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How a BA Centre of Competency Benefits Business Analysts

By Lynda Sydney, Copywriter and Communications Consultant   

Before becoming President and CEO of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), Kathleen Barret worked as a Business Consultant at BMO Financial Group. It was there that she recognized the need for formalized support for the business analysts she worked with, first creating the Business Analyst Centre of Competency, followed by the idea to form a professional association for business analysis—IIBA®.

Today, BMO is a staunch supporter and advocate of the business analysis profession and the company has created several formal groups devoted to the training, development, and accreditation of business analysts. One of these groups is the Business Analyst Centre of Competency, now managed by Debra Rickford.

The Centre of Competency (CoC) was created to support technology BAs and is responsible for governance and best practices around requirements, processes, artifacts and tools for Technology & Operations. It also acts as advocate, subject matter expert and change agent, helping to advance the competencies and capabilities of the practice. The CoC was designed to help professionals in the business analyst role to grow in their position and expand their knowledge. 

“It’s an interesting time to be a BA,” says Debra. “IIBA has brought a lot of credibility. The role is evolving and the business analyst is being asked to do more. It’s not only about technology and having domain knowledge; BAs have to be more focused on better understanding the organization’s business strategy; the relationship between enterprise analysis and business strategies. That is where the role is going.” 

The Centre of Competency provides a foundation for the business analysts within BMO, giving them the tools they need to improve job performance. The centre has implemented a number of initiatives to support the business analysts within the organization.
  • BMO has an internal business analysis website with information, tips, templates and other resources.  
  • The Centre of Competency has a dedicated email box where BAs can send their questions about processes, issues or ideas. 
  • BMO is a Corporate Member of IIBA, and all business analysts within the organization are encouraged to join the association and get involved with their local chapter. 
  • The CoC Manager co-chairs the BA A3G (Advise, Advance & Advocate Group), a volunteer champion group of senior BAs whose focus is to help elevate professional standards and capabilities at the practitioners’ level. The A3G helps to support BAs in the following ways:
    • Production of this year’s BA Forum, bringing together practitioners across Canada and the U.S. The event was held in June in Toronto, Canada and welcomed 174 BAs and guest speakers included Kathleen Barret. 
    • Creating a BA newsletter three times each year. 
    • Fostering an environment for networking, opportunities for sharing ideas and knowledge through lunch and learns, webinars and events. 
    • Contributing to the professional development of practitioners thorough peer coaching. 
    • Providing a platform to advocate the profession, promote principles and practices in the organization.
BMO also has a centrally managed accreditation program with four levels of accreditation for Business Analysts. Starting in 2013, at Level 3 a BA must have earned the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) or Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA®) certification, aligning BMO to external certification. The program goals:
  • Provide an infrastructure that supports and advances professional development and helps drive practitioners’ effectiveness and performance in delivering project outcomes. 
  • Establish standard mechanisms for the assessment and recognition of BA practitioners’ capability and competency. 
  • Longer term, provide the Functional Managers of BAs with a more meaningful mechanism for    matching accredited professionals to projects based on the practitioner’s achieved level of accreditation (capability and competency proficiency).
  • BMO has instituted the Career Ladder, a great success, which shows how business analysts can move up in their career within BMO. 
While BMO has shown that it recognizes the value the BA role brings to the company, there are still many organizations that don’t know exactly what it is BAs do. BAs bring a wide range of skills and value to the table, such as being the liaison between business and IT, with an understanding of both business and IT functions. Debra considers the traditional skill set of elicitation as one of the key skills for business analysis. 

“It has been proven how important requirements are to the project life cycle, and the BA role is vital in bridging the gap between business stakