Author: Kathleen B. Hass, PMP

The Future is Now: The 21st Century Enterprise Business Analyst

INTRODUCTION

Business analysis is a relatively new profession. Some say it is not really a profession, but more of a line of work or collection of activities. Others say it is a discipline, a business practice that has been woefully absent in the complex world of business. The International Institute of Business Analysis defines business analysis as follows:

…the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.

Business analysis is performed on a variety of initiatives within an enterprise. Initiatives may be strategic, tactical, or operational. Business analysis may be performed within the boundaries of a project or throughout enterprise evolution and continuous improvement. It can be used to understand the current state, to define the future state, and to determine the activities required to move from the current to the future statei.

THE BUSINESS ANALYSIS JOURNEY

20th-century business analysis has been a mostly tactical endeavor, focusing on requirements definition and management. According to anecdotal evidence I have collected over the last few years, the BA activities have been distributed something like this:

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Notice the image of a baby at the center. This is intentional, and represents the early stages of business analysis. But we need to grow up fast to meet the challenges of the 21st century. While some work at the strategic level, the focus of the vast majority of the BA practitioners has been mostly:

  • Management vs. leadership
  • Tactical orientation vs. systems thinking
  • Project and requirements management vs. complexity management
  • Linear vs. adaptive
  • Business as usual vs. innovation
  • Project outcomes vs. business/customer value

But, the 21st century challenges us to change the way we initiate and manage change in our organizations. Traditional jobs are changing. BAs are focusing on strategy, innovation, value vs. requirements management. Project managers are focusing on complexity management vs. project management.

Organizations cannot find the talent they need to negotiate the constant change and unrelenting complexities of the 21st century. They need critical thinkers with the ability to adapt, invent, and reinvent. Collaborate, create, and innovate. Understand and leverage the complexities to harness creativity.

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To remain competitive in these challenging times, CIOs realize the BA role is at the heart of future success. CIOs appreciate that BAs are in demand and will play a critical role in the future, but not the type of BAs we have today. And so, they are rebuilding the BA role. CIOs around the globe are searching their resources to find experienced and solutions focused IT and business professionals who are ready and willing to step into the leadership role of the Enterprise Business Analyst, moving from a requirements focus to a strategic solution focusii.

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THE RISE OF THE ENTERPRISE BUSINESS ANALYSIS PRACTICE – IT’S ALL ABOUT VALUE

Business analysis is transforming itself before our very eyes to create better business outcomes. Some refer to it as ‘Breakthrough Business Analysis.’ The role of the enterprise business analyst (EBA) is coming into its own. The focus is clear: it’s all about value.

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While not all change initiatives are complex, it is clear that the world is changing rapidly, technology advances are fast and furious, and businesses need to ‘innovate or evaporate.’ If we are not bringing about value, we should question the need for the initiative. So, what does breakthrough value-based business analysis look like?

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While moderately complex projects will still need traditional BA practices focusing on requirements definition and management, these will become fewer and fewer as we transgress through the 21st century. Traditional BA practices work when not dealing with complexity, but are deficient when managing complex enterprise change initiatives.

Enterprise business analysis focuses on delivery of business value and innovation. EBAs understand the holistic nature of change; transformational change requires attention to people, process, organizations, rules, data, applications, and technologies to make up a transformational business practice. The EBA embraces business architecture and deliberate design to help temper project failure.

Realizing that a holistic view of change is both an art and a science, EBAs strike a balance between analysis and intuition, and order and disruptive change. Decision making is collaborative. Thinking is global, holistic, strategic. Complexity is leveraged to achieve creativity. Leadership is shared, diverse, expert. Teams are collaborative and high performing. Methods are adaptive, creative, agile, visual. Solutions are innovative, competitive, and sometimes unsettling and disruptive. Value is delivered early and often.

Breakthrough business analysis produces groundbreaking results. It requires different thinking and new practices and systemsiii.

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THE ENTERPRISE BUSINESS ANALYST – A COMPLEX ROLE

One of the reasons the role and capabilities of the business analyst is difficult to describe is that it is a very complex function with many variants. The Generalist EBA wears many hats, from strategy analyst to business relationship manager. Whereas the specialist EBA may focus on business architecture or business rules management. At the same time, EBAs are often business domain experts so that they understand and are authorities in both the business domain and the technology supporting the business. Mostly all EBAs focus on business/technology optimization, staying current on the latest technological advances and incorporating them into the IT suite of offerings.

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The next article will delve deeper into the various aspects of the EBA, describing the:

  • Nature of the EBA role
  • Value of the EBA role
  • Special skills needed to perform the EBA role.

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References

i A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® v3, International Institute of Business Analysis, 2015
ii Mark McDonald, Ph.D., former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs
http://blogs.gartner.com/mark_mcdonald/2012/01/30/amplifying-the-role-of-the-business-analyst/
iii Better, Smarter, Faster: Accelerating Innovation Across the Enterprise, 2013, Jama Software, Inc.

Finally! A Proven Framework to Implement Value-Based Business Analysis

 Far too often, implementation of business analysis (BA) as a valued discipline within organizations is elusive. Business analysts (BAs) struggle to form BA communities, share knowledge and best practices, and improve competencies and outcomes of their efforts. These improvements will only reap limited benefits. What is needed to respond to 21st century challenges is a disciplined, value-creating BA Practice. However, we often falter when attempting to implement a formal BA discipline withing companies and non-profit agencies. It is an arduous task, a cultural change, a complex endeavor.

The 21st Century Challenge

These are tumultuous times. Businesses are faced with unprecedented challenges in the hyper-connected 21st century global economy. Extraordinary gale-force winds of change are swirling faster than ever before, causing us to rethink our approach to business, project, and performance management.

The Integrated Economy

Everyone is feeling the effects of the global integrated economy, and BAs are no exception. Many jobs are becoming commoditized; they can be performed by internal resources, contractors, or even outsourced resources located anywhere across the globe. Global wage scales have made U.S. employees too expensive to perform standard, repetitive tasks. Many U.S. jobs are gone and not coming back. For these reasons, basic BA tasks are beginning to be outsourced or performed by contractors.

The Technology and Information Explosion

IT applications have also impacted U.S. jobs by automating repetitive activities, often increasing the quality and predictability of outcomes. Smart IT applications are replacing knowledge workers across industries, including BAs. The demand for new, innovative apps delivered quickly is making traditional requirements and development methods obsolete.

Convergence of Digital, Social and Mobile Spheres

Social/mobile media has connected us all in obvious and subtle ways, some of which we don’t yet fully understand; and new applications emerge that we can’t even imagine until they reach us. As we saw across the Middle East and elsewhere, people are using social media to bring about major changes to social and political systems. BAs are using social media to enhance collaboration among key stakeholders across the globe.

Innovation vs. Business as Usual

The call to action for today’s businesses is ‘innovate or vanish’. For businesses to be competitive, they must be first to market with innovative, leading-edge products and services that are intuitive, easy to use, and offer surprising new features.

It is no longer enough for BAs to ask their business partners what they want or need. BAs must learn to foster creativity and innovation during their working sessions, continually asking the question: ‘Are we truly innovating?’

Business Value Realization

Businesses cannot afford to waste project investments or precious resource time unless there are significant business benefits in terms of innovation, value to the customer, and wealth to the bottom line. 21st century BAs understand the business value proposition, and focus on value throughout the project. BAs work with project managers to develop release plans prioritized based on business value to deliver value early and often.

Project Performance

With business success riding on innovation and first-to-market speed, we must be able to deliver new products and business capabilities on time, cost, and scope commitments. However, according to the CHAOS Manifesto 2013 by the Standish Group, technology-enabled business change initiatives are only 39 percent successful, as measured by on time, on budget, and with the full scope of functions and features.i This comes at considerable cost: real sunk costs and the cost of lost opportunity estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion per year.

The Fundamentals of Exceptionalism

As we are struggling to bring about positive change within our companies, and our companies are struggling with the challenges of the new economy, the nation states where our companies operate are under immense pressure to build and sustain the fundamental elements of a thriving economic culture. These involve investment in five major areas: education – to ensure the availability of a skilled workforce; immigration – to reach across the world for the best minds; infrastructure – to provide the basic services for your family and your company to operate effectively and efficiently including health care; rules and regulations – to provide an environment of fairness, and research and development – to continue to innovate and create. In the developed nations of the world, investment in these fundamentals has fallen drasticallyii. Projects are emerging at every turn to rebuild these fundamental elements of a thriving society. The result is constant change and immense complexity for individuals, families, companies, communities, states and nations.

The Onslaught of Complexity

All of these forces are influenced by the unrelenting change and unprecedented complexity that exists at all levels, globally, nationally, locally, and within projects. With complexity comes dynamic, unpredictable, adaptive change. Since projects are complex adaptive systems operating within a complex environment, typical plan-based project and requirements management practices are insufficient when attempting to bring about speed and innovation. Since we are in a new, data-driven world, virtually all business projects are now dependent on information technology (IT), and all companies are technology companies. And new technologies are complex by their very nature.

Breakthrough Practices for the 21st Century

So what does all this have to do with business analysis? The root cause of our dismal project performance is twofold, gaps in two breakthrough practices, value-based Enterprise Business Analysis and innovation-based Complex Project Management. Both of these relatively new disciplines are emerging to address our 21st century challenges. In prior publications, this author delved into enterprise business analysis and complex project management. At this point, we define the need for and a practical implementation approach for building a breakthrough value-based Business Analysis Practice within your organization. Business analysis needs a home, a center supported at the highest levels of the organization to become the strategic practice that brings about real business value.

The Future

Business analysts of the not-too-distant future must and will become visionaries, innovators, strategists, and transformational leaders, executing strategy through project results. Successful business analyst teams will learn how to embrace organizational values, empower their teams to thrive, bring customers into the change process, and drive innovation through collaboration, creativity, design principles, and global partnerships. Don’t blink, or you may miss out on this exciting business experiment.

Business analysis seems to be a self-improving discipline, and we have energizing new challenges and opportunities ahead. We need to change the way we do projects to achieve faster time to market and deliver innovative solutions that add value to the customer and wealth to the organization. Only then will we be contributing to a sustained competitive advantage for our organizations.

Traditional business analysis jobs are going away and are not coming back. BA tools are growing up, and typical BA tasks are being automated and commoditized. Instead of being regarded as documenters, BAs are being sought out to focus on strategy, value, innovation, and leadership.

Implementing a Value-Based BA Practice

So how do we make the transition from a BA discipline that is project/requirements focused to one that is adding value at the enterprise/strategy level? Breakthrough value-based business analysis centers on many of the woefully inadequate essentials of business/technology projects. It changes the focus. It strives for the following elements:

  • Decision making: collaborative
  • Thinking: global, holistic, strategic
  • Complexity: leveraged to achieve creativity
  • Leadership: shared, diverse, expert
  • Teams: collaborative, high performing
  • Agile Methods: adapting, experimenting, creating, visualizing
  • Solutions: innovative, competitive, unsettling, disruptive
  • Value: delivered often

Realizing the positive impacts of a value-based BA practice could very well mean the difference between success and failure for businesses negotiating 21st century challenges. A proven framework now exists for implementing a BA practice that is strategically positioned and value-based. BA Practice Leads need a wealth of wisdom and insight for determining organizational readiness and then implementing and sustaining a value-based BA practice.

The Framework

Finally, we have a thorough examination of how to implement strategic business analysis in organizations and make them stick.

1. Readiness: “Is our organization ready? What is the right fit?”

  1. The Business Case describing the value and cost of implementing a mature BA Practice
  2. An Executive Sponsor accountable for the business benefits derived from an effective BA Practice
  3. A Steering Committee to guide the BA Practice evolution
  4. A respected and influential BA Practice Lead

2. Implementation: “How do we build the BA practice?”

  1. The BA Center of Excellence (BACOE)
  2. A Capable BA Team
  3. Effective Lean BA Practice Standards
  4. Maturity and Capability Assessments

3. Sustainability: “How do we run our BA practice like a business?”

  1. Run Your BA Practice like a Business
  2. Measure the Effectiveness of Your BA Practice
  3. Focus on Innovation
  4. Change the way we do Projects
  5. Execute well-planned Strategic Communications
  6. Take your BA Team from Good to Great

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The framework is a valuable tool for IT managers, product owners, strategists, project portfolio managers, BA managers, BA practice leads, enterprise business analysts, and anyone who wants to improve business practices. This new framework offers a stage by stage approach to ensure your BA practice is customized to your organization, becomes a lasting discipline, and adds value to your customers and wealth to the bottom line.

There is a buzz in the air about the future as business analysts continue to stand out in organizations as strategic assets. Take the lead and be your organization’s champion of a value-based, breakthrough BA practice. The Breakthrough Business Analysis Implementation Framework leads the 21st century as the proven method to implement and sustain value-based business analysis practices. The framework is based on real life success stories and case studies to ensure your BA practice is the right fit based on your culture and political situation. The Value-based BA Practice brings worth to your organization as defined by value to your customer and wealth to the bottom line. The emphasis is on running your BA Practice like a business to continue to thrive through the rough roads ahead.

Portions of this article were adapted with permission from BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS ANALYSIS, Implementing and Sustaining a Value-based Practice by Kathleen B. Hass. ©2015 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved. 

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i THE STANDISH GROUP, “CHAOS MANIFESTO, 2013: THINK BIG, ACT SMALL,” 2013. ONLINE AT VERSIONONE.COM/ASSETS/IMG/FILES/CHAOSMANIFESTO2013.PDF‎ (ACCESSED JANUARY 2014): 1.
ii FRIEDMAN, THOMAS, MEET THE PRESS, (SEPTEMBER 4, 2011) ONLINE AT:
HTTP://WWW.NBCNEWS.COM/VIDEO/MEET-THE-PRESS/44391320#44391320, (ACCESSED JANUARY 2014).

The BA Practice Lead Handbook 13 – Taking your Business Analysis Team from Good to Great

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.
Bill Gates

In article 6 of this series, we discussed an approach to building a capable BA workforce able to manage the complexity of your team’s project assignments. In this article, we discuss the need for the BA Practice Lead, as well as the BA, to become effective leaders of teams. Your job is all about building and sustaining high-performing teams.

What’s the big deal about teams?

Complex projects are challenged today because of people failing to come together with a common vision, an understanding of complexity, and the right expertise. Virtually all work today is accomplished by teams of people. Sometimes teams of teams consisting of groups around the globe. Team leadership is different from traditional management, and teams are different from operational work groups. When leading high-performing, creative teams, it is no longer about command and control; it is rather about collaboration, consensus, empowerment, confidence, and leadership.

What do high-performing teams look like?

When you think of great teams you have observed, what teams come to mind? Perhaps your local professional sports team is the first mental image that emerges. Whatever the sport, high performance is the name of the game. Sometimes, high individual performance is a detriment to the team. Success in the world of professional sports is about team performance.

So, outside of sports, what high performing teams have been a wonder to your eyes? Let’s just begin to identify some of them and the nature of their sustained high-performance. We will name just a few. I am certain you could add to this list.

Paramedic Teams

Paramedic teams mean the difference between surviving and succumbing to an overwhelming force. Paramedics provide medical care at an advanced life support level in the pre-hospital environment, usually in an emergency, at the point of illness or injury. This includes an initial assessment, a diagnosis and a treatment plan to manage the patient’s particular health crisis. Treatment can also be continued en route to a hospital if more definitive care for the patient is required. Paramedics almost always work in teams of two to four specialists, each fully understanding his role, and how it integrates into the whole approach to assess the degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses and provide life-saving interventions. It is about the importance of the mission and the team resolve. 

Firefighting teams

I once met a New York City firefighter who had been with his squad for decades. I asked him how he handled such a pressure-filled job. His answer: “I would pay them to let me be a fire fighter.” He was talking about the camaraderie, the spirit, the brotherhood, the importance of the mission. Think 911 or Hurricane Katrina.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

I have a sister who is heading up an NGO at the United Nations. She mentors interns and high-school age young women and men to become involved in global solutions to problems such as the trafficking of women, the poverty and environmental health issues of communities that are adjacent to coal mines, the basic right of all to have access to clean drinking water. She says she had her dream job. It is about the importance of the mission and collaboration with other world-changing NGOs.

