In speaking with people on a daily basis in the business analysis arena, I find a common set of questions that continue to come up in my conversations regarding organizational structure and the roles that make it successful. These questions include:
- Should our team have BA specialists or should we have generalists?
- Should we have BAs on the business side or in IT?
- Should we have a matrixed BA organization or should they be assigned to dedicated teams?
My answer to all of these questions is “Yes.” Maybe that sounds like a cop out, but let me explain. The answer is that business analysis should be happening at all levels of the organization and, to some extent, by everyone. The focus should not be on who is performing the analysis or where analysis is being performed; it should be on what needs to be done in order to be effective.
I have worked with companies that have been successful using both sides of each question. You are heading in the right direction if you focus on what is working in your organization and keep improving regardless of your structure and where analysis activities are done. Ultimately everyone in your organization needs to have an analysis mindset. Analysis should not only be done by project team members and definitely not by one and only one person.
Should our team have BA specialists or should we have generalists? In our profession there are a number of people that feel all projects need BA specialists. The argument used is “would you go to a primary care doctor if you needed brain surgery or would you go to a brain surgeon?” Well, if every time I was sick, I required brain surgery then I would go to a brain surgeon. But in reality most of the time I don’t need specialist care, I need generalist care. The same holds true for projects. For very uncertain, complex projects, maybe you need a specialist. However, many of our projects are not that complex enough to require a BA specialist at every stage. You need analysis, not necessarily a Business Analyst.
Should we have BAs on the business side or in IT?If the business has capable people who have time dedicated to do the proper level of analysis, maybe you don’t need many BAs on the IT side. Considering this, the IT side can be more focused on technical analysis and less on business analysis. Again, where the people are is not important as long as the work is being done.
I think you get my point now! The same flexible, success oriented mindset goes for having a matrixed BA organization verses a dedicate team.
So now comes a new question, how can you start improving the organization’s mindset today? Recently I heard someone speak about having a leadership improvement whiteboard. The whiteboard was a dedicated spot where teams would have a designated representative to work with other team representatives on prioritizing potential improvements. These suggested improvements would be presented to the organization’s leadership who would then work them into future programs or projects. The designees are not all business analysts. They are representatives from IT, accounting, sales, operations, etc. I love this! What a great way to give everyone the opportunity to use the analysis mindset. Organizations need to spend more time determining what analysis capabilities they are lacking and determine who, what and where they should improve those skills.
All the best,