Tuesday, 06 July 2010 10:15

Four Ways to Best Utilize a Senior Business Analyst

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In my last post I discussed The Six Key Characteristics of a Senior Business Analyst. If you have not read this post please take a minute to become familiar with how I define a senior business analyst. The post outlines how to identify a senior business analyst if you are a hiring manager. If you’re a BA, you can see if you have the characteristics of a senior BA. Knowing what a senior BA looks like is one step in transforming the business analysis discipline within your organization. Many of you are senior business analysts or work in companies with senior business analysts. Are you or the other senior BAs being utilized to maximize productivity or do all BAs have the same responsibilities regardless of skills and experience? In today’s post I will highlightfour ways to best utilize a senior BA to improve the effectiveness of your overall BA team, which provides the foundation for transformation.

Critical Projects

Critical projects bring a level of risk to the team assigned to that project. These projects can have executive visibility and/or cause fines or loss of market share if delayed or delivered incorrectly. These projects have management showing up at project kick-off meetings, saying “we have to get this right”. Managers want to sleep at night knowing their team has things under control and will take care of business. Senior business analysts have the techniques, experience, and mindset to make the project a success.

In addition, this gives the senior BAs some recognition and junior BAs something to strive for. By staffing the senior BAs on the critical projects they feel valued and will stay motivated.

Scoping and Planning

In my opinion the most important part of a project or sprint is to understand the scope and thinking through a plan. The senior business analyst has enough experience to help ensure the business analysis scope is understood and can determine the appropriate analysis effort necessary for the initiative. The senior BA can be used early in projects to help with scoping and planning then use a more junior analyst to implement the plan.

Coaching

Let me start by giving the difference between a coach and a mentor. A mentor is usually someone identified by the mentee. This is a personal decision made by the mentee to seek out someone they look up to and have an idea of what goal they want to reach through the relationship. The mentee manages the relationship. A coach is assigned to someone based on the job. Think about a hitting coach in baseball, or a strength coach used for many sports. The team management assigns a coach to each player as part of their job. I believe all junior BAs should be assigned a coach. They need support; they need someone dedicated to helping them develop.

The senior business analysts should be assigned to a junior business analyst to coach them up. Many organizations unintentionally leave junior BAs out in the world all alone. Junior BAs should have a coach to help them improve in their growth areas. Left alone during projects junior BAs can easily fall into two traps. They make a wrong decision on a direction to take on a project or they sit there almost paralyzed trying to figure out the best approach to take. Having a senior business analyst with their experience will help accelerate the decision making process for the junior BA and can help recognize where they may need to change direction. Overall this improves the speed and effectiveness of the junior business analysts. An important note is that the senior BA acting as the coach needs to be given the time to coach. This can’t be an added duty to someone’s workload that is already at capacity.

Lead Business Analyst

To help the work of a business analyst group excel, companies need to begin moving some of their senior BAs into a lead role. Here is a simple example organization structure that shows a lead role within each business domain area a group of BAs support.

kupe-bamanager

The role of the lead BA, similar to the coaching role, includes non-project work. The lead can be used to in the first three areas, critical projects, scoping and planning, and coaching. In addition the lead BAs can develop and implement standards and practices for the larger pool of BAs. The lead BA should work closely with the business domain they support and help prioritize projects. One other way a lead BA can add value is helping with resource allocation for the BAs they are leading. Once scoping and planning is complete, the lead BA can assist the manager in determining the best resource to use for project level tasks.

The four ways I highlighted above have the potential for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the business analyst efforts for your team, which in turn improves project outcomes and customer satisfaction. The knowledge and experience of the senior BAs is handed down to the junior analysts allowing them to be more effective. By utilizing senior business analysts in one or more of these ways helps with a BA career path. Junior BAs have the ability to become senior BAs. And for senior BAs, the experienced gained will help them move into a management role, a strategic business analysis role, and a role in the line of business.

How are your companies utilizing senior business analysts?

Don't forget to leave your comments below!

Kupe Kupersmith

Making people awesome is his main objective.

He possesses over 20 years of experience in helping organizations achieve business value.
Most recently he was the president of a niche training organization.

He has also served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in the energy, television and sports management and marketing industries.

To round out Kupe's experience, he is a trained improvisational actor and applies those skills to help his clients be better collaborators and team players.

Kupe is the co-author of Business Analysis for Dummies and is an industry requested keynote speaker. Being an improvisational comedian, Kupe is sure to make you laugh while you’re learning. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone!

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