Symphony Orchestras

Today the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Inc., (BSO) presents more than 250 concerts annually. It is an ensemble that has richly fulfilled their vision of a great and permanent orchestra in Boston. BSO has been the scene of almost two hundred American premieres over the last century. From Wilhelm Gericke to James Levine, each conductor of the BSO has created a legacy of new works introduced to BSO audiences. The BSO Archives houses printed programs, press clippings, posters, photographs, administrative files, an extensive collection of radio broadcast tapes of concerts and commercial recordings. It’s about musical expertise, cultural and historical contributions, and first-rate performances. 

Heart Transplant/Operating Room Teams

Transplant patients who come to University of Colorado Hospital are often very, very sick. Their survival depends on well-orchestrated care delivered by the transplant team. There have been many historic transplant stories at University of Colorado

Hospital and by the physicians and researchers of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. Among them:

  • First-ever liver transplant in the world. (1963)
  • First successful double lung transplant on a cystic fibrosis patient in Colorado.
  • Colorado’s first solitary pancreas transplant to eliminate diabetes in a patient.
  • First in utero stem cell transplant to save a fetus with a rare blood disorder.
  • Opened a liver cell bank – one of the first in the country – to further research into new liver transplant procedures.
  • First living-related liver transplant in Colorado.
  • First living-related liver transplant on an adult with fulminant liver failure.
  • Region’s first liver transplant from a non-related donor.
  • One of the first in the nation to perform living-donor transplant surgery.

It’s about top-of-their-game medical professionals, superior medicine, a highly-skilled, interdisciplinary team, and progressive, innovative change. 

Navy Seals

And then there are the Navy Seals. Well, they are the Navy Seals, probably the most famous of all great teams.

Navy SEALs are a unique breed of warrior who conduct special operations in any environment, but who are uniquely trained and equipped to operate from, around and in maritime areas. SEALs take their name from the environments in which they are trained to operate: sea, air and land. Their small highly trained teams usually work quietly at night conducting some of the nation’s most important missions. SEALs are constantly deployed throughout the world to protect national interests. 

Think Seal Team Six, sometimes referred to as the Special Mission Unit. ST6 is a multi-functional special operations unit with several roles that include high-risk specialized missions. Required entrance skills include combat experience; language skills; and the ability to blend in as civilians during an operation. Members of ST6 are selected in part because of the diversity of skills of each team member. The ST6 training schedule is without comparison in its intensity. Though highly classified, they are renowned for their barely credible, almost fiction-like accomplishments. 

Technology Innovation Teams

At the top of nearly everyone’s list when it comes to innovation, – Apple, Inc. Their products are at the top of nearly everyone’s gift list. For them it’s about innovation, creating things we don’t even know we want or need. From 

ED BAIG OF USA TODAY DECLARES IPAD AIR THE BEST YET AND “BETTER THAN ITS ALREADY BEST OF BREED PREDECESSORS, SUPERIOR STILL TO EACH AND EVERY RIVAL BIG SCREEN SLATE THAT I’VE TESTED. APPLE DOMINATES THE TABLET APPS ECOSYSTEM. ITS TABLET REMAINS THE EASIEST TO USE.”

DAMON DARLIN AT THE NEW YORK TIMES WRITES, “COMPARED WITH THE OTHER TABLETS ON THE MARKET, APPLE STILL HOLDS THE EDGE.” HE HIGHLIGHTS MANY OF IPAD AIR’S KEY FEATURES INCLUDING SIZE, BATTERY LIFE, PROCESSING POWER, STORAGE, AND WI-FI WITH MIMO.

ON HIS BLOG, DAVID POGUE IS IMPRESSED WITH THE BATTERY LIFE, SPEED, AND DESIGN OF IPAD AIR, STATING, “SOMEHOW, APPLE WAS ABLE TO PUT THE IPAD ON SUCH A RADICAL DIET WITHOUT SACRIFICING ANY OF ITS FEATURES.” READ MORE: APPLE.COM/IPAD-AIR

We could go on and on. There are great teams in every walk of life. So, our challenge is to find out what makes some teams good and others great.

What do all great teams have in common?

Let’s examine what all of the great teams have in common. To a fault, they all include these elements:

  • Small but mighty – if the team is too big, members lose their sense of camaraderie and purpose.
  • Core full-time, co-located leaders – they follow the shared-leadership model, each taking the lead when their knowledge, skills and expertise are needed.
  • Highly trained and highly practiced – practice, practice, practice!
  • Diverse, multi-skilled – a high performing team needs a variety of skills, capabilities, talents, cleverness, and the dexterity to understand all of the perspectives of complex situations.
  • Experienced – there is simply no substitute for experience
  • Personally accountable – each member holds himself personally responsible and accountable for the success of the mission.
  • Expertly coached – behind all great teams is an inspiring, loyal, coach who removes all barrier’s to the team’s success.
  • Holistic, systems thinkers – great teams see the whole picture and understand how complex teams need to adapt as the environment changes or more is learned.

In addition, great teams understand strategic criticality of the effort, the mission, and the value of their work products. They all have a common set of values and guiding principles. They are passionate about the mission, the work, the results. They keep score and constantly improve their methods, approaches, quality, training, communications, and therefore, results.

What’s the big deal about teams?

So how do you take your team of BAs from a good team to a great team?

