Managing Business Analysts can be challenging and frustrating. There are several logical reasons for this difficulty. First, business analysis work is complex and the role is not well understood. Review a few BA communities and blogs and you will read varying opinions on what the job is and who best fills it. Most people who are managing BAs do not have experience in this role since the profession is so new. Managers often have analytical experience but in a very different business environment than we find ourselves today.
Second, most organizations don’t yet have standards and consistent processes around the business analysis work. It is difficult to evaluate a BA’s performance when there is not a clear performance standard around which to measure.
Another difficulty is that most BAs are very detailed-oriented people who are thorough and lean towards perfectionism. It is difficult for them to finish a task because the requirements are never perfect. Many BAs get stuck in analysis paralysis on a regular basis, leading their managers to believe that they can’t get anything done.
Other reasons for the management challenge is that analysis work is by its very nature, difficult to plan and measure. BAs don’t know how long it will take to “think about” a complex problem and come up with a solution.
Managing BAs will never be easy or straightforward, but there are some quick techniques that can be used to improve the situation. As with most challenges, recognizing the problem is the first step. Spend time with your BAs asking them to explain their work and their challenges in some detail so that you begin to understand the complexity with which they are dealing. Assure them that you have confidence in their ability to analyze and that you want to support their efforts as much as possible. Continue to remind them that a requirements document or business model will never be perfect or absolutely complete. Tell them that you (and their stakeholders) are not looking for perfection but are looking for the best work that can be done within the project timeframe.
Encourage BAs to reuse requirements templates from other projects and share techniques with other BAs. Encourage BA communities of practice so that BAs can learn from their peers. Allow BAs time to read blogs and articles about requirements management. One caution – don’t fall into the management trap of thinking that a tool will solve your management problems. A requirements management tool will never replace a BA and will initially add to your management challenges because of the training curve and custodial resources required.
When a BA is stuck, ask her to tell you the risk of letting go. “What is the worse thing that will happen if we don’t thoroughly document every process in the Marketing Department before we go forward with this project?” Help them to understand that there are some risks that you and the organization are willing to take.
Much of a BA’s time is spent balancing a complete understanding of a problem/solution with the time/resource constraints of the organization. Helping your BAs to maintain a reasonable balance will make them more effective, develop them into senior BAs, and keep your projects moving forward.