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Author: Kathleen B. Hass, PMP

From Tactical Requirements Manager to Creative Leader of Innovative Change

The Adaptive Business Analyst – As Complexity Increases, the BA Adapts

The world, she is a’changin’.  The Internet has made everyone on the globe hyper-connected and has transformed virtually all industries: publishing, broadcasting, communications, and manufacturing.  Did you know that just a few short years ago:


Didn’t exist


Was a sound


Was a prison

A Cloud

Was in the sky

An Application

Was something you used to get into college


Was a parking space


Was a typo[1]

Fast forward to now.  Traditional work has been commoditized.  Anyone with an idea and a little moxie can use their laptop to set in motion a virtual new entity.  You can go to:


For product design

Alibaba in China

For low-cost manufacturing

For delivery and fulfillment

Craigs List

To do your accounting

To do your logo[2]

If this isn’t bad enough, the heart and soul of middle class jobs are disappearing in the U.S.  Consider this: When Apple began manufacturing the iPhone, the company estimated that it would take nine months to find 8,700 qualified industrial engineers in the U.S. to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones.  In China, it took 15 days.[3]  Result: we lost 200,000 iPhone manufacturing jobs.

Many believe that these and many other traditional jobs are not coming back to the U.S.  So, what are the jobs of the future?  We probably don’t even know what to call them, but they will definitely require creativity, innovation, invention, and lots of complexity.  Even today, many companies in Silicon Valley do quarterly reviews of their key project leaders because they can’t wait to find out they have a poor BA or PM.  Many U.S. companies report they can’t find the employees they need.  American businesses also report that U.S. workers that are available are too expensive and too poorly educated as compared to workers in India, China, South Korea and many other countries.

What does all this Mean to the Business Analyst?

Employers are looking for critical thinking and an ability to adapt, invent, and reinvent; collaborate, create, and innovate; and an ability to leverage complexity to compete. Standout companies are using projects as the hotbed of creativity – so that means BAs and PMs have to step up their game.  According to the 2011 CHAOS Report from The Standish Group, only 37% of projects delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions. 

  • The Cause: Gaps in enterprise business analysis and complexity management 
  • The Cost: USD 1.22 trillion/year in the US and USD 500 billion/month worldwide in IT  project waste 
  • The Opportunity Cost: “If we could solve the problem of IT failure, the US could increase GDP by USD 1 trillion/yr.”  according to Roger Sessions, a recognized expert in enterprise architecture and author of Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises.

We need to fundamentally change the way we do projects so that 80% of projects are on time, budget and scope (see Figure 1).  But we also need to focus on innovative solutions, not incremental changes to business as usual.  And we need to bring about value to the customer and wealth to the organization – otherwise, why are we investing in the project?  This is where the BA comes in – constantly focusing on value and leveraging complexity to foster creativity.


  Figure 1: New Project Approach

Does the business analyst role change, either significantly or subtly, with highly complex projects? If so, how?  Our framework for dealing with complex projects consists of four distinct activities (see Figure 2):

  1. Diagnose Project Complexity
  2. Assign Competent Leaders
  3. Select the appropriate project management approach
  4. Manage complexity dimensions

This article in the series will examine steps 1 – 3.



Figure 2: Project Complexity Framework

 Step #1: Diagnose Project Complexity

The first step in understanding the level of complexity of your project is to assess each complexity dimension.  Use the Project Complexity Model depicted in Figure 3. Facilitate your project team leads to agreement on which cells most closely describe your project for each complexity dimension.  Then apply the project complexity formula to determine the complexity profile of your project.  In my experience, the actual complexity of projects exceeds the team’s initial assessment prior to applying the model.


Complexity Dimensions

Project Profile

Independent Project

Moderately Complex Project

Highly Complex Project

Highly Complex Program “Megaproject”


Size: 3–4 team members
Time: < 3 months
Cost: < $250K

Size: 5–10 team members
Time: 3–6 months
Cost: $250–$1M

Size: > 10 team members
Time: 6 – 12 months
Cost: > $1M

Size: Multiple diverse teams
Time: Multi-year
Cost: Multiple Millions

Team Composition and Past Performance

PM: competent, experienced
Team: internal; worked together in past
Methodology: defined, proven

PM: competent, inexperienced
Team: internal and external, worked together in past
Methodology: defined, unproven
Contracts:  straightforwar
Contractor Past Performance: good

PM: competent; poor/no experience with complex projects  Team: internal and external, have not worked together in past
Methodology: somewhat defined, diverse
Contracts: complex
Contractor Past Performance: unknown

PM: competent, poor/no experience with megaprojects
Team: complex structure of varying competencies and performance records  (e.g., contractor, virtual, culturally diverse, outsourced teams)Methodology: undefined, diverse Contracts: highly complex 
Contractor Past Performance: poor

Urgency and Flexibility of Cost, Time, and Scope

Scope: minimized    Milestones: small
Schedule/Budget: flexible

Scope: achievable 
Milestones: achievable
Schedule/Budget: minor variations

Scope: over-ambitious Milestones: over-ambitious, firm 
Schedule/Budget: inflexible

Scope: aggressive
Milestones: aggressive, urgent
Shedule/Budget: aggressive

Clarity of Problem, Opportunity, Solution

Objectives: defined and clear     Opportunity/Solution: easily understood

·Objectives: defined, unclear
Opportunity/Solution: partially understood

Objectives: defined, ambiguous
Opportunity/Solution: ambiguous

Objectives: undefined, uncertain    Opportunity/Solution: undefined, groundbreaking, unprecedented

Requirements Volatility and Risk

Customer Support: strong 
Requirements: understood, straightforward, stable
Functionality: straightforward

Customer Support: adequate  Requirements: understood, unstable
Functionality: moderately complex

Customer Support: unknown
Requirements: poorly understood, volatile
Functionality: highly complex

Customer Support: inadequate
Requirements: uncertain, evolving
Functionality: many complex “functions of functions” 

Strategic Importance, Political Implications, Stakeholders

Executive Support: strong
Political Implications: none
Communications: straightforward
Stakeholder Management: straightforward

Executive Support: adequate
Political Implications: minor
Communications: challenging
Stakeholder Management: 2–3 stakeholder groups

Executive Support: inadequate 
Political Implications: major, impacts core mission 
Communications: complex
Stakeholder Management: multiple stakeholder groups with conflicting expectations;  visible at high levels of the organization

Executive Support: unknown
Political Implications: impacts core mission of multiple programs, organizations, states, countries; success critical for competitive or physical survival
Communications: arduous
Stakeholder Management: multiple organizations, states, countries, regulatory groups; visible at high internal and external levels

Level of Change

Organizational Change: impacts a single business unit, one familiar business process, and one IT system
Commercial Change: no changes to existing commercial practices

Organizational Change: impacts 2–3 familiar business units, processes, and IT systems
Commercial Change: enhancements to existing commercial practices

Organizational Change: impacts the enterprise, spans functional groups or agencies; shifts or transforms many business processes and IT systems
Commercial Change: new commercial and cultural practices

Organizational Change: impacts multiple organizations, states, countries; transformative new venture
Commercial Change: ground-breaking commercial and cultural practices

Risks, Dependencies, and External Constraints

Risk Level: low 
External Constraints: no external influences 
Integration: no integration issues    Potential Damages: no punitive exposure

Risk Level: moderate
External Constraints: some external factors
Integration: challenging integration effort 
Potential Damages: acceptable exposure

Risk Level: high

External Constraints: key objectives depend on external factors
Integration: significant integration required
Potential Damages: significant exposure

Risk Level: very high
External Constraints: project success depends largely on multiple external organizations, states, countries, regulators
Integration: unprecedented integration effort
Potential Damages: unacceptable exposure

Level of IT Complexity

Technology: technology is proven and well-understood
IT Complexity: application development and legacy integration easily understood

Technology: technology is proven but new to the organization
IT Complexity: application development and legacy integration  largely understood

Technology: technology is likely to be immature, unproven, complex,  and provided by outside vendors
IT Complexity: application development and legacy integration poorly understood

Technology: technology requires groundbreaking innovation and unprecedented engineering accomplishments
IT Complexity: multiple “systems of systems” to be developed and integrated

Figure 3: Project Complexity Model 2.0

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.


Then apply the formula below, Figure 4 to diagnose the complexity level of your project.


Highly Complex Program


Highly Complex Project

Moderately Complex


Size: Multiple diverse teams, Time: Multi-year, Cost: Multiple Millions


2 or more in the Highly Complex Program/Megaproject column

Organizational Change: impacts the enterprise, spans functional groups or agencies, shifts or transforms many business processes and IT systems


3 or more categories in the Highly Complex Project column


No more than 1 category in the Highly Complex Program/Megaproject column

3 or more categories in the Moderately Complex Project column


No more than 2 categories in the Highly Complex Project column and

No more than 2 categories in the Moderately Complex Project column


No categories in the Highly Complex Project or the  Highly Complex Program/Megaproject  column

Figure 4: Project Complexity Formula

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Step #2: Assign Competent Project Leaders

Complex projects require seasoned leaders, and the use of a shared leadership model (see Figure 5).  The core project leadership team consists of the PM, BA, Chief Architect, Development Lead and a Business Visionary, each taking the lead when a particular expertise is needed.








Figure 5: Shared Leadership Model

Once the project complexity is known, it is imperative that appropriately skilled and experienced individuals are assigned to key leadership positions.  Obviously, BAs need more sophisticated skills as they move from low complexity projects, to enterprise, strategic and innovation projects. The first order of business is for the organization to understand their BA Workforce.  Check out the blog site: posting on March 5th entitled “Calling All BA Practice Leads!”  It discusses how BA Practice Leads ensure their organizations have an appropriately skilled BA workforce (see Figure 6) possessing the capabilities needed to successfully deliver complex new business solutions that meet 21st century business needs.

Figure 6: BA Workforce Capability Model

The BA Manager or Practice Lead then assigns BAs (and working with other managers, assigns other project leaders) based on the complexity profile of the project at hand (Figure 7).  If the project leads’ capabilities are lower than the complexity of the project requires, it is almost certain that you will have a challenged and/or failed project.

Figure 7: Make Appropriate Leadership Assignments

Step #3: Select the Project Approach

As projects have become more complex, project cycles have evolved. Project cycles models are not interchangeable; one size does not fit all. Project cycles can be categorized into three broad types:

  • Linear: used when the business problem, opportunity, and solution are clear, no major changes are expected, and the effort is considered to be routine. A linear cycle is typically used for maintenance, enhancement, and continuous process improvement projects. It is also used for development projects when requirements are well understood and stable, as in shrink-wrap software development projects.
  • Adaptive: used when the business problem, opportunity, and solution are unclear and the schedule is aggressive. An adaptive cycle is typically used for new technology development, new product development, or complex business transformation projects.
  • Extreme: used when the business objectives are unclear or the solution is undefined. An extreme cycle is typically used for research and development, new technology, and innovation projects.[4]

Figure 8 shows the differences between linear and more adaptive methods.

Linear Methods

Adaptive Methods

  • Industrial-age thinking
  • Plan based
  • Distinct life cycle phases
  • Tasks completed in orderly sequence
  • Assumes predictability
  • Lays out development steps
  • Stresses the importance of requirements
  • Only firm basic requirements that are not expected to change (aka high-level requirements) and a release plan up front
  • Many rapid planning and development cycles
  • Produces small batches of tailored products on a tight schedule
  • Evolution of requirements with each planning and development cycle
  • Constant evaluation of the evolving product
  • Constant evaluation of the value of functions in backlog

Figure 8: Linear vs. Adaptive Methods

As we move along the complexity continuum from independent, low complexity predictable projects to highly complex projects with lots of uncertainty, we also move along the spectrum of project cycle types. A linear approach works for a simple, straightforward project; whereas, adaptive, and extreme approaches are used to manage the uncertainties of increasingly complex efforts (see Figure 9).

Figure 9: Project Complexity Mapped to Project Cycle Approaches

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.


Low-Complexity Projects: Traditional Waterfall Methods

The traditional role of the business analyst does not need to change much to successfully execute activities on low-complexity projects. The linear Waterfall Model is appropriate (see Figure 10). However, to optimize the business analyst role, it is wise to adopt some of the principles of agile and iterative development for even low-complexity endeavors:

  • Prototype for requirements understanding, to reduce risk, and to prove a concept
  • Involve the business and keep the business analyst as a member of the core project leadership team throughout the project
  • Continuously validate, evolve, and improve requirements throughout the project.

Figure 10: The Waterfall Model

Moderately Complex Projects: Agile Methods

There’s no question about it: agile methods expedite the product development process, especially for products that are software intensive. Agile is an adaptive, streamlined model, based on having only essential people work in tight-knit teams for quick and efficient results (see Figure 11). As we’ve seen, one very important member of the team is the business analyst; if companies hope to achieve strategic goals, they need someone who is focused on the business value expected from the project outcomes. The business analyst provides guidance before funds are invested, during a project, and after the solution is delivered. She continually focuses on the evolving business requirements and serves as the steward of the business benefits.[5]         

Figure 11: The Agile Model

Through leadership and collaboration, the project manager and business analyst guide the agile team, ensuring that it is both efficiently and effectively run and that it adds significant long-term benefits for the company with each iteration. The business analyst plays close attention to the original business case, recommending the project be terminated when the ROI has been realized.


Firm Basic Requirements

A business analyst’s main priority when she is first attached to a specific project is to elicit firm, basic business requirements (what we used to call high-level requirements, which outline the breadth of requirements and which we do not expect to change), to collaboratively determine the most feasible solution, and then to categorize releases into valuable features and functions. Then each release is initially described in enough detail to determine its cost versus its benefits, thus developing an ROI for each release.

Knowing what it will take to deliver each individual component of the solution as well as what the return will be to the organization, the development team can then build components or features based on business value, delivering the highest-value features first. As the project moves through the release schedule, the business analyst elaborates the requirements in enough detail to meet the development team’s needs for each release.


An Eye on the Business Value

As an agile project progresses through its life cycle, the team continually learns new information. It becomes clearer how many resources will be needed to perform detailed design, construction, and tests for each release, how much risk there is to the project, and how the risk needs to be managed. Accordingly, it is important to go back and check original assumptions about business value and costs to develop and operate the new solution to see if they are still true, or if the original business case has been compromised.


Validation after Every Release

By being involved during the development process, business analysts can validate that new components are actually meeting business needs and that the business case is still sound. They also take information to other groups outside of the agile team to further corroborate that the inevitable changes have the support of other stakeholders.


Organizational Transition Requirements

The operational environment needs to be analyzed and assessed before the solution components are implemented. Perhaps there will be a need for reorganization, retooling, retraining, or acquisition of new staff. Working with management, the business analyst helps to ensure the organization is prepared for the impact of the changes and can support the release plan. That way, when the complete solution is delivered, it can be operated efficiently and effectively.


Lighter Requirements

Agile requirements are typically “lighter” than those developed for linear project models. Requirements are visually documented whenever possible. The wise business analyst uses modeling to manage complexity. Less formal user stories (a high-level description of solution behavior) may suffice, as opposed to use cases.


Advanced Skills

Advanced skill development is required for business analysts who are working on agile projects. They need to develop new or higher-level leadership skills, including expert facilitation, coaching, collaborative decision-making, and team development. The analyst also needs to have a good understanding of software architecture and be proficient in decoupling the breadth of the solution from the depth of the solution into feature-driven requirements.

Highly Complex Projects, Programs, and Megaprojects: Extreme Methods


Welcome a certain amount of complexity and churn because it creates a chemical reaction that jars creative thinking.

—Colleen Young, VP and distinguished analyst and IT adviser, Gartner, Inc.

Highly complex projects offer the greatest opportunities for creativity: complexity breeds creativity. But the business analyst must understand the nature of complexity to leverage complexity to foster innovation. Complexity is one of those words that is difficult to define. Some say complexity is the opposite of simplicity; others say complicated is the opposite of simple, while complex is the opposite of independent.

Since complex projects are by their very nature unpredictable, it is imperative that the project team keep its options open as long as possible, building those options into the project approach. This approach requires that considerable time be dedicated to researching and studying the business problem or opportunity; conducting competitive, technological, and benchmark studies; defining dependencies and interrelationships; and identifying potential options to meet the business need or solve the business problem. In addition, the team experiments with alternative solutions and analyzes the economic, technical, operational, cultural, and legal feasibility of each option until it becomes clear which solution option has the highest probability of success. When the opportunity is unclear and the solution is unknown, traditional linear approaches simply will not work.


Last-Responsible-Moment Design Decisions

On highly complex projects, it is important to separate design from construction. The key is to use expert resources and allow them to spend enough time experimenting before they make design decisions; the construction activities will thereby become much more predictable. Linear methods might then be appropriate during the construction phase of the project.

Models for adaptive project management are still emerging. We suggest two that are designed to provide iterative learning experiences, adapt and evolve as more is learned, allow analysis and experimentation to determine solution design viability, and delay decision-making as long as possible (that is, until the last responsible moment, the point at which further delays will put the project at risk): the adaptive evolutionary prototyping model and the eXtreme project management model. There are significant differences between the adaptive and eXtreme approaches (see Figure 12).

Adaptive Methods

eXtreme Methods

  • Many rapid planning and development cycles
  • Produce small batches of tailored products on a tight schedule
  • Constant evaluation of evolving product
  • Constant evaluation of the value of functions in backlog

·         Keep your options open

◦      Build options into the approach

·         Discover, experiment, create, innovate

◦      Analyze problem/opportunity

◦      Conduct competitive, technical, and benchmark studies

◦      Brainstorm to identify all possible solutions

◦      Analyze feasibility of each option

◦      Design and test multiple solutions


Figure 12: Adaptive vs. Extreme Methods


Evolutionary Prototyping Model

The keep-our-options-open approach often involves rapid prototyping—a fast build of a solution component to prove that an idea is feasible—which is typically used for high-risk components, requirements understanding, or proof of a concept.

Evolutionary prototyping is quite effective for multiple iterations of requirements elicitation, analysis, and solution design. Iteration is the best defense against uncertainty because with each iteration, the technical and business experts examine the prototype and glean more information and certainty about functions that are built into the next iteration.

The strength of prototyping is that customers work closely with the project team, providing feedback on each iteration (see Figure 13). If requirements are unclear and highly volatile, prototyping helps bring the business need into view.


Figure 13: Adaptive Evolutionary Prototype Model

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.


eXtreme Project Management Model

An extreme project is a complex, high-speed, self-correcting venture during which people interact in search of a desirable result under conditions of high uncertainty, high change, and high stress.

—Doug DeCarlo, author and lecturer,

Extreme Project Management

eXtreme project management is sometimes also called radical project management. Some equate it to scaled-up agile methods. The approach consists of a number of short, experimental iterations designed to determine project goals and identify the most viable solution. As in the agile model, eXtreme project management requires that the customer be involved every step of the way until the solution emerges—a practice that involves many iterations. Like the iterative Spiral Model, the eXtreme model terminates after the solution is found (or when the sponsor is unwilling to fund any more research); the project team then transitions to one of the other appropriate models. One variation of the eXtreme Model spends a considerable amount of time in discovery, then prototypes, then transitions to modular development (see Figure 14).

Figure 14: eXtreme Model

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Challenges will arise at every turn, because it can be difficult to:

  • Know how long to keep your options open
  • Build options into the approach without undue cost and time
  • Gather the right group of experts to discover, experiment, create, innovate, and:

◦      Analyze the problem/opportunity

◦      Conduct competitive, technical, and benchmark studies

◦      Brainstorm to identify all possible solutions

◦      Analyze the feasibility of each option

◦      Design and test multiple solutions.


Operating on the Edge of Chaos

Conventional business analysis practices that assume a stable and predictable environment encourage us to develop all the requirements up front, get them approved, and then fiercely control changes. As we have seen, conventional linear project cycles work well and should be used for predictable, repeatable projects; however, this approach has proven to be no match for chaotic 21st-century projects. Figure 15 compares the characteristics of projects on which conventional linear practices can be successfully used with the characteristics of projects that require a more adaptive model. A blend of the linear, adaptive, and eXtreme models is almost always the answer. The trick is to know when and how to apply which approach.

Conventional linear approaches work well for projects that…

Adaptive approaches work well for projects that…

Are structured, orderly, disciplined

Are spontaneous, disorganized

Rely heavily on plans

Evolve as more information is known

Are predictable, well defined, repeatable

Are surprising, ambiguous, unique, unstable, innovative, creative

Are built in an unwavering environment

Are built in a volatile and chaotic environment

Use proven technologies

Use unproven technologies

Have a realistic schedule

Have an aggressive schedule; there is an urgent need


Figure 15: Conventional vs. Adaptive Approaches

What exactly does it mean to operate on the edge of chaos?  Complex systems fluctuate between a static state of equilibrium and an adaptive state of chaos.  If a system remains static, it will eventually result in paralysis and death.  Whereas, if a complex system is in chaos, it is unable to function.  So, here is the genius of complexity: it breeds and nourishes creativity, as complex systems adapt to changes in the environment for survival.  Complexity scientists tell us that the most creative and productive state is at the edge of chaos.  (Refer to figure 16.)  Therefore, complex project teams must operate at the edge of chaos for a time in order to allow the creative process to flourish.  The business analyst assigned to a complex project must use adaptive business analysis methods to foster an environment where creativity is possible.  The next article in this series explores the business analyst as creative leader of complex projects who are living on the edge.

Figure 16: The Edge of Chaos: the Most Creative State

Putting It All Together: What Does This Mean to the Business Analyst?

A business analyst who is an asset to highly complex projects is comfortable with lots of uncertainty and ambiguity in the early stages of a project. She leads and directs plenty of sessions of brainstorming, alternative analysis, experimentation, prototyping, out-of-the-box thinking, and trial and error, and encourages the team to keep options open until they have identified an innovative solution that will allow the organization to leap ahead of the competition. The BA who does not embrace complexity does so at her own peril.

The articles in this series 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

About the Author

Kathleen B. (Kitty) Hass, PMP

Senior Practice Consultant                   

Kathleen Hass & Associates, Inc.  

Email: [email protected]



Twitter:  @ BA_Assessment @KathleenHass1                           

Kitty is the president of her consulting practice specializing in enterprise business analysis, complex project management, and strategy execution. She is a prominent presenter at industry conferences, author and facilitator.  Her BA Assessment Practice is the gold standard in the industry. KHass BA Assessments:

  • Appraise both BA organizational maturity and individual/workforce BA capability based on four-stage reference models
  • Present results that are continuously examined for reliability and validity by Lori Lindbergh, PhD, Senior Researcher and Psychometrician , Lorius, llc                              
  • Benchmark results against a global data base of BAs performing comparable work
  • Align with the IIBA BABOK® and the BA Competency Model®
  • Align with standards and best practices for quality and fairness in educational and psychological assessment
  • Are based on the skills and knowledge needed to work successfully on the complexity of current project assignments
  • Examine critical relationships between competency, project complexity, and project outcomes.

In addition to assessments, Kitty’s expertise includes implementing and managing PMOs and BACOEs.  She has over 25 years of experience providing professional services to Federal agencies, the intelligence community, and Fortune 500 companies.  Kitty is a Director on the IIBA Board and Chair of the IIBA Board Nominations Committee.  She has also authored numerous white papers and articles on leading-edge business practices, the renowned series entitled, Business Analysis Essential Library, and the PMI Book of the Year, Managing Project Complexity – A New Model.

[1] Tom Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to be us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How we can Come Back, 2011.  

[2] Ibid., p. 134.

[4]. Robert K. Wysocki, Effective Project Management: Traditional, Adaptive, Extreme, 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2007), 48.

[5]. Kathleen B. Hass, “An Eye for Value: What the Business Analyst Brings to the Agile Team,” Project Management World Today (June 2007), 1-5.

It’s a New World for the BA: We Need to Grow up Fast!

Baby_For_Kitty_488284_XSIn many organizations, culture and conventional wisdom make it difficult for the BA to break out of mostly tactical roles within projects.  However, in many ways, the future competitiveness of your organization (and consequently of your future employment) depends on it! So don’t blink or you will miss out on the best BA opportunity of your career.

The Gale-Like Market Forces

In the first decade of the 21st century, as the profession of business analysis was just coming of age, the global economic crisis served as a wake-up call.  According to Samuel J. Palmisano, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, IBM Corporation, the most important findings from the IBM Global CEO Study were these:  the biggest challenge CEOs are facing is the network of complexities brought about by the Internet and the global economy.  The CEOs further stated that their organizations are not equipped to effectively manage this uncompromising complexity because they do not have the creative leaders that are needed.

What we heard … is that events, threats and opportunities aren’t just coming at us faster or with less predictability; they are converging and influencing each other to create entirely unique situations. These firsts-of-their-kind developments require unprecedented degrees of creativity — which has become a more important leadership quality than attributes like management discipline, rigor or operational acumen.[i]

The Impact for Business Analysis

What does this alarming level of complexity and the need for extraordinarily creative leaders have to do with the emerging discipline of business analysis? 

  • If indeed, we are faced with a competitive and economic environment unlike anything that has come before; and
  • If enterprises today are not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity in the global environment; and
  • If business analysis is all about understanding the needs of organizations to remain competitive;
  • Then it seems as if a perfect storm is brewing that two new business disciplines are emerging to address: business analysis and complex project management

Organizations around the globe are looking to the rise of a new leadership role, a strategic resource that, if used appropriately, can unleash the innovation and creativity needed to meet 21st century challenges.   That new leadership role might well be filled by the enterprise business analyst, focused on business/technology optimization through innovative solutions.

The Forceful Winds of Change

Today, we struggle to demonstrate BA value while we operate in a web of organizational relationships and interconnected systems. 

  • The emergence of the global economic and information network and the transition from labor-based to information-based organizations is marginalizing our traditional hierarchical structures, replacing them with often virtual sets of connections and partnerships. 
  • Businesses are rejecting traditional management organizations to create complex communities comprised of alliances with strategic suppliers, networks of customers, and partnerships with key political groups, regulatory entities, and even competitors.
  • The pressure to perform is greater than ever, in the face of rising complexity and multifaceted and multilayered problems. 
  • Business processes and supporting technology have become more interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated than ever before. 

It is a challenging time, resulting in turmoil and disorder while companies are struggling to leverage the dynamics of the new economy: new business models, unprecedented change, unparalleled complexity, rapid innovation, and new leadership capabilities to convert strategic business needs into innovative products and services. Those who acquire and master enterprise business analysis capabilities will more effectively react to and pre-empt changes in the marketplace, capitalize on complexity, and flow value through the enterprise to the customer, thus remaining competitive. 

BAs Need to Learn How to Navigate New Business Models

Futurists predict the rise of “mass collaboration” as the new business model that will replace the prevalent corporate model.  The traditional wisdom about how best to organize business is being rethought and reexamined.  New forms of economic organization and a new science of management are emerging to deal with the breakneck realities of 21st century change.  Our 21st century business models must be…”flexible, agile, able to quickly adjust to market developments, and ruthless in reallocating resources to new opportunities.” [ii]  It’s all about leadership vs. management, collaboration vs. hierarchy, and team vs. individual performance.  Consider Exhibit 1, the new collaborative Creative Leadership Model for innovation.

So what does creativity look like in organizations?  Creativity in organizations is about creative leadership — i.e., the ability to shed long-held beliefs and come up with original and at times radical concepts and execution.  It requires bold, breakthrough thinking. This isn’t about having one or two lone creative leaders at the top, but rather, about creating a plethora of creative leaders, by igniting the collective creativity of the organization from the bottom up.[iii] Who better than the enterprise BA to ignite collective creativity as she works with teams at all levels of the organization?


BAs Need to Learn How to Navigate Unprecedented Change 

In the midst of this chaos, organizations are addressing the pressures of whirlwind change, global competition, time-to-market compression, rapidly changing technologies, corporate inertia, and yes, uncompromising complexity.  Business systems and consumer products are significantly more complex than in the past; and for many reasons the projects that implement them are also exceedingly complex. 

Not only are we facing systemic complexity, the very nature of change itself is changing.  According to Jonathan Wilson, a consultant and owner of Anabasis Consulting,   “It is happening not just more quickly, but faster than ever.  It is happening in new ways with more turbulence, less predictability. The key cause of the changing of change in business is the acceleration of the flow of information and the exponential increase in the number of connections within and between organizations [iv]

BAs Need to Learn How to Manage – and Capitalize on – Unparalleled Complexity

Since we operate in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex, CEOs share the view that incremental changes are no longer sufficient in a world that is operating in fundamentally different ways at Internet speed.  Organizations are faced with an extraordinary combination of pressures to deliver increased revenue in traditional terms (added profits, avoided costs, lower taxes, higher productivity, less employee turnover, less risk exposure); and to constantly generate brand new revenue channels and sources of customer value to continue to thrive.  They cannot rely on simply offering more of the same.   [v]

According to the IBM report, winning CEOs and their teams are focusing on three transformational courses of action to capitalize on complexity.[vi]

“The effects of rising complexity call for CEOs and their teams to lead with bold creativity; connect with customers in imaginative ways, and design their operations for speed and flexibility to position their organizations for twenty-first century success. To capitalize on complexity, CEOs:

Embody creative leadership. CEOs now realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics. Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation. To connect with and inspire a new generation, they lead and interact in entirely new ways.

Reinvent customer relationships. Customers have never had so much information or so many options. CEOs are making “getting connected” to customers their highest priority to better predict and provide customers with what they really want.

Build operational dexterity. CEOs are mastering complexity in countless ways. They are redesigning operating strategies for ultimate speed and flexibility. They embed complexity that creates value in elegantly simple products, services and customer interactions.”

BAs must Contribute to the Creation of Standout Organizations

A business that embraces the role of enterprise (strategic) business analyst to fill the void in creative leadership will produce the advances needed to become what is referred to as a standout organization, one that consistently delivers solid financial results even in economic downturns, has a revenue growth five or six times higher than their peers, and plans to get at least 20% of revenues from new sources.  Standout organizations have learned how to consistently mitigate complexity and convert it to opportunity by:[vii]

  • Navigating complexity superbly by tolerating change and adapting to it
  • Upsetting the status quo
  • Having confidence in their capabilities to prosper from complexity
  • Making decisions quickly, testing them in the market, and then making required course corrections
  • Pursuing iterative, ongoing strategy, requirements, and solution development
  • Reinventing their business analysis model often to adapt to learnings
  • Seeding creativity across their organizations.

BAs Need to Learn How to Bring About Rapid Innovation

Competitive advantage is now coupled with an organization’s ability to rapidly innovate and to change products and systems quickly as the marketplace changes.  Clay Christensen’s book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” documents the many examples of decades-old companies failing because they missed “game-changing transformation in industry after industry – computers (mainframes to PCs), telephony (landline to mobile), photography (film to digital), stock markets (floor to online) – not because of ‘bad’ management, but because they followed the dictates of ‘good management’.[viii]  Information technology (IT) has finally come into its own, and is now viewed as a critical component of innovation.  Business change initiatives must not only deliver high quality products faster, better, and cheaper (traditionally the responsibility of the project manager), they are also under intense scrutiny to positively impact the bottom line (increasingly, the joint responsibility of the enterprise business analyst).

The strategy consultant Gary Hamel tells us that big companies fail “…not necessarily because they didn’t see the coming innovations, but because they failed to adequately invest in those innovations.”  Hamel contends companies who control large pools of capital need to act more like venture capitalists. And workers at all levels will need to really feel a drive toward creativity and innovation.[ix]  One obvious example is Google.  To foster innovation, Google engineers spend 20% of their time working on projects other than their current assignments – a practice enterprise BAs should follow.

BAs Need to Acquire New Leadership Capabilities

In their quest to build the organizational capabilities to invest in innovation projects, organizations are slowly discovering that the core competency of business analysis must be elevated in importance.  Most organizations have invested handsomely in IT systems to help operate the business and capture business intelligence about the marketplace.  Over the last two decades, organizations have also embraced the practice of professional project management.  However, businesses are just now beginning to understand the importance of BA leadership capabilities needed to convert strategic business needs into innovative products and services, to operate with speed and agility, and to try more disruptive approaches than ever before (see Exhibit 2, Project Leadership Competencies are Transitioning).


BAs Need to Elevate Their Influence

Organizations are finally grooming and fielding more enterprise-focused business analysts, driving business analysis practice maturity from tactical to more strategic endeavors.  Emerging enterprise business analyst roles include enterprise analysts, business architects and business/technology analysts. 

  • Enterprise business analysts work to execute strategy through transformational change initiatives. 
  • Business architects make the enterprise visible and ensure the business and IT architectures are in synch.  Business architects create both the current- and the future-state architectures and work to identify the gap in capabilities needed to achieve the organization’s future vision.  
  • Business/technology analysts convert business opportunities into innovative business solutions and translate strategy into breakthrough process and technology change. 

All of these roles are enterprise focused, cross-functional and cross-domain experts who execute existing strategy and forge the next strategy.  These three roles – the enterprise analyst, the business architect and the business/technology analyst – are the future creative leaders CEOs are making every effort to find.  The hallmark of these strategic analysts is still understanding the business need, but fulfilling it, not through incremental change, but through game-changing innovation and creativity.  Consider Exhibit 3 – BA Capability Model.  Strive to move your focus areas of activity to the right to exert your leadership capabilities.


BAs Need to Unleash their Creative Potential

Since there appears to be an insatiable demand for innovative products, services, business systems and supporting applications, executives across the spectrum are beginning to adopt the practice of superior business analysis to increase the value initiatives bring to customers and wealth to the business. As we begin to understand that the root cause of far too many failed and challenged projects is our inability to manage complexity to drive innovation (see Exhibit 4: Gap in Capabilities to Manage Complexity), we conclude that the talents, competencies, and heroics of project managers and technologists alone cannot drive innovation in these demanding times. BAs need to collaborate with PMs to close the gaps in complexity management to unleash creativity and innovation.


BAs Need to See Themselves as a Corps of Creative Leaders

Creativity is the premier skill requirement for the innovation-focused leader.  Creativity is defined as the ability to generate innovative ideas and concepts, and then producing something original and useful.  The process involves original thinking and then “creating” – generating something new.  There is never one right answer.  According to creativity experts, “To be creative involves divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”[x]  But even creativity is not enough; our competitive climate calls for us to be purposefully disruptive, to continually re-invent our business models and our products, to foster bold, breakthrough thinking. 

BAs Need to Understand What Creative Leaders do

The creative process calls for us to function when surrounded by uncertainty and ambiguity, by doing lots of experimentation, prototyping, out-of-the-box thinking, trial and error, and keeping options open until the last responsible moment.  Top creative performers exhibit “an unusual visual perspective…an ability to synthesize diverse elements into meaningful products.”[xi]  The CEOs who participated in the IBM study stressed the relationship between integrity and creativity, the need for global thinking, and a strong focus on customers.[xii]  For BAs to mature the enterprise business analyst role into that of a strategic innovator, it is important to identify themselves as strategic thinkers early and groom themselves as quickly as possible to unleash enterprise creativity.  What do creative leaders do?  See Exhibit 5: Creative Business Analysts.


Special attributes are required for business analysts to become innovation leaders and be able to defy complexity with creativity.  They must be action and outcome oriented.  They have to be focused and courageous.  You will become a creative enterprise BA when you are doing these things:

  • Sharing the project leadership role with the project manager
  • Creating and leading innovative requirements integration teams
  • Influencing, swaying, and persuading groups and individuals to focus on creativity
  • Embracing uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Taking risks that disrupt legacy models
  • Rejecting traditional project management styles
  • Getting close to customers – bringing customers into the process
  • Using cost-benefits tradeoffs based on customer value
  • Insisting on innovation at every turn; not satisfied with business as usual; repeatedly asking, “Is this truly innovative, or just better business as usual?”

Putting it All Together: What Does This Mean to the Business Analyst?

Since the twenty-first century is rife with complexity, we need to learn how to leverage it – use it to our advantage.  As the role of the business analyst transitions from a tactical project-focused resource to an innovation-focused strategic asset, our organizations will begin to capitalize on the complexity that often leaves us baffled, perplexed, and challenged.  It is no surprise that two new important disciplines are coming to life in the 21st century and spawning new roles: the complex project manager (CPM) and the enterprise business analyst (EBA).  As these disciplines mature, the CPMs and EBAs will form collaborative partnerships in their quest to defy complexity with creativity

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[i] Samuel J. Palmisano, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, IBM Corporation in his letter accompanying the Global Chief Executive Officer Study of 2010, Capitalizing on Complexity.  Online at: (accessed July 2010).
[ii] Alan Murray, The End of Management, The Wall Street Journal, Weekend Section, August 21 – 22, 2010. Adapted from: The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management, 2010. New York, NY: Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
[iii] Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Prasad Kaipa, Simone Ahuja. May 19, 2010 How To Ignite Creative Leadership In Your Organization. Online at: (accessed July 2010).
[iv] Jonathan Wilson, Anabasis Consulting. Online at: (accessed July 2010).
[v] IBM, The Global Chief Executive Officer Study of 2010, Capitalizing on Complexity, Online at: (accessed July 2010), 9.
[vi] IBM, The Global Chief Executive Officer Study of 2010, Capitalizing on Complexity, Online at: (accessed July 2010), 9.
[vii] ibid
[viii] Ibid
[ix] Ibid
[x] Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The Creativity Crisis Newsweek July 19,2010, 45.
[xi] Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The Creativity Crisis Newsweek July 19,2010, 45.
[xii] IBM, The Global Chief Executive Officer Study of 2010, Capitalizing on Complexity, Online at: (accessed July 2010), 9.

21st Century Article List

Article #1: It’s a New World for the BA: We need to Grow up Fast!

Article #2: The Adaptive Business Analyst: As Complexity Increases, the BA Adapts

Article #3: Creative Leadership: What’s All the Fuss About?

Article #4: How Capable Do Business Analysts Need to be to Ignite Creativity?

Article #5:  Building a Mature, Innovation-Driven Business Analysis Practice

Article #6: Fostering Team Creativity: The Business Analyst’s Sweet Spot

Article #7: Igniting Creativity in Complex Distributed Teams

Article #8: Creativity-Inducing Facilitation: the Same but Different

Article #9:  Creatively Eliciting and Evolving Breakthrough Requirements

Article #10: Developing Products for Competitive Advantage

Article #11 Strategies to Foster Innovation: not settling for Business as Usual

Article #12: Communication Strategies to Enable Innovation

Article #13: Innovation-Driven Portfolio Management

Article #14: The Business Analysis Center of Excellence: The Cornerstone of Business Transformation and Innovation

The 21st Century Business Analyst


From Tactical Requirements Manager to Creative Leader of Innovative Change

I think the 21st century will be the century of complexity.

 —Stephen W. Hawking

Welcome to the new series of articles on the BA as the 21st Century Creative Leader. It was a perfect storm. As we entered the second decade of the 21st century, we found ourselves struggling to adapt. All over the world, people faced environmental and economic turbulence, financial calamity, a stubborn recession that seemed to resist recovery, intractable societal troubles, high unemployment, increased poverty, and uncompromising complexity. The fiercely competitive global business ecosystem was changing so rapidly that we were confronted with complicated situations we had never seen before.

It is no coincidence that the business analysis profession is taking hold to address many of the 21st century business challenges. Business analysis is all about understanding the needs of organizations, helping them remain competitive, identifying creative solutions to complex business problems, bringing about innovation, and constantly adding value for the customer and revenue to the organization. My fear is that the business analyst will remain a tactical, project-focused role for too long, and organizations around the world will not leverage the often underestimated and undervalued creative talent that is bottled up in our business analyst workforce.

Creative Leadership – What’s All the Fuss About?

We know that creative leaders are top performers, but how are they different? It is becoming obvious that we need creative leaders from all levels organizations to capitalize on complexity and use it as a competitive advantage, not just one or two individuals at the top who are leading the way à la Steve Jobs. CEOs of leading companies lament the fact that they do not have the creative leaders that are needed. [i]

Where is the cadre of creative leaders going to come from? Could business analysts become the creative leaders we need to spark innovation? To be sure, they work with teams and individuals at all levels of their organizations. Our 21st century challenge is this: to arm business analysts with the knowledge, skill, credibility, and confidence needed to awaken creativity throughout their organizations. We can then calm the storm, at least as it affects our businesses, and look ahead to a dramatic increase in the number of innovative changes set in motion through expertly facilitated creative sessions.

Creative Leadership – Is it Embodied in the Business Analyst?

What should business analysts be doing to hone their creative aptitude and to foster imagination and originality in their organizations? Business analysts can participate in the development of creative leaders across their organizations by deepening partnerships with their stakeholders, especially employees and customers. As they focus on relationships, business needs, operational agility—the hallmark of business analysis—BAs can focus on innovation at every turn and instill a universal understanding that everyone is creative. To accept the challenge, business analysts need to learn to be courageous, prepared, and willing to make deep changes to their organizations’ business change model and to their approach to business requirements.

Creative Leadership – It’s a Team Sport

Project leadership is no longer just about the project manager or even just about the project manager and the business analyst. Combining disciplines leads to success, and complex 21st century projects should be led by a highly seasoned, multitalented team consisting of strategic thinkers and creativity enthusiasts. The complex project leadership team ought to comprise the best resources available, including experienced and creative project managers, business analysts, solution architects and developers, and business visionaries. This leadership team collaboratively makes managerial and technical decisions about how to capitalize on the complexities they face to foster creativity.

Who Will Benefit from Reading This Series?

This series presents a new model for all members of project leadership teams in general, and business analysts specifically, to learn how to capitalize on complexity. We will delve deep into the behaviors of business analysts in their functions as expert facilitators and creative leaders and offer guidance not just on managing complexity, but also on leveraging it as a competitive advantage. In addition to business analysts, this series is an important resource for project, program, and portfolio managers; solution architects; business process owners and managers; functional managers; senior IT technologists, BA consultants and BA Practice leads.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The articles 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. Click to view a complete list of articles in this series.

[i] IBM Institute for Business Value, Capitalizing on Complexity, Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study.  (2010, Somers, NY)

The Business Analysis Center of Excellence; A Vital Strategic Asset

The Business Climate

In the twenty-first century, business processes have become more complex; i.e., more interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated than ever before. Businesses today are rejecting traditional organizational structures to create complex communities comprised of alliances with strategic suppliers, outsourcing vendors, networks of customers, and partnerships with key political groups, regulatory entities, and even competitors. Through these alliances, organizations are addressing the pressures of unprecedented change, global competition, time-to-market compression, rapidly changing technologies, and increasing complexity at every turn. Since business systems are significantly more complex than ever, projects that implement new business systems are also more complex. To reap the rewards of significant, large-scale business transformation initiatives, designed to not only keep organizations in the game but make them a major player, we must be able to manage complex business transformation projects.

Why Now?

Centers of excellence are emerging as a vital strategic asset to serve as the primary vehicle for managing complex change initiatives. A center of excellence is a team of people that is established to promote collaboration and the application of best practices (Geiger, Jonathan G. Intelligent Solutions: Establishing a Center of Excellence. BIReview: March 20, 2007. Centers of excellence exist to bring about an enterprise focus to many business issues, e.g., data integration, project management, enterprise architecture, business and IT optimization, and enterprise-wide access to information. The concept of centers of excellence (COE) is quickly maturing in twenty-first century organizations because of the need to collaboratively determine solutions to complex business issues. Project management offices (PMO), a type of COE, proliferated in the 1990s as a centralized approach to managing projects, in response to the challenges associated with complex projects in an environment with low levels of project management maturity and governance. Industry leaders are effectively using various types of COEs, and BACOEs are among them.

A Slippery Slope

We are fortunate to have learned from the implementations of PMOs. The Project Management Institute’s research program studied PMOs in an attempt to publish a PMO standard. However, they were unable to do so, because they found out that there is no real standard practice for PMOs (Hobbs, 2007 PMI PMO Research Report). Here is what they discovered:

  • PMOs have been prevalent since the mid 1990s; yet, most have been in existence for two years or less
  • Only 50% of PMOs are seen as relevant and adding value
  • Most operate autonomously from other PMOs
  • Most organizations have trouble finding the right “fit” culturally and politically
  • Closure and restructuring happens frequently
  • Implementation time takes six months to two years; yet, there is a short time to demonstrate value before being closed or restructured; many are closed or restructured before they are completely implemented
  • There is a wide variability in the percentage of projects within the mandate of the PMO
  • Either all or none of the project managers are located within the PMO
  • Most PMOs have a very small staff due to the key issue of cost

Conclusions: it is a difficult endeavor to establish a center of excellence that is accepted and supported by the organization. A considerable amount of due diligence is needed to make sure the new center is successful.

It’s About Value

For a BACOE to be viewed as adding value, one of the critical functions is benefits management, a continuous process of identifying new opportunities, envisioning results, implementing, checking intermediate results, and dynamically adjusting the path leading from investments to business results. Therefore, the role of the high-value BACOE is multidimensional, including: (1) provide thought leadership for all initiatives to confirm that the organization’s business analysis standards are maintained and adhered to, (2) conduct feasibility studies and prepare business cases for proposed new projects, (3) participate in all strategic initiatives by providing expert business analysis resources, and (4) conduct benefits management to ensure strategic change initiatives provide the value that was expected. The BACOE is staffed with business/technology experts, who can act as a central point of contact to facilitate collaboration among the lines of business and the IT groups.

Implementation Considerations


Although the BACOE is by definition business focused, it is of paramount importance for successful centers to operate in an environment where business operations and IT are aligned and in synch. In addition, the disciplines of project management, software design and development, and business analysis must be integrated. Therefore, to achieve a balanced perspective, it is important to involve business operations, IT, PMO representatives and project managers, and representatives from the project governance group in the design of the BACOE. Indeed, your organization may already have one or more centers of excellence. If that is the case, consideration should be made to combining them into one centralized center focused on program and project excellence. The goal is for a cross-functional team of experts (business visionary, technology expert, project manager and business analyst) to address the full solution life cycle from business case development to continuous improvement and support of the solution for all major projects.


Understanding the business drivers behind establishing the BACOE is of paramount importance. The motive behind establishing the center must be unambiguous, since it will serve as the foundation to establish the purpose, objectives, scope, and functions of the center. The desire to set up a BACOE might have originated in IT, because of the number of strategic, mission-critical IT projects impacting the whole organization, or in a particular business area that is experiencing a significant level of change. Whatever the genesis, strive to place the center so that it serves the entire enterprise, not just IT or a particular business area.


One of the biggest challenges for the BACOE is to bridge the gap that divides business and IT. To do so, the BACOE must deliver multidimensional services to the many diverse groups. Regardless of whether there is one COE, or several more narrowly focused models, the BACOE organization should be centralized. “Organizations with centralized COEs have better consistency and coordination, leading directly to less duplication of effort. These organizations configure and develop their IT systems by business processes rather than by business unit, leading to more efficient and more streamlined systems operations” (2006 USAG/SAP Best Practices Survey: Centers of Excellence: Optimize Your Business and IT Value. SAP America Inc. February 16, 2007). Best-in-class BACOEs evaluate the impact of proposed changes on all areas of the business and effectively allocate resources and support services according to business priorities.

Positioning is equated with authority in organizational structures; the higher the placement, the more autonomy, authority and responsibility is likely to be bestowed on the center. Therefore, positioning the center at the highest level possible provides the “measure of autonomy necessary to extend the authority across the organization, while substantiating the value and importance the function has in the eyes of executive management” (Bolles, Dennis PMP. Building Project Management Centers of Excellence. New York, NY: American Management Association. 2002). In the absence of high-level positioning, the success and impact of the center will likely be significantly diminished.

One Size does not fit All

The “perfect fit” takes several elements into consideration:

  • The maturity of the organization’s processes and capabilities
  • The size of the organization
  • The diversity of the products and services


What is the Focus?

The current state of the organization must be taken into consideration, as in the effectiveness of the strategic planning and project portfolio management practices, the business performance management processes and strategies, the maturity of IT architecture, development and support processes, and the strength of the business focus across the enterprise. Clearly, organizations with more mature practices achieve higher levels of value from their COEs. Organizations can absorb a limited amount of concurrent change, while maintaining productivity levels, at any given time. Therefore, a gradual approach to implementing the BACOE is recommended. One option is to adopt a three-phased approach moving across the BACOE maturity continuum from a project-focused structure to a strategic organizational model.

Where to Start?

Based on the history of best practices for setting up centers of excellence, there is a proven implementation approach, including the steps listed below.

  1. Visioning and concept definition
  2. Assessing the organizational knowledge, skills, maturity, and mastery of business analysis practices
  3. Establishing BACOE implementation plans
  4. Finalizing plans and creating action teams to develop and implement the infrastructure for the center


It is important to create a vision for the new center. Create a preliminary vision and mission statement for the center, and develop the concept in enough detail to prepare a business case for establishing the center. Vet the proposal with key stakeholders and secure approval to conduct the assessment of business analysis practices and plan for the implementation of the center.

