA training programs
  • BA formal HR structures: roles, career path, pay scale (as compared to industry salary surveys)

It is helpful to use a BA Maturity Model similar to the one presented here to perform this assessment. The model is structured into four levels.

Hass May28 Img02The BA practices required for each level are described below. Feel free to use this matrix as a checklist to help your BA team conduct their assessment.

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Step 2: Develop a 2-year roadmap and 12-month plan to Close Gaps in BA Practices

Along with your BA team, develop a roadmap to refine/adopt/develop practices that are missing from your practice. Move from left to right on the BA Practice Maturity Model. Once your plan has been created (remember, lean, just enough investment in BA deliverables):

  • Update BA Practice Business Case with new information learned from the assessment (See article #3)
  • Gain consensus and approval for the budget and resources to implement the 2-year roadmap and 12-month plan to close gaps in BA practices

Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

As a capable BA, you need to have some standard tools in your arsenal. It is important to change your methods, style, and facilitation techniques as you grow along the capability levels. Low complexity projects require low complexity BA deliverables. Always use business language, vs. technical IT jargon. Use simple models, drawings, charts and graphs whenever possible to bring the requirements into view.
So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

Use the experience and talent of your BA team to develop and improve BA deliverables. Resist the temptation to assign one staff person to develop all the BA standards. This approach rarely works, and will lead to disarray, lack of ownership on the part of your BA team, and therefore, lack of use of the standards.

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The BA Practice Lead Handbook 6 – Will the Real Business Analysts Please Stand Up? – Build a Capable BA Team

It goes without saying that a successful BA Practice requires a team of capable, credible business analysts. In fact, it is a bit of an understatement. But being capable in BA practices is not enough in this complex, global world we now live in. As the complexity of projects increases, BAs need to be accomplished, perhaps gifted strategic thinkers and leaders of change. Therefore, the first step in determining the optimal make-up of your BA team is to determine the type and complexity of work they are and will be performing.

Step 1: Assess the Complexity of Project Assignments

Before you begin to build your BA team, conduct an assessment of the current project portfolio and the backlog of potential projects for the next twelve to eighteen months. The goal is to categorize projects according to their complexity. Using the Project Complexity Model 2.0 depicted below, determine the profile of each project by selecting the cell that best describes the project for each complexity dimension, and then applying the formula following the model.

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Step 2: Determine the mix of BAs needed to build your Capable BA Workforce

Obviously, the skills required by both PMs and BAs differ widely depending on the complexity profile of their project assignments. Referring to the BA Individual/Workforce Capability Model below, determine the number of BAs needed at each level of complexity to successfully execute current and anticipated projects at each level of the model. From this information, you are ready to begin to build your BA team. The model is four-tiered for both project managers and business analysts as described below. The levels of the model are based on the escalating complexity of typical project assignments, as follows:

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Level 1: Operations and Support Focus

To maintain and enhance business operations, both generalists and system specialists are needed. These BAs typically spend about 30% of their time doing business analysis activities for low complexity projects designed to maintain and continually improve business processes and technology. The remaining time they are often fulfilling multiple roles including developer, engineer, SME, domain expert, and tester. As legacy processes and systems age, these BAs are becoming more valuable since they are likely the best (and often the only) SMEs who understand the current business processes and supporting technology. Many organizations are creating separate groups of PMs, BAs and developers to manage maintenance of current business processes, the legacy systems that support them, and the vendors who are engaged to help support the legacy IT operations.

Level 2: Project Focus

To ensure business objectives are met through projects, both IT- and Business-Oriented BAs are needed. These BAs work on moderately complex projects designed to develop new/improved business processes and IT systems.

  • IT-Oriented BAs improve operations through changes to technology. The BAs are mostly generalists, with specialists that include Experience Analysts, Business Rules Analysts, Business Process Analysts, Data Analysts, etc.
  • Business-Oriented BAs improve operations through changes to policy and procedures. Business-oriented BAs are mostly specialized, focused on Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Manufacturing, etc. In decentralized organizations, these BAs are dedicated to a major business area, improving the processes and the corresponding technologies that are used to run the operations. In other more centralized organizations, these BAs are organized as a pool of talent whose efforts can be transferred seamlessly to the areas of the enterprise that are in most need of project support.

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Level 3: Enterprise Focus

This group includes very seasoned PMs and BAs. PMs are trained and experienced in managing highly complex projects, programs and portfolios. The BAs often specialize into two groups: Enterprise Analysts and Business Architects, who are operating at the strategic level of the organization ensuring that the business analysis activities are dedicated to the most valuable initiatives, and the business analysis assets (deliverables/artifacts e.g., models, diagrams) are considered corporate assets and are therefore reusable. Enterprise PMs and BAs focus on the analysis needed to prepare a solid business case to propose new initiatives and work on highly-complex enterprise-wide projects; while Business Architects make the enterprise visible and keep the business and IT architectures in synch.

Level 4: Competitive Focus

Business/Technology Optimization BAs are business and technology visionaries who serve as Innovation Experts, Organizational Change Specialists, and Cross Domain Experts. Business/Technology BAs focus outside of the enterprise on what the industry is doing and design innovative new approaches to doing business to ensure the enterprise remains competitive, or even leaps ahead of the competition. Business/Technology BAs forge new strategies, translate strategy into breakthrough process and technology, and convert business opportunities to innovative business solutions.

The capabilities that are needed at each level of the model differ significantly. BA technical capabilities are needed at every level; leadership and soft skill competencies and techniques are needed to succeed on higher-level, more complex projects. See below for a listing of capabilities and techniques needed to perform successfully at each level of the model.

BA Technical Capabilities 

See BABOK® Guide for detailed descriptions of the tasks, activities, and techniques used for each capability

Project Focused

  1. Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring
  2. Elicitation
  3. Requirements Management and Communication
  4. Requirements Analysis

Enterprise Focused

  1. Enterprise Analysis
  2. Solution Assessment and Validation


Operations/Support-Focused Business Analyst

1. Acceptance and Evaluation Criteria Definition 12. Observation
2. Brainstorming 13. Problem Tracking
3. Checklists 14. Re-planning
4. Continuous Process Improvement 15. Requirements Change Management
5. Defect and Issue Reporting 16. Requirements Documentation
6. Document Analysis 17. Requirements Prioritization
7. Estimation 18. Sequence Diagramming
8. Functional Decomposition 19. Stakeholder Analysis/Mapping
9. Interface Analysis 20. Time Boxing / Budgeting
10. Interviews 21. Voting
11. Non-Functional Requirements Analysis

Project-Focused Business Analyst

1. Baselining 22. Requirements Briefings and Presentations
2. Business Case Validation 23. Requirements for Vendor Selection
3. Business Process Analysis and Management 24. Requirements Traceability/Coverage Matrix
4. Business Rules Analysis and Management 25. Requirements Decomposition
5. Change Management 26. Requirements Workshops
6. Conflict and Issue Management 27. Requirements Review, Validation and Signoff
7. Consensus Mapping 28. Responsibility Matrix (RACI)
8. Communications Requirements Analysis 29. Reverse Engineering
9. Business Process Design 30. RFI, RFQ, RFP
10. Data Dictionary and Glossary 31. Risk Analysis
11. Data Flow Diagrams 32. Scenarios and Use Cases
12. Data Modeling 33. Scope Modeling
13. Decision Analysis 34. Solution Modeling
14. Delphi 35. State Diagrams
15. Expert Judgment 36. Structured Walkthroughs
16. Focus Groups 37. Survey/Questionnaire
17. Force Field Analysis 38. User Acceptance Testing
18. MoSCoW Analysis 39. User Stories and Storyboards
19. Process Modeling 40. Value Analysis
20. Prototyping 41. Variance Analysis
21. Requirements Attribute Assignment 42. Vendor Assessment

Enterprise-Focused Business Analyst

1. Balanced Scorecard 12. Future State Analysis
2. Benchmarking 13. Goal Decomposition
3. Business Architecture 14. Gap Analysis
4. Business Case Development and Validation 15. Last Responsible Moment Decision making
5. Business Opportunity Analysis 16. Lessons Learned Process
6. Business Problem Analysis 17. Metrics and Key Performance Indicators
7. Business Process Reengineering 18. Organizational Modeling
8. Competitive Analysis 19. Organizational Change
9. Cost/Benefit Analysis and Economic Modeling 20. Portfolio Analysis
10. Current State Analysis 21. Project and Program Prioritization
11. Feasibility Analysis 22. Root Cause Analysis (Fishbone Diagram)
23. SWOT Analysis

Business/Technology-Focused Business Analyst

1. Breakthrough Process Design 10. Intuition
2. Cultural Change 11. Investigation and Experimentation
3. Divergent thinking 12. Metaphors and Storytelling
4. Edge-of-Chaos Analysis 13. Mind Mapping
5. Emotional Intelligence 14. Pattern Discovery
6. Experimentation 15. Research and Development
7. Idea Generation 16. Strategic Planning
8. Innovation and Creativity 17. Systematic Inventive Thinking
9. Innovation Teams 18. Visualization

Build Your Capable BA Workforce for Levels 1 and 2: Low to Moderately Complex Projects

There are likely many kinds of analysts hidden within the nooks and crannies of your business. Which of these are actually performing business analysis tasks? How do we cull through the various analysts within our organization to build our BA team?

Take an inventory of the individuals currently serving in the BA role on your projects. Most will likely be operating at the first two levels of the model, focusing on requirements discovery and definition. This is the core business analysis function. Defining, analyzing, and documenting requirements is a highly creative and iterative process that is designed to show what the new/changed business system will do, and explore options for how it will be done. Therefore, the requirements in their textual and graphical form represent a depiction of the system, serving as an intermediate step between the business need and the solution design. The requirements development process is typically subdivided into business need identification, scope definition, elicitation, analysis, specification, documentation, validation, management, and maintenance and enhancements. These sub-disciplines encompass all the activities involved with gathering, evaluating, and documenting requirements (Young, 2001).

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that expertise in the technical area of the project is the key requirement for the position of business analyst. In this case, business analysis is treated as a subset of the technical discipline. Time and again, projects encounter difficulties not from lack of technical expertise, but from an inability to gather, understand, analyze and manage business requirements, and convert them into useable system specifications. Projects are often initiated, and design and construction of the solution is underway, before IT team members have a clear understanding of the business need. Often, tolerance is low for technical failure and high for inadequate and ever-evolving requirements. All too often, projects suffer from requirements creep due to the “Let’s start coding and see how it turns out” syndrome.

Look for candidates (both in the business areas and in IT) that understand that business requirements analysis differs from traditional information systems analysis because of its focus, which is exclusively on adding value to the business. In particular, build a BA team that focuses on providing more detailed project objectives; business needs analysis; clear, structured, useable requirements; trade-off analysis; solution feasibility and risk analysis; and cost-benefit analysis.

To build a team of capable BAs, technically adept engineers often are asked to make the professional transition to the disciplines of project management and business analysis. Often, these individuals assume a trio of leadership roles on projects: technical lead, project manager, and business analyst. Inevitably, after requirements are captured at a high level and the project plan is being executed, technical activities tend to elicit the majority of attention. When that happens, requirements and project management suffer, and the initiative is positioned to become a runaway project.

Research shows that there are still gaps in capabilities for BAs operating at levels 1 and 2. Assess the capabilities of the BAs you recruit, identify gaps, and create and execute a learning an development plan to close the gaps. To close gaps that exist on current projects, you may need to solicit experienced consultant BAs to ensure project success.

Build Your Strategic BA Workforce for Levels 3 and 4: Highly Complex Programs and Projects

It is increasingly clear that while technical BA knowledge areas are necessary, they are insufficient for successfully managing requirements on the large, enterprise-wide, complex, mission-critical projects that are the norm today. Just as a business leader must be multi-skilled and strategically focused, business analysts operating at the strategic level must possess an extensive array of leadership skills. As your BA Practice matures, recruit systems-thinking business analysts capable of assuming a leadership role on critical projects, and quickly elevate them to senior positions within the your BA team. As the IT contribution moves beyond efficiency to business success, the business analyst becomes the central figure on the project team who must be “bi-lingual” in speaking both business and technical languages. To perform in this pivotal role, the business analyst must possess a broad range of knowledge and skills. Browsing through the more than 5,000 job postings for business analysts on turned up this job description:

“The main purpose of the role will be to design and specify innovative solutions which meet the business requirements allowing the business benefit to be attained; and to facilitate divisional communication and awareness of the standards and quality expectations within the System Analyst teams.”

Clearly, individuals performing business analysis activities at the strategic level do not always consider themselves part of the BA career family. But make no mistake; this is the path for the talented and ambitious business analyst. Look for individuals who have leadership qualities, are well respected, and carry influence within your organization to fill these most important BA roles.

Will the Real Business Analyst Please Stand Up

Many job titles exist for individuals performing BA activities, including business analyst, business systems analyst, business system planner, business architect, business rules analysts, and even principal solutions architect to name a few. Regardless of the job title, a strong, experienced business analyst is critical to complex project success. It has been said that if an organization only has resources and budget to put into a single life cycle area to improve project performance, that area should be business analysis. Depending on the level of responsibility and placement in the organization, business analyst duties at all levels include the following:

  • Identify and understand the business problem and the impact of the proposed solution on the organization’s operations
  • Document the complex areas of project scope, objectives, added value or benefit expectations, using an integrated set of analysis and modeling techniques
  • Translate business objectives into system requirements using powerful analysis and modeling tools
  • Evaluate customer business needs, thus contributing to strategic planning of information systems and technology directions
  • Assist in determining the strategic direction of the organization
  • Liaise with major customers during preliminary installation and testing of new products and services
  • Design and develop high quality business solutions

While the business analyst is fast becoming a relatively senior position in the business world, historically it has been considered a mid- to low-level role. A recent survey revealed an increasing demand for senior individuals who can perform the ever-widening range of business analysis functions. Since business analysts walk in both business and IT worlds, they will arrive to your team from various fields. Some come from the ranks of programmer/analyst positions, while others have conventional business expertise supplemented by some IT training. To successfully fill the business analyst role, one must acquire mastery of a unique combination of technical, analytical, business, and leadership skills as depicted below.

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Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

If you are a practicing BA, determine the complexity of your current project assignments, and identify gaps in the capabilities needed to be successful. If you have significant gaps in BA capabilities on your project, work with the project manager and your BA Practice lead to fill the gaps with experienced BAs to serve as coach and consultant to your project team. In addition, identify the level of BA work that you aspire to, and draft your personal learning and development plan to achieve the level of your choice.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

This article presents the case for a BA Practice Lead to methodically build a capable BA workforce. Use these tools and this broad approach to BA team recruiting and development to build your world-class BA Practice.

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