I had a discussion recently with a client about how the role of a BA in many organizations was traditionally thought of as a scribe in meetings. Thankfully with all the recent focus on business analysis as a discipline, the many different skills provided by a business analyst are just beginning to be understood by many industries. Why does a business analyst make a good scribe?
Business analyst professionals develop excellent listening skills, especially for details, throughout their career. One of the critical competencies of a business analyst is to provide clear, concise, and complete communication in many forms. The ability to record the critical elements of a project meeting is a walk in the park for an experienced BA. It is not the most challenging or glamorous thing we can do but concise minutes and clear agreements save a project team valuable time not having to revisit old issues and really help in getting new members up to speed.
Should BAs always be expected to scribe? No, but we can do it better than most. The good news is that clear, organized minutes are just a tiny aspect of the true value the business analyst role brings to a project. If you find yourself occasionally being the scribe, I have a few recommendations that I have used:
1) Use a standard meeting template to keep the minutes organized.
2) Provide context for the minutes by providing pertinent details, such as the meeting purpose and agenda, the date, time, length of meeting, location, invitees, attendees, and absentees. Listing attendees will help with the next item. Be concise in all your descriptions.
3) Keep a running log of decisions instead of trying to record every conversation that took place during the meeting. Project teams spend precious time revisiting topics with people who were not present or who forgot the results. Minutes reflecting decisions as well as the decision rationale will prove invaluable.
4) Provide details about any open or new action items assigned during the meeting. Include a clear description about what is expected, who is accountable for the action, as well as agreed-upon deadlines. People who are responsible to complete an action must agree to the task and timeframe to be truly accountable.
5) Include any associated documents needed by the reader to understand the meeting content. If during the meeting you reviewed a requirements package, attach it to the minutes, or if someone provided a presentation, include the PowerPoint slides. Even better if your project has a shared area for file posting and sharing – provide the document location in the minutes. Leading people to the appropriate document will alleviate the reader frustration by giving them quick and easy access to the necessary information and will prevent you from clogging up the email system with large files.
6) Send out written meeting minutes and documentation in a timely fashion, usually within 24-48 hours and request feedback about any corrections. If you have regularly scheduled meetings you may want to start each meeting by asking people to approve the previous meeting decisions and actions.
7) If you have a shared directory, or project wiki or some other document manager available where you can post the weekly minutes and project documents – this helps the entire team stay in sync. A shared site also makes it convenient for team members to collaborate and to pull information as needed.
In summary, although BAs have many valuable skills that benefit the project. They are also likely to be among the best, if not the best communicators on the project. No matter how well respected you are as a BA, you are occassionally going to take minutes. So let’s be a team player and go for it! If any one has any good tips for meetings or a good meeting template to share, please write.