The 21st Century BA: Building a Mature, Innovation-Driven Business Analysis Practice

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NOTE: This article is part of "The 21st Century BA Series: From Tactical Requirements Manager to Creative Leader of Innovative Change"

As businesses acknowledge the value of business analysis – the result of the absolute necessity to drive business results through projects – they are struggling to figure out three things:

  1. What are the characteristics of their current BA workforce, and how capable does their BA team need to be?

  2. What is needed to build a mature BA Practice?

  3. How are we going to get there?

This article focuses on #2: What is needed to build a mature BA Practice? See Exhibit 1: BA Practice Maturity Framework. Key concepts include:

  • Mature BA Practices

  • The Daunting Road Ahead

  • Cultivating Mature BA Practices

  • BA Practice Maturity Assessment

In previous articles we introduced the comprehensive BA Practice Maturity Framework. The journey begins with an acknowledgement that business analysis is a critical business management discipline for the 21st century. Realizing that it takes investment and resources to build a new business management practice, our framework calls for a proven, structured approach coupled with expert change management skills. Our framework involves a three-pronged approach to build a mature BA Practice, develop a competent BA workforce, and establish a BACOE to plant the seeds and steer the course. This chapter focuses on building a mature innovation-driven BA Practice.

                                                


Exhibit 1: BA Practice Maturity Framework

Mature BA Practices

To steer the course, we once again make use of a model, the BA Practice Maturity Model (Exhibit 2). As you can see, the model is in strict alignment with the BA Individual and Workforce Capability Model introduced previously.

Business Analysis Maturity Model

 

Exhibit 2: BA Practice Maturity Model

The maturity levels of the BA Practice Maturity Model are described below (Exhibit 3).
 

Level Description
Level 4:
Business Technology Optimization
 

Business Benefit: Technology is Used as a Competitive Advantage

Organizations at Level 4 recognize that advanced business analysis practices are needed to innovate and use technology as a competitive advantage. Level 4 organizations vest accountability for business/technology optimization in a centralized organization that represents the entire enterprise that is responsible for management of the business/technology optimization practices. Specifically, to achieve Level 4:

  • The enterprise BACOE is integrated with other centers of excellence (project management (PM), quality assurance (QA), software architecture and engineering (SE) and manages the vision, goals, objectives, and plans to achieve business/technology optimization

  •  The following process and tools are developed, piloted, deployed, and institutionalized:

• Convert business opportunities into innovative new business solutions
• Strategy development and translation into breakthrough process and technology change
• Customer Relationship Management
• Organizational Readiness Assessments
• Organizational Change Management

  • Quantitative BA Process Management Program Integrated with PM, QA, SE

  • A Level 4 Training Program is developed and required

Level 3:
Business Alignment
 

Business Benefit: New Business Solutions Meet Business Need; Strategy is Executed

Organizations at Level 3 recognize that business analysis is essential to ensure business alignment of project goals, objectives, and the new business solutions deployed by the project teams. Level 3 organizations vest accountability for business alignment in a centralized organization that represents the entire enterprise and is responsible for management of the business alignment practices. Specifically, to achieve Level 3:

  • The BACOE mission is the centralized management of resources, contractors, vendors

  •  The following process and tools for achieving business alignment are developed, piloted, deployed, and institutionalized:

• Enterprise Analysis
• Portfolio Management
• Strategic alignment of project investments
• Solution assessment and validation
• Benefits measurement program

  •  Business/Technology Architecture exists for the current and future states

  •  A Level 3 Training Program is developed and required

Level 2:
BA Framework

Business Benefit: Business Requirements are Managed and Business Objectives are met

Organizations at Level 2 recognize that business analysis is a valuable capability by vesting accountability for it in a centralized organization that represents the entire enterprise and is responsible for the management of the BA Project Framework. The organization, often referred to as the business analysis center of excellence (BACOE), assigns roles and responsibilities and establishes plans for developing, piloting, and deploying BA standard requirements management practices. Specifically, to achieve Level 2:

  • The BACOE is established and roles and responsibilities assigned to develop and manage the BA Framework

  •  The following process and tools for managing project requirements are developed, piloted, deployed, and institutionalized:

• BA Planning and Managing
• Requirements Elicitation
• Requirements Management and Communication
• Requirements Analysis
• Requirements defect prevention

  • The knowledge management process and system is developed and is in place to archive, manage changes, and provide appropriate access to all BA process and tool assets and actual BA artifacts

  • A Level 2 Training Program is developed and required

Level 1:
BA Awareness

Business Benefit: Business Analysis Value is Acknowledged

At Level 1, an organization does not have plans to implement a business analysis practice, or it has plans, but they do not yet demonstrate an understanding of the value of business analysis

Exhibit 3: BA Maturity Model Description

The Daunting Road Ahead

As you can see in Exhibit 4, there are many elements that need to be in place to implement a mature BA Practice. So, it begs the question: how are we every going to get there, and how fast can we get there?

Mature Practices Proactive Environment Effective BA Workforce Business Focus
Standards & Tools BACOE Competent BAs Enterprise Analysis
Metrics & Measurements BA Governance
BA Role Definition & Career Path Leading to VP BA Customer Relationships
Continuous Improvement Periodic Maturity Assessments Mentoring Program Business Benefit Management
Knowledge Management Periodic BA Workforce Assessments Robust Training Program Competitive & Feasibility Studies

Exhibit 4: Building Blocks of a BA Mature Practice

Cultivating Mature BA Practices

A BA Practice Maturity Assessment Process and Practice Improvement Program are essential tools used to build a mature BA Practice. Together, they provide validated, accurate information about the current state of BA practices, accompanied by recommendations for improvement and support along the journey. In addition, the assessment determines the readiness of the organization to accept and support the new BA practices and formation of a BA Center of Excellence to plant the seeds and steer the course. Specifically, the assessments:

  • Measure the ability of your organization to repeatedly deliver new business solutions that meet the business need and result in the expected benefits

  • Provide a foundation and guidance for advancement of practices through prioritized, sequential improvements

  • Provide an indicator of how effective your organization is in meeting business objectives and executing strategy through successful implementation of new business solutions

BA Practice Maturity Assessment

  • What is it?

    o An independent appraisal of organizational practices
  • Why do it?

    o Provides a foundation for advancement
  • How is it used?

    o Determines where we are today; where we want to be in the future
  • How is it conducted?

    o Uses an appraisal process based on assessment best practices
  • BA practices assessed against what?

    o Current capabilities are compared to a BA Practice Maturity Model based on BA industry best practices

Assessment Components

The scope of the assessment needs to be broad, encompassing the following components:

  • BABOK® Standards: BA Planning & Monitoring, Elicitation, Requirements Management, Enterprise Analysis, etc.

  • BA Metrics

  • BA Tools

  • Knowledge Management

  • BA Practice Support & Governance

  • Change Management

  • BA Competency & Career Management

  • BA Training & Support

  • Project Selection & Prioritization

  • Customer Relationship Management

  • BA Center of Excellence Effectiveness


Assessment Approach

The approach to conducting an organizational maturity assessment can be formal or informal. In either case, it is multi-dimensional, and includes planning meetings culminating in a kick-off session, administration of an assessment instrument, review of project artifacts and deliverables, accompanied by a series of interviews and focus group sessions. Information is synthesized, organized, validated and documented in a data summary report and an assessment findings and recommendations report containing a two-year roadmap and action plan for immediate next steps.


Formal or Informal Assessments

The BA Practice Maturity Model can be used as the basis for several types of assessments as described in the table below (Exhibit 5). Depending on how far you have come in your journey to cultivate mature BA practices, we recommend the most appropriate evaluation of your BA Practice.

Quick Practice Evaluation Abbreviated Assessment Full Assessment
Questionnaire Administration
Questionnaire Administration Questionnaire Administration
5 Interviews
5 Interviews
2 Focus Groups
3 Projects Reviewed

 
10 Interviews
4 Focus Groups
5 Projects Reviewed

 
Kickoff and Findings Presentations Kickoff and Findings Presentations Kickoff and Findings Presentations
Data Summary Report Data Summary Report Data Summary Report
  Findings and Recommendations Report
Findings and Recommendations Report
1 Assessor
2 Assessors
2 Assessors
1-2 Weeks
2-3 Weeks
3-4 Weeks

Exhibit 5: BA Maturity Assessment Options

Assessment Deliverables

There are two key assessment deliverables:

  • The Data Summary Report

o Overall Maturity Rating
o Maturity Rating for each component
o Strengths
o Opportunities

  • The Findings and Recommendations Report and Executive Presentation

o Detailed findings
o Detailed recommendations
o Roadmap to close the gaps
o Action plan to implement recommendations

Sample Assessment Results

Overall Business Analysis Practice Maturity   

 

                                 Detailed Findings Sample


Look for Next Month’s Article: Fostering Team Creativity: The Business Analyst’s Sweet Spot

 

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

 

Author: Kathleen B. (Kitty) Hass, PMP, Senior Practice Consultant, Kathleen Hass & Associates, Inc.

 

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.

Email: kittyhass@comcast.net
Website:
www.kathleenhass.com
Blog:
http://baassessmentmatters.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @BA_Assessment @KathleenHass1

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COMMENTS

raph posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 10:02 AM
Thank you. This is an excellent article.

While I am convinced that building a mature BA environmentis teh right path, I find difficult proving that it will be adding value to a given company.
What I mean is that a maturity assessment will be taken only once a strong business case supports it (as there will be money involved).

Does a benchmark exists supporting this approach (if we compare low versus high maturity) ?

Raphael
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