I was talking with a business analyst at the Boston Business Analyst World conference. She asked if we offer any training on how BAs should navigate the politics in their organizations. She was facing a situation where the IT group disagreed with a business unit request but she was a paid consultant, hired by IT!
Although dealing with office politics is necessary for many professions, BAs face some unique challenges, often driven by where they officially “report” in the organization.
Many BAs “report to” or “reside in” IT. This means that they are paid out of the IT budget and evaluated by IT management. Promotions and assignments to plum projects are controlled by IT (you see where I am going with this!). As BUSINESS analysts we are tasked with representing the business to the IT group. We are supposed to be advocates for the business. But what happens when the business disagrees with an IT decision or direction? Guess who is stuck in the middle? The BA. All of our talk of being a bridge or a liaison can be destroyed by an organizational structure that makes the BA’s career progression at odds with the best interest of the business. Of course there are also issues when the BA “reports to” the business unit (I’ll save that for another day.) Ideally BAs would be an independent group and could truly act as liaisons. Analogous to the PMO (project management office), a Business Analyst Office or Center for Excellence may eventually help us with these conflicts. The recent Gartner report on business analysis placement also defines a hybrid model where there are BAs in IT and in the business units.
In the meanwhile, a business analyst must represent all of his or her stakeholders as fully as possible and work to resolve conflicts through communication and consensus building. We may have to walk a fine line between representing business stakeholders while not alienating our management. Thank goodness that we are excellent communicators and listeners. Sometimes simply listening and asking questions help disparate groups to come to a common vision.