Establishing a Business Analysis Community of Practice, Part 2

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BA CoP Quick Start Guide

Part 1 of this series examined the components a BA CoP should optimally include.
This article sets out the first four steps that must be taken in order to establish a successful BA CoP.

STEP 1: The Champion

The Champion is the RACI driver - Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed.

The Champion is in charge of getting the BA CoP up and running, and lending their guidance in the background once the CoP is established. Having a Champion is a mandatory first step.

Who can be a Champion?

  1. An existing BA leader.

  2. A Senior IT or business leader who has a background in Business Analysis.

  3. A group of senior BAs acting in this capacity, and providing redundancy: if one moves to another business unit or geographic location, the BA CoP still has continuity.

What does the Champion do?

  • Defines and shapes the direction of the CoP.

  • Helps market the CoP internally.

  • Participates in most CoP meetings.

  • Gathers leadership support.

  • Reports on CoP metrics.

  • Encourages participation from all areas of the organization.

It is not a good idea to "delegate" a Champion, or have an Executive Sponsor "stand in" as Champion. The role requires a high degree of participation, consistency and supervision.

No Champion, no CoP.

STEP 2: The Value Proposition to the Organization of starting a CoP

It's crucial to get organizational buy-in early in the process of establishing a BA CoP. You must communicate the benefits to your organization: "The only true value is the value of changed, improved, or somehow altered results." 1

In other words, increased sales, lower project costs, higher customer satisfaction and better quality are the ultimate purpose . . . not more templates, process and Methodologie du jour.

Garcia and Dorohovich write in The Truth about Building and Maintaining Successful Communities of Practice, "potential members and business leaders expect CoPs to support real business needs prior to investing their own time and organizational resources to support the communities. If CoPs are properly implemented, benefits to the organization are faster and better-informed decision-making and a workforce that has access to knowledge at the point of need." 2

Garcia and Dorohovich state that a CoP also:

  • Facilitates the rapid identification of individuals with specific knowledge/skills

  • Fosters knowledge sharing across organizational boundaries

  • Provides a safe environment to share problems, challenges, and test new ideas

  • Facilitates collaboration across different time zones

  • Fosters innovation (within and across organizational boundaries)

  • Reduces learning curves for new employees

  • Fosters interaction between new/more junior employees and senior/more experienced practitioners

  • Facilitates the building of mentor-protege relationships

Beyond the general business problems your BA CoP will focus on, does your organization have specific enterprise, program or project issues that must be addressed?

For instance:

  • Introduction of a new SDLC, BA or Development Methodology

  • Reorganization or realignment (for instance, BAs moving from IT to a Business area)

  • Mergers, acquisitions or new strategic directions

  • Changes in technology

Are there business and project problems that can be clearly attributed to a lack of BA skills?

  • Inconsistent BA processes, standards or methodology

  • Poor communication or facilitation

  • Unacceptable documentation

  • Missed requirements

  • Disconnection with SMEs, PMs, developers or QA

You will be much more likely to get senior-level support if you can show how a BA CoP addresses specific enterprise issues.

STEP 3: The Initial Project Plan

Create an initial estimate of size, scope and timeframe for your BA CoP. Lay out the high level steps that need to be taken, including:

1) Defining Community size and location(s)

  • How many BAs are in your organization?

  • Where are your BAs located organizationally and geographically?

  • What is the potential audience size for a BA CoP?

2) Establishing Roles and Responsibilities

BA Leaders. They make up the Core Group and can serve as:

  • Content creators

  • Meeting Facilitators

  • Mentors

  • Presenters

  • SMEs

  • Subject Matter Experts

  • Trainers

  • Webmasters or admins

Executive Sponsors

  • Business and IT (helpful to have sponsors on both sides of the aisle)

  • Economic and political ($ and senior-level protection)

Audience - Allies and Impacted Groups

  • Business Leads

  • Consultants

  • Developers

  • Junior BAs

  • Project Managers

  • Six Sigma/Quality/Continuous Improvement groups

  • Trainers

3) Creating Content

  • Does material exist, or will it need to be created?

    • BA Toolkit

    • Specific templates and guidelines

    • Project examples of templates in use

    • Introducing new processes or methodologies

    • Training materials

  • Who will create, update and manage the content?

4) Holding Monthly Sessions

  • Audience Size

  • Possible Dates

  • Sample Agendas

  • Potential Meeting locations

    • Physical (conference room)

    • On-line (for large numbers of geographically dispersed BAs)

  • Workshops

  • Outside speakers

  • Lunch and learns

 

5) Assessing Technology needs

  • SharePoint or shared drive space

  • Webinars or NetMeetings

  • Conference lines

  • Evaluation, licensing or training on Software:

    • Requirements

    • Modeling

    • Workflow

    • Testing

STEP 4: The Leadership Presentation

Internal marketing is an often overlooked, but essential component of engaging key stakeholders.

Along with the value of having a BA CoP, a presentation should demonstrate several ways that a BA CoP can immediately benefit your organization:

  1. Better requirements - which lead to efficient projects, less rework and reduced costs.

  2. Up-to-date skill sets - which result in higher quality deliverables, better communication and happier customers.

  3. Industry standard practices - just as "interoperability" is the buzzword in Health IT, BAs should have a standard and "portable" skill set. They should be able to function anywhere in an organization.

  4. Alignment with the PMO and SDLC - one of the most common flaws of BA CoPs is lack of alignment and connection to upstream (PM) and downstream (Development) activities. Interfacing with PMs and Development early in the BA CoP's set-up will ensure smooth communication and more efficient projects in the future.

  5. Closer partnership between IT and Business - the Shangri-La of all corporate planning. Always envisioned, but rarely achieved.

  6. Having BAs who can function on an enterprise and strategic level - BAs who can think and innovate. The ability to think is the rarest and most highly prized commodity in the corporate world: valuable due to its scarcity. This is of inestimable use to an organization.

A presentation to your organization's leaders should provide a high-level description of:

  1. The BA CoP's potential activities

  2. Interfacing groups:

    • SharePoint or Intranet Team

    • PMs

    • Training

    • PMO/Governance/SDLC

    • Business leads

    • Developers

  3. Estimated audience size

  4. Location of materials and anticipated content

  5. Communication Plan

  6. Tasks, timelines, milestones and deadlines

  7. Initial resource needs

  8. Estimated start up costs

  9. Next steps, including

    • A Core Planning Workshop (required attendees, location, agenda)

    • Scheduled meetings (dates and locations)

    • Status reports and success measurements.

References:

1. Alan Weiss, Organizational Consulting, Wiley & Sons 2003

2. Jill Garcia and Michael Dorohovich, The Truth about Building and Maintaining Successful Communities of Practice, www.dau.mil/pubs/arq/2005arq/2005arq-38/Dorohovich-pb1.pdf.

Author: Sam Cherubin is a business analyst, consultant and author. He can be reached at http://www.linkedin.com/in/samcherubin

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