The Right Business Analyst, the Right Project

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If it is allocating your internal resources, making a new hire, or bringing in a consultant; what is the best process to match the right business analyst to the right project?  For organizations that truly value the role of the business analyst this is one of the most frequently pondered questions. 

Companies that want to have the right people in the right roles need to address four main stages; defining the BA’s roles in the project, attracting the best talent, matching the BA to the project and finally, making the selection and continuing to support.

Define Business Analyst’s Role in the Project
It is just as important to assess the project as it is to assess the BA for the project.  In the first stage of the project the Enterprise Business Analyst and the Project Manager will work together to define the business case, high-level requirements, risk assessment, staffing, project plan, scope, budget, timeline, and the work plan.

One of the deliverables at this stage is to identify and develop the roles the BA or BAs will play throughout the project. Having the specific definition of the role and identification of categories and tasks each BA will perform will create the baseline of skills and experience that is needed for matching the right BA to the right role in the project.

One of the largest mistakes an organization can make when identifying the BA’s role in the project is to assume that the role of the BA will be the same as in previous projects.  The Business Analysis Maturity Model seeks to define and replicate our process, however it does not mean that the BA will be playing the same role in each project.

To set the stage for success it is important to spend time up front to identify the specific tasks within each of the following business analysis role categories: Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring, Enterprise Analysis, Elicitation, Requirements Analysis, Solution Assessment and Validation, and Requirements Management and Communication.  These categories and related tasks will be the baseline to use when identifying the BA with the best matched skills and experience for the project.

Attract the Best Business Analysts
One of the most overlooked stages in this process is casting the net to identify the best people for the project.  This is not an easy task.  There are fewer qualified BAs than the number of projects that need them.  Organizations in every market should have a plan to market, attract and retain the best talent for their organization.

For prospective employees or consultants the most common information viewed is the job description or project requirement.  Often this document only lists required and desired skills of the BA with no description of the project or the solution they will be developing.  Many times the same job description is used every time a new BA is needed.  In one study we conducted, we found that over 80% of the organizations in the survey used the same HR job description for all posted BA positions.

If the top talent in the market is desired, an organization needs to show they value the role of the BA.  The project and potential solution cannot be over communicated.  Great BAs are motivated by being part of a collective team, creating and implementing business driven solutions.  Communicating this will attract and retain the best BAs by triggering their passion.

Matching the Business Analyst to the Project
Now that the specific role of the BA is defined and best practices have been used to draw great BAs to the project, the next stage is to accurately assess the BA for the project.  In assessing the BA, it is important to review the following four critical areas for success: core business analysis project competencies, cultural fit, motivation, and the organizational vision of the BA.

The core project competencies consist of assessing the skills and experience related to the business analysis role categories and related tasks, expertise in industry and technology subject matter, and other additional skills.  Developing a matrix of these items will provide a clear way to rate and select the best talent for the project.  The matrix should be used for both existing and potential external project resources and can provide feedback and track career growth through projects for internal resources. It also provides a clear way to organize information for new resources beyond stacking resumes.

An example of information to gather for each category and task can be found by using the category of Elicitation and the related task of Preparing for Elicitation.   The following information will be needed for the matrix in this task area:

Category Elicitation
Task: Preparing for Elicitation
 

  1. Years of Experience and number of projects Preparing for Elicitation
  2. Candidate’s level of experience (rating 1-10)
  3. Candidate’s importance of Preparing for Elicitation (rating 1-10)
  4. Candidate’s interest level in Preparing for Elicitation (rating 1-10)


Define three to four questions per task.  Add both the questions and answers to the matrix.  An example of good questions in the area of Preparing for Elicitation would include: 
 

  1. Walk me through your steps when preparing for elicitation.  What are some key elements you have established in this phase in the past?  (Drill down for specific examples)
  2. What information do you feel is important to know before preparing for the elicitation process? (Drill down for specific examples)
  3. What best practices have you gathered in previous projects that were successful when preparing for elicitation?  (Drill down for specific examples)


The second important area to consider is cultural fit of the candidate within the organization.  The organization can use their own cultural assessment and specific characteristics including all stakeholders and the project team.  The candidate must be aligned with the culture of the organization and the organization must be able to have a vision of the BA within the culture.

The third area of interest when matching the right BA is to assess the BA’s motivation for the project.  It is important to properly understand why the BA is interested in the project.  Is their motivation to have a job or do they have a sincere interest in developing a solution for the business?  Having a person with a strong motivation for the solution will dramatically affect the project’s success to deliver a great solution, over just creating an answer to the problem.  Passion and structure are the key elements that drive innovation.  The right BA has both.

For both the organization and the business analyst, it is important to have a short term and long term assessment of the vision of the BA within the organization.  Will this project be a good stepping stone for the BA to lead them to the next project or are they here just for a short term solution?  To support the organization’s growth through the Business Analysis Maturity Model, it is important to take a global look at the organization’s projects and the BAs to gain a clearer understanding and vision for the BA in the organization.  Communicating this vision to potential BAs will find the BA who is in alignment with the future of the organization.

Selection and Support
Now that the roles of the BA(s) have been defined within the project, the best people have been attracted and the best candidates assessed, it is time to make final selections.  Connect with all the people in the process to let them know if they were selected or not.  For the people that were not selected, it is best to be honest why they were not selected.  If it was a matter of specific core business analysis competencies such as skills, experience, industry or technology, help point them in the right direction to fill the gaps.  This activity is important to support the BAs that may be the future of your organization.  If they may be a great candidate in the future, let them know of that interest.  If it is an internal employee, this is a great opportunity to address skill areas to build for future projects and to keep them learning and growing within the organization.

Provide the candidates that are selected for the project feedback why they were selected.  It is never too early to start preparing them for the upcoming project.  Let them know of their strengths and areas where they could use some support.  Point them in the direction of tools and resources to start enhancing these areas and get them excited about the solution they will be building.  This is a good time to reinforce vision of them beyond this project and where they may be leveraged in future solutions.

The right person for the right project has now been selected and everyone can get to work.  To keep the BA engaged in the project, implement a plan to manage and support them throughout the project.  Provide them continued business analysis education and resources, encourage them to join business analysis organizations and communities where they will be around like-minded people that will push them to learn and grow in their careers.  Stay engaged and be strategic in keeping the right business analyst on the right project and in the right organization, so they can continue to be focused and energized, and will create unmatched results for your organization.

Author: Jeff Martin is the CEO and Founder of Collective Genius.  Collective Genius believes that by working together we can realize abundantly more than what we can alone.  Collective Genius helps organizations create top performing ensemble teams by providing project-based consultants and direct placement of employees for organizations that seek business analysis and project management talent.





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