Author: Tom Henricksen

Tom Henricksen is a problem-solving technology professional. He has worked in various roles in technology for over twenty years. Tom has learned how to solve the challenging issues in technology and lead technical teams. He can help you develop those skills too!
BATimes_Nov24_2022

Collaboration The Easy Way, Business Analysts’ Secrets Revealed

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.

 

Vision

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.

 

Check-In

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.

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Heads up

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.

 

Early Adopters

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.

 

Clarify

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.

 

Psychological Safety

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.

 

Domain Knowledge

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.

Do you realize that relationships are BAs bread and butter?

Working as a developer for over twenty years I have noticed developers lack social skills. Now I know you are shocked! You probably spilled your coffee when you read that.

As a Business Analyst, you may take your social skill prowess for granted. As Epictetus said, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” Let us revisit those skills now.

Re-Focus on Relationships

It can be helpful to review these skills periodically. We can fall into the trap of complacency. Use a few basic questions to evaluate your progress.

  1. Who are my most important business relationships?
  2. How am I investing in these relationships?
  3. What value am I bringing to this relationship?

Similar to the agile retrospective we can have a relationship retrospective. Check-in with your most important people. See how things are.

Occasionally things can seem fine at the surface. Of course, when we dig in we find something different. Perhaps the relationship can be strained. The person may feel you are taking advantage of them.

Overlooked

My mother would often dispense wisdom when I was growing up. She was a teacher for many years. She shared this one once, “Secretaries make things happen.”

As a kid, many people would overlook the school secretary. Using my mother’s advice I made sure to stay on the good side of Mary.

Mary was our high school secretary. She could put in a good word for you in case you got in any trouble. That may have happened to me a few times. Mary was a life-saver!

Are there any professional relationships you are overlooking? Perhaps you need to patch things up with some of the testers. Team harmony is vittle to a smooth project.

Have a plan

A few years ago I was fortunate to work with a transformational leader. He led a technology team. John was his name. He saw the potential to change the way his team worked.

John brought me into his office. He said to me, “Tom technology people can be a bit transactional. They get asked to fix a problem and they do. Similar to the way a bank teller gets a check and deposits the check.”

“Yes, I see that, but how is that an issue?” I said to John.

“Bruce just visited our biggest center. He upgraded the two servers and got on the plane to go back home. A day later the community director called me and asked why he didn’t complete the upcoming maintenance patching. Bruce never spoke to him.”

“Tom I want my team to be more like financial planners. A financial planner builds relationships. Then they can anticipate needs. I want you to help change my team to think like financial planners.”

John then shared with me a plan on how we could transform his team. He outlined how each time his team members traveled they would talk to the community directors.

This would help them build relationships instead of just fixing the problem. John wanted his team to build in time to connect. Have a plan for relationships.

In summary, as Business Analysts we should not overlook the fundamental aspect of relationships. Don’t leave them to chance, have a plan. Keep them in focus as they are your bread and butter!

Tom Henricksen is a Technical Professional and Human Skill Enabler and you can contact him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomhenricksen/