How does she make it look so easy?
She must have a secret. I wish I knew.
Have you ever seen a Business Analyst lead a collaborative meeting? I have asked some of the leaders in this community. Here are a few things they do.
Lead the Team
When I asked Glenn Hughes about collaboration he shared this. “As Business Analysts, we are often a leader without a title. This means we need to help influence others to make key decisions and work together to negotiate compromises that will ultimately benefit the business.”
“Good leadership fosters collaboration. There are serval ways to foster collaboration which can all be tied back to leadership.” This was Trevor Meyers Central Iowa IIBA President’s response to my question.
As you can see leadership impacts the collaboration of the team.
Along with leading the team comes the vision. Collaboration goes nowhere without it. Ifeoluwa Akinboade from IIBA Calgary said, “to collaborate effectively, all the involved parties must have a clear understanding of the vision.”
The vision informs the requirements. The team can pick up the baton and run with it. It helps the team coalesce around the picture of success.
Having been a leader in the past, you can believe things are going well. Until you begin asking a few questions. Dig in and see how the collaboration is going.
As a developer myself, I know we can be hard to work with. We may not always communicate clearly. Therefore, Business Analysts might think we are mad. In reality, we can be introverted.
As a fellow introvert, I enjoyed Steve Hewitt’s comment. “Giving people a heads-up prior to a collaboration session is always helpful – especially if you have a mix of introverts that appreciate the chance to gather thoughts ahead of time.”
Working with teams myself, I have seen this advice pay dividends. I had a developer who would shut down if he didn’t know what to expect. Giving him a heads-up changed the way he engaged in our meetings.
Understand their needs
Shari Hall pointed out how we need to understand the team’s unique needs. “Whether I am working with a team of developers and data analysts or project stakeholders, it has been my experience that if we can each see the other’s needs and the value they bring to the project, we can work together toward the goal.”
Each of us comes to a project with different experiences. It only makes sense that we will need different things to be successful. Shari recognizes how this affects collaboration.
Experienced Business Analysts know the team has many members. Each of them comes to the change at different speeds. Some will jump in and want to help. Others might stand on the sidelines and see what happens.
“I’ve always had good luck with this – I always get some early adopters prior to getting to the point where I need more general collaboration. It gets me a little more insight into my audience and when my ‘early adopters’ participate in a collaboration session, it’s much easier to get others involved.” This is from Steve Hewitt whom we have heard from before.
A consultant once outlined a similar approach to me. They were describing a process for organizational change. Collaboration is part of any change process. As Steve noted this can help us understand the team’s needs.
Debbie asks me if I understand the requirements. I hesitate and then reply. “I think so, but I have one question. What do you mean by authenticating user?”
This was a trouble spot. We had many bugs with this before. A few of our business stakeholders assumed this meant something else. From a technical perspective that would be quite difficult.
Debbie was able to talk with the business. She clarified my suspicions. One question saved us some time.
One way to describe team health is to look at their Psychological Safety. Essentially, do you feel comfortable questioning decisions or speaking out at work. This part of the culture really impacts the level of collaboration.
Shashank Soni fosters a safe environment. He said he likes to “make them feel OK to provide input without fear of repercussions.” This takes time and a concerted effort but, it will set the tone for better cooperation.
Business Analysts have to know the domain. If you work for a healthcare company you need to know the basics. This can start with curiosity and questions. Then you can dig deeper with each new project.
Steve Hewitt reinforced its importance with this. “Having an excellent understanding of the business and a good reputation makes it easier to get people involved. When folks on my team trust me to know what’s needed for a project (for example), collaboration becomes second nature. The more experience I get, the more trust I earn, and the easier it is to collaborate.”
Once you know and gain respect then collaboration is easier. Things start to fall into place. Leading a meeting is natural. Of course, this doesn’t mean you know it all. You know enough to keep things on track.