It’s about Capabilities

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First and foremost, it’s about capability. We once again present the capability model below to demonstrate that as project complexity increases, the capability level of the project leadership team must also increase. The model describes how capabilities evolve from technical prowess to leadership, strategy and innovation fortes.

It’s About Understanding Complexity

And it’s about using complexity thinking to make decisions about building, leading and sustaining high-performing teams. Again, as project become more complex, more sophisticated leadership abilities are required. Studies show that companies can’t find the employees they need – critical thinkers with the ability to:

  • Adapt, invent, re-invent,
  • Collaborate, create, innovate, and
  • Leverage complexity to bring about innovation.

Traditional project jobs are changing:

  • Typical tasks are being automated and commoditized.
  • The critical Business Analysis focus is now on strategy, innovation, value to the customer and wealth to the bottom line vs. requirements management.
  • The critical Project Manager focus is now on complexity management vs. project management.

So, use complexity thinking when making critical project leadership assignments, as depicted in the diagram below.

Use Complexity Thinking to Make Project Leadership Assignments.

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It’s About Filling the Gaps in Capabilities

The graph below demonstrates the typical gap in capabilities when dealing with complexity. We re-introduce the diagram below to depict 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.

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 capability 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 (BSS in lower right). The diamonds are color coded to represent the degree of challenge the BAs predicted will be evident at the end of the projects.

Assuming that these research findings are relevant to your current BA team, it is imperative that you take action to close the gap in your BA team capabilities. If you are unable to do so, it is likely that two thirds of your current highly-complex projects will fail or be challenged for meeting BSS (CHAOS Report 2011, The Standish Group).

It’s About Filling the Gap between Project Complexity and our Capabilities

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Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

For BAs, continually learn about great teams and effective team leadership. Strive collaborate with the other project leaders (the PM, the architect, the lead developer, the business visionary) to take your current project team from a good, capable group to a great, high-performing team.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

For both the BA and the BA Practice Lead, reference Chapter 5: Fostering Team Creativity – the Business Analyst’s Sweet Spot of the book entitled The Enterprise Business Analyst by this author. If you do not have the book on your shelf, you can access it through the IIBA e-library if you are an IIBA member. It provides a more in-depth discussion of building and sustaining high-performing teams. Topics include:

  • Effective Teams
  • The Power of Teams
  • Team Development Through Stages
  • Team Leadership Styles Through Stages
  • Best Team Practices for the Business Analyst
  • Creativity – A Right Brain Pursuit
  • Everyone is Creative
  • Getting There – From ad hoc Group to Working Group to Creative Team
  • The Business Analyst as Innovator
  • Becoming a Creative Force
  • The Innovation Imperative
  • Innovation is a Team 
  • Putting it All Together: What Does This Mean to the Business Analyst

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The BA Practice Lead Handbook 12 – Communicating Strategically: It’s like Stakeholder Management on Steroids

Use strategic communications as your most effective tool to ensure you realize the full value of your BA Practice, and your organization knows it. Since project sponsors seldom measure accurately and then communicate the value derived from project and program solutions, the BA Practice Lead ensures these data are captured and shouted far and wide. An effective BA Practice focuses primarily on business value, the true measure of project management and business analysis effectiveness.

Strategic Communication

For the BA Practice Lead to be taken seriously and looked upon as a credible leader of change, she must engage in strategic communications. This involves:

  • Thinking strategically, holistically, systematically
  • Crafting powerful messages that are impactful and memorable
  • Influencing positive decision making through intentional and targeted strategic communicationkitty Oct21

Strategic Thinking

To elevate your messages to make sure they are heard, begin to think differently about projects:

  • Projects are essential to the growth and survival of organizations
  • Through projects we innovate and adapt to changes in the environment, the competition, and even the marketplace
  • Projects and project teams are our most effective tools used to execute strategy and therefore, to create value
  • Holistic, systems thinking transforms our vision of project teams from tactical implementers to strategic executers of change
  • Instill in your BA team the power of strategic thinking

It is critical for the BA Practice Lead to think and communicate holistically. In the context of business, holistic thinking takes into account the purpose, values, function, process, and structure of the organization. Holistic thinking forms the basis for everything BA Practice Leads do:

  • Examining a complex system
  • Developing the business design structure, the business model
  • Problem solving
  • Forming and executing strategy
  • Communicating strategically

Holistic/systems thinking is the process of understanding how systems influence one another within a whole. In nature it applies to how ecosystems such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. In the context of business solutions, it is the study of elements and their relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, data, processes, and technology that work together to make an organization functional or dysfunctional. The only way to determine why a problem or opportunity exists is to examine all elements within the system.

While analytical thinking involves understanding a system by thinking about its parts and how they work together to produce larger-scale effects, holistic thinking involves understanding a system by sensing its large-scale patterns and reacting to them. BAs need to understand the difference between the two types of thinking, and when to employ each.

  • Holistic, systems thinkers get a general feeling about a situation to open their minds to subtle nuances of complex situations. They are often parallel processors, examining widespread simultaneous activity instead of a controlled, step by step process. They are often creative and intuitive, therefore focusing on the big picture and innovation.
  • Whereas analytical thinkers understand how the components of the system function and work together. They usually possess good memories and pay close attention to the inner details of a situation.

The BA Practice Lead understands that her BA team is leading projects that are making changes to a set of parts connected by a web of relationships. Through these projects, her team is instrumental in executing strategy through multiple, interrelated projects. This is the story that needs to be told through strategic communications coming from BAs, and especially from the BA Practice Lead, for they are constantly participating in:

  • Strategy Formation through enterprise analysis, competitive analysis and creative, intuitive thinking
  • Strategy Decomposition to goals and objectives captured in the business case
  • Strategy Execution through programs and projects
  • Strategy Correction/Refinement as more is learned and the environment changes
  • Strategy Measurement of progress along the journey
  • Strategy Communication to describe the progress and demonstrate business benefits realized through projects.

Assess the Political Landscape

The first step in crafting your strategic communication plan is to assess the political landscape. Your organization is dynamic, adapting to changes all around. So, this assessment must be done often.
Understanding organizational politics facilitates strategic thinking. Make no mistake, organizational politics influence the success of your BA Practice and of the projects your BAs are leading. Organizational politics is comprised of the internal structures of your organization and how it deals with power and influence. Politics is neither good nor bad, it just is. Things happen when politics works:

  • Decisions are made
  • Projects move forward
  • Deals are cut
  • Goals are met

How can that be bad?

Positive politics gets positive results for the team, for the organization, and ultimately for you as BA Practice Lead. As a positive politician use your influence rather than authority or manipulation to achieve goals. Ensure you are operating from a positive position, a solid basis from which to influence, which includes:

  • Status – your role as BA Practice Lead needs to be positioned high enough in your organization to command respect.
  • Trust – your colleagues, whether on a peer level, above or below you on the organization chart must trust you. Trust is earned slowly through positive interactions.
  • Integrity – never sacrifice your integrity. Never.
  • Consistency – maintain a ‘steady as she goes’ posture. Carefully craft your communications so that they tell a story and are consistently positive and strategic oriented.
  • Knowledge – become a quick study. Know what you are talking about, and know when to dive into the details and when to stay at the executive level. Know your audience, and what type of communication is appropriate to them.

To assess the political landscape, gather business intelligence about your customers, stakeholders, the environment, your status, the status of your BA team, and any landmines and risks. This is sort of like a stakeholder management approach on steroids.

Customer and Stakeholder Intelligence

Identify your customers and stakeholders that:

  • Provide budget to your project
  • Provide oversight
  • Provide requirements
  • Provide input
  • Get output
  • Depend on your deliverables
  • Benefit from your project’s success
  • Suffer from its success

Determine the level on involvement and importance. For each key customer/stakeholder, capture elements of business intelligence information:

  • Role
  • Awareness
  • Opinion
  • Importance
  • Current level of support
  • Level of support needed

Capture the information in a simple tabular format similar to the one below. Note: customize this and the other templates presented in the section to meet the unique needs of your organization.

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Legend:

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Influence Strategies

Then, identify the issues and concerns regarding the BA Practice that are important to each stakeholder. Ask: What’s in it for them? What do they need to view the BA Practice positively and actively support it? What actions will you take? Develop an influence strategy for each key stakeholder

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The Political Environment

Work with your BA Practice Steering Committee to determine:

  • Is the business case for your BA Practice solid? Can we demonstrate measurable results?
  • Is the BA Practice politically sensitive?
  • Are there major political implications?
  • Is there impact to the core mission?
  • Do you have a strong executive sponsor?
  • What are the unspoken expectations?
  • What is the decision-making process?
  • What are the cultural norms?
  • Is the communication and coordination effort challenging?

Capture the information in a simple tabular template.

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Your Political Management Capabilities

Armed with this information about the political and cultural environment, work with your BA Practice Steering Committee to assess the political capabilities of your leadership, including how well you do the following:

  • Enlisting the help of an executive sponsor
  • Organizing and chairing your BA Practice steering committee
  • Making yourself and your BAs experts about the business
  • Promoting yourselves and your BA Practice
  • Managing BA Practice benefits (ROI)
  • Managing virtual alliances
  • Facilitating, negotiating, and building consensus
  • Managing conflict
  • Developing a political management strategy for your BA Practice

Capture the information in a simple tabular template.

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The Landmines and Risks

Using the information you have collected, assess the political risks to the sustainability of the BA Practice. Determine strategies to lessen the impact of the risks that may negatively influence the BA Practice, and leverage those that are positive. Work with your steering committee to devise strategies to:

  • Gain high-level support
  • Build alliances and coalitions
  • Control critical resources (money, people, information, expertise)
  • Control the decision process
  • Control the steering committee process

Capture your political management strategies in a simple table similar to the one below.
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Political Management Plan

For each strategy, identify what success looks like. Focus on outcomes, how you will evaluate the effectiveness of the plan. Continually refine your strategy. Capture your success strategies in a simple tabular template.
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Craft Strategic Messages

Armed with the “business intelligence” you have captured, and your political management plan, you are now ready to begin to craft customized messages to your key stakeholders and customers.

Really Getting Heard

When presenting information to overworked executives, managers, employees, and distracted customers, you only have a few short minutes to get your message across. You need to become expert in: constructing memorable messages, customizing your message for the audience, really getting your message heard, and getting the decisions you want quickly so that forward progress is not stalled.

The Message

Compose a customized message for each key stakeholder. First, determine the purpose of the message. Is it simply to create awareness about your BA Practice objectives? Is it to enlist support for your BA Practice? Is it to dispel negative feelings about your BA Practice? Is it to make a decision about your BA Practice approach? Is it to gain support to resolve an issue?
Once the core purpose of the communication is understood, draft the message, composing it from the stakeholder’s perspective. Be sure to determine “What’s in it for them?” and tailor the message accordingly.

The Catch Phrase

“A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.”
Mark Twain

Catch phrases adroitly capture the heart of your message. In the media world, catch phrases are referred to as sound bites, a very short piece of the message. It is a short phrase or sentence that deftly captures the essence of what you are trying to say. The goal is for the catch phrase to stand out in the audience’s memory; to be memorable; to clearly and cleverly make the point; to capture the heart of the message in a snippet. Examples of catch phrases include: “I have a Dream” “The Buck Stops Here” and “Joe the Plumber”.

The Slogan

A slogan is an effective technique that is used in advertising. It is also designed to make the message memorable. A slogan is a short phrase used as a rallying cry. It is intended to be motivational – to be a call to action. Examples of slogans include: “Don’t Leave Home Without It” “Yes We Can” “Just Do It” and “We’re the Dot in .com”.

The Pitch

You are now ready to develop your pitch, your “elevator speech” that takes no longer to deliver than thirty seconds and is about 100-150 words in length. Use a compelling “hook” that motivates people to further engage by including catch phrases and slogans. Capture your pitch in a simple tabular template.

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Steer Your Steering Committee

Many BA Practice implementations are challenged – or even fail – because the project leadership team does not perform the critical analysis that is needed to determine the best path forward, at the start of the project and all along the way as more is learned and issues arise. The BA Practice Lead does not take the time to stop, analyze all possible solutions to business problems, or assess varying approaches before marching ahead. Once we are clear about the business problem or opportunity the BA Practice is going to solve, should we resource the practice in house? Do we have the appropriately skilled and talented BAs? Are they available? Do we need outside expertise? How fast do we need the practice to be fully functional? What are our competitors doing? The list goes on and on.

Getting the Decision You Want

When proposing a new initiative, escalating issues, proposing a course correction, securing the best resources for your practice, advocating to accept scope changes that add business value, you are essentially in a sales role, seeking approval from upper management. There are many pitfalls: management is impatient; we must not only be brief, we must also demonstrate the wisdom of the recommendation we are making. To do so, the wise BA Practice Lead works with an expert team to identify all potential options – fostering creativity and “out of the building” thinking. Then, you are ready to ask for a decision for your recommended option.

So, how can you make sure you get the decision you want? You need to facilitate BA team, augmenting it with additional SMEs who are influential, to analyze the issue, identify all potential options, and propose the most feasible solution. Use the results of your alternative analysis as decision-support information when presenting your recommended approach. Include the names of those who participated in the analysis, all the options considered, and the feasibility of each option: the economic feasibility, the time-to-market feasibility, the cultural feasibility, the technical feasibility, the success feasibility, the business process feasibility, the feasibility of achieving an innovative solution. After this analysis is complete, it is usually very clear which option is the most feasible. Capture your feasibility analysis in a simple Alternative Analysis Worksheet, and use it as decision support information when meeting with your BA Practice sponsor and steering committee.



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Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

Don’t let the political environment steer your project in the wrong direction. Establish Political Management and Strategic Communication Plans to negotiate environmental land mines, manage stakeholders’ influence, develop your political skills, respond to political risks, and seek approval for recommendations that are supported by rigorous alternative and feasibility analysis. Your team will respect you, and your management team will notice your logical and disciplined approach.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

Model the process to create and execute Political Management and Strategic Communication Plans for your BA Practice implementation and sustainability approach. Require your BAs to employ some or all of these techniques as they negotiated the political landscape.

To communicate effectively, the BA Practice Lead prepares unique communication strategies for the major stakeholders of the 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 (refer back to article 2 for ideas).

  • 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 for the next time.

Some content is 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

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BA Practice Lead Handbook 10 – Business Analyst Practice Sustainability: Change the Way we do Projects

The remaining articles in this series will be about sustainability: building a BA practice to last. In this piece, we present the BA Practice Lead’s role as critical to changing the way we do projects to focus on business benefits, customer value, creativity, and innovation.

Changing the Way We Do Projects

An organization’s culture is durable because it is “the way we do things around here.” Changing the way it selects projects, develops and manages requirements, and manages projects, while focusing not only on business value but also on innovation, is likely a significant shift for an organization. Even today, many organizational cultures still promote the practice of piling project requests, accompanied by sparse requirements, onto the IT and new-product development groups and then wondering why they cannot seem to deliver.

Creating and Sustaining the New Vision of Project Work

A common vision is essential for an organization to bring about significant change. A clear vision helps to direct, align, and inspire people’s actions.

Whether implementing professional business analysis practices, a new innovative product, or a major new business solution, the business analyst needs to articulate a clear vision and involve the stakeholders in the initiative as early as possible. Executives and middle managers are essential allies in bringing about change of any magnitude. They all must deliver a consistent message about the need for the change. Select the most credible and influential members of your organization, seek their advice and counsel, and have them become the voice of change. The greater the number of influential managers, executives, and technical/business experts articulating the same vision, the better chance you have of being successful.

Implementing Cultural Change

Rita Hadden, specialist in software best practices, process improvement, and corporate culture change, offers some insight into the enormity of the effort to truly change the way we do projects. To achieve culture change, Hadden suggests organizations must have a management plan to deal with the technical complexity of the change and a leadership plan to address the human aspects of the change. According to Hadden, successful culture change requires a mix the following elements:

  • A compelling vision and call to action
  • Credible knowledge and skills to guide the change
  • A reward system aligned with the change
  • Adequate resources to implement the change
  • A detailed plan and schedule.

Make sure you understand the concerns and motivations of the people you hope to influence. Clearly define the desired outcomes for the change and how to measure progress, assess the organization’s readiness for change, and develop plans to minimize the barriers to success. The goal of your BA Practice is to create a critical mass, a situation in which enough people in the organization integrate professional business analysis practices into their projects and maintain them as a standard. To become leaders in their organizations, your business analysts need to learn all about change management—becoming skilled change experts. 

Fostering Creative Leadership

I must follow the people, am I not their leader?
—Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, parliamentarian, statesman and literary figure

Creativity has always been important in the world of business, but until now it hasn’t been at the top of the management agenda. Perhaps this is because creativity was considered too vague, too hard to pin down. It is even more likely that creativity has not been the focus of management attention because concentrating on it produced a less immediate dividend than improving execution. Although there are similarities in the roles of manager, leader, and creative leader, there are subtle differences as well. The table below shows the distinctions between these roles. 

Objective Manager Leader Creative Leader
Define what must be done

Planning and budgeting:

  • Short time frame
  • Detail oriented
  • Eliminate risk

Establishing direction:

  • Long time frame
  • Big picture
  • Calculated risk

Establishing breakthrough goals and objectives:

  • Envisioning the future direction
  • Aligning with and forging new strategy
Create networks of people and relationships

Organizing and staffing:

  • Specialization
  • Getting the right people
  • Compliance

Aligning people:

  • Integration
  • Aligning the organization
  • Gaining commitment

Aligning teams and stakeholders to the future vision:

  • Innovation
  • Integration
  • Expectations
  • Political mastery
  • Gaining commitment;
Ensure the job gets done Controlling and problem-solving:

  • Containment
  • Control
  • Predictability

Motivating and inspiring:

  • Empowerment
  • Expansion
  • Energizing

Building creative teams:

  • High performance
  • Trust development
  • Empowerment
  • Courageous disruption
  • Innovation

Comparison of Managers, Leaders, and Creative Leaders

Sustaining a Culture of Creativity

Good, and sometimes great, ideas often come from operational levels of organizations when workers are given a large degree of autonomy. To stay competitive in the 21st century, CEOs are attempting to distribute creative responsibility up, down, and across the organization. Success is unsustainable if it depends too much on the ingenuity of a single person or a few people, as is too often seen in start-ups that flourish for a few years and then fall flat; they were not built to last, to continually innovate. Success is no longer about continuous improvement; it is about continuous innovation. Because creativity is, in part, the ability to produce something novel, we have long acknowledged that creativity is essential to the entrepreneurship that starts new businesses. But what sustains the best companies as they try to achieve a global reach? We are now beginning to realize that in the 21st century, sustainability is about creativity, transformation, and innovation.

Although academia has focused on creativity for years (we have decades of research to draw on), the shift to a more innovation-driven economy has been sudden, as evidenced by the fact that CEOs lament the absence of creative leaders. As competitive positioning turns into a contest of who can generate the best and greatest number of innovations, creativity scholars are being asked pointed questions about their research. What guidance is available for leaders in creativity-dependent businesses? How do we creatively manage the complexities of this new global environment? How do we find creative leaders, and how do we nurture and manage them? The conclusion of participants in the Harvard Business School colloquium Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations of the Future was that “one doesn’t manage creativity; one manages for creativity.” Management’s role is to get the creative people, position them at the right time and place, remove all barriers imposed upon them by the organization, and then get out of their way.
Putting it all Together

So what does this mean for the Business Analyst?

Understand Creativity as an Art and a Discipline. BAs would be prudent to take into account the views of John Kao, author of Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity. According to Kao, drawing up a “Creativity Bill of Rights” can help you and your team members feel as if they are truly responsible for their own decisions. The Creativity Bill of Rights proclaims the following beliefs:

  • Everyone has the ability to be creative.
  • All ideas deserve an impartial hearing.
  • Similar to quality, creativity is part of every job description.
  • Shutting down dialogue prematurely and excessive judgment are fundamental transgressions.
  • Creativity is about finding balance between art and discipline.
  • Creativity involves openness to an extensive variety of inputs.
  • Experiments are always encouraged.
  • Dignified failure is respectable, poor implementation or bad choices are not.
  • Creativity involves mastery of change.
  • Creativity involves a balance of intuition and facts.
  • Creativity can and should be managed. The business analyst instinctively knows when to bring the dialogue to a close.
  • Creative work is not an excuse for chaos, disarray, or sloppiness in execution.

So what does this mean for the BA Practice Lead?

Mature organizations devote a significant amount of time and energy to conducting due diligence and encouraging experimentation and creativity before rushing to construction. The due diligence activities include enterprise analysis, competitive analysis, problem analysis, and creative solution alternative analysis, all performed before selecting and prioritizing projects.

This new approach involves a significant cultural shift for most organizations—spending more time up front to make certain the solution is creative, innovative, and even disruptive. If you are a BA Practice Lead, insist on these up front activities before a Business Case is created and used to propose a new initiative. If your BAs are on projects 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 create/recreate the business cases for their projects.

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

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References

  • Rita Chao Hadden, Leading Culture Change in Your Software Organization: Delivering Results Early (Vienna, VA: Management Concepts, 2003), Page 133-226.
  • Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, “The Creativity Crisis,” Newsweek (July 19, 2010): 44–50,  (accessed April 2011).
  • Teresa M. Amabile and Mukti Khaire, “Creativity and the Role of the Leader,” Harvard Business Review (October 2008),(accessed July 2010).
  • John Kao, Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity (New York: Harper Collins, 1996Page 75-93.


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