During meetings with the key stakeholders, secure buy-in and support for the concept. Large-scale organizational change of this nature typically involves restructurings, cultural transformation, new technologies, and forging new partnerships. Handling change can well mean the difference between success and failure of the effort. Techniques to consider during the visioning phase include (Kotter, John P. (2002) Getting to the Heart of How to Make Change Happen. Boston, MA: Harvard Business):

  • Executive sponsorship – A center of excellence cannot exist successfully without an executive sponsor. Build a trusting, collaborative relationship with the sponsor, seeking mentoring and coaching at every turn.
  • Political management strategy – Conduct an analysis of key stakeholders to determine those who can influence the center, and whether they feel positively or negatively about the center. Identify the goals of the key stakeholders. Assess the political environment. Define problems, solutions, and action plans to take advantage of positive influences, and to neutralize negative ones.
  • A sense of urgency – Work with stakeholder groups to reduce complacency, fear, and anger over the change, and to increase their sense of urgency.
  • The guiding team – Build a team of supporters who have the credibility, skills, connections, reputations, and formal authority to provide the necessary leadership to help shape the BACOE.
  • The vision – Use the guiding team to develop a clear, simple, compelling vision for the BACOE, and set of strategies to achieve the vision.
  • Communication for buy-in – Execute a simple, straight-forward communication plan using forceful and convincing messages sent through many channels. Use the guiding team to promote the vision whenever possible.
  • Empowerment for action – Use the guiding team to remove barriers to change, including disempowering management styles, antiquated business processes, and inadequate information.
  • Short-term wins – Wins create enthusiasm and momentum. Plan the implementation to achieve early successes.
  • Dependency management – The success of the center is likely dependent on coordination with other groups in the organization. Assign someone from your core team as the dependency owner, to liaise with each dependent group. A best practice is for dependency owners to attend team meetings of the dependent group, so as to demonstrate the importance of the relationship and to solicit feedback and recommendations for improvements.

Organizational Readiness

The purpose of the organizational readiness assessment is to determine organizational expectations for the BACOE and to gauge the cultural readiness for the change. Form a small assessment team to determine key challenges, gaps and issues that should be addressed immediately. The ideal assessment solution is to conduct a formal organizational maturity assessment. However, a less formal assessment may suffice at this point.


Develop a BACOE Business Plan and Charter that describes the center in detail. Planning considerations include the elements listed in the table below. It is helpful to draft the plan and charter, and then conduct a BACOE kickoff workshop where they are viewed, refined and approved.

Planning Considerations
Description of Kick-off Workshop Agenda Items
Strategic Alignment, Vision and Mission Present the case for the BACOE, and reference the business case for more detailed information about cost versus benefits of the center.
Assessment Results Include or reference the results of the assessments that were conducted:

  • Maturity of the business analysis practices
  • Summary of the skill assessments
  • Recommendations, including training and professional development of BAs and improvement of business analysis practice standards
Scope Describe the scope of responsibilities of the BACOE, including:

  • The professional disciplines guided by the center, (i.e., PM and BA, just BA)
  • The functions the center will perform
  • The processes the center will standardize, monitor and continuously improve
  • The metrics that will be tracked to determine the success of the center
Authority Centers of excellence can be purely advisory, or they can have the authority to own and direct business processes. In practice, centers typically are advisory in some areas, and decision-makers in others. Remember, the organizational placement should be commensurate upon the authority and role of the center. When describing the authority of the COE, include the governance structure, i.e., who or what group the COE will report to for guidance and approval of activities.
Services A center of excellence is almost always a resource center, developing and maintaining information on best practices and lessons learned, and is often a resource assigning business analysts to projects. Document the proposed role:

  • Materials to be provided, e.g., reference articles, templates, job aids, tools, procedures, methods, practices
  • Services, e.g., business case development, portfolio management team support, consulting, mentoring, standards development, quality reviews, workshop facilitators, and providing business analysis resources to project teams
Organization Describe the BACOE team structure, management, and operations including:

  • Positions and their roles, responsibilities, and knowledge and skill requirements
  • Reporting relationships
  • Linkages to other organizational entities
Budget and Staffing Levels At a high level, describe the proposed budget, including facilities, tools and technology, and staffing ramp up plans.
Implementation Approach Document formation of initial working groups to begin to build the foundational elements of the center. In addition, describe the organizational placement of the center, and the focus initially: (i.e., project centric, enterprise focus, or strategic focus).


After the workshop session, finalize the BACOE Charter and Business Plan, and launch the center. Form working groups to develop business analysis practice standards, provide for education, training, mentoring and consulting support, and secure the needed facilities, tools, and supplies.

Final Words

Establishing centers of excellence is difficult, because it destabilizes the sense of balance and power within the organization. Ambiguities arise when all stakeholders are adjusting to the new model. These may manifest themselves as resistance to change, and can pose a risk to a successful implementation. Therefore, coordinate and communicate about how the center will affect roles and responsibilities accompanies the implementation of the center. Do not underestimate the challenges that you will encounter. Pay close attention to organizational change management strategies and use them liberally.

Value to the Organization

To establish BACOE to last, demonstrate the value the center brings to the organization. Develop measures of success and report progress to executives to demonstrate the value added to the organization because of the BACOE. Typical measures of success include:

  • Project cost overrun reduction – Quantify the project time and cost overruns prior to the implementation of the BACOE, and for those projects that are supported by the BACOE. If a baseline measurement is not available in your organization, use industry standard benchmarks as a comparison. Other measures might be improvements to team member morale and reduction in project staff turnover. Be sure to include opportunity costs caused by the delayed implementation of the new solution.
  • Project time and cost savings – Track the number of requirements defects discovered during testing and after the solution is in production prior to the implementation of the BACOE, and for those projects that are supported by the BACOE. Quantify the value in terms of reduced re-work costs and improved customer satisfaction.
  • Project portfolio value – Prepare reports for the executive team that provide the investment costs and expected value of the portfolio of projects; report actual value new solutions add to the organization as compared to the expected value predicted in the business case.

Great Teams…You Need One!

When staffing the BACOE, establish a small but mighty core team dedicated full-time to the center, co-located, highly trained, and multi-skilled. Do not over staff the center, as the cost will seem prohibitive. Augment the core team’s efforts by bringing in subject matter experts and forming sub-teams as needed. Select team members not only because of their knowledge and skills, but also because they are passionate and love to work in a challenging, collaborative environment. Develop team-leadership skills and dedicate efforts to transitioning your group into a high-performing team with common values, beliefs, and a cultural foundation upon which to flourish.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Kathleen (Kitty) Hass is principle consultant, K. Hass and Associates, specializing in strategy execution, business analysis and project management disciplines. Ms. Hass is a prominent presenter at industry conferences, author and lecturer. Expertise includes implementing a mature BA Practice, implementing PMOs, BACOEs, and portfolio management, facilitating IT strategic planning, leading software-intensive projects, executive coaching, building and leading strategic project teams, and managing complex programs. Her company provides high-value facilitation and consulting services to agile and traditional organizations. Ms. Hass has provided professional services to Federal agencies, the intelligence community, and Fortune 500 companies. Professional certification include: SEI CMM appraiser, Baldrige National Quality Program examiner, Zenger-Miller facilitator, and Project Management Professional. She is Director at Large for IIBA and a member of the BABOK committee serving as lead author of the Enterprise Analysis chapter. She authored numerous white papers and articles on leading edge PM/BA practices, in 2008 published the Business Analysis Essential Library Series; Managing Project Complexity – A New Model, and in 2009 contributed to The 77 Deadly Sins of Project Management. Ms. Hass can be reache at [email protected]

This article was originally published June 2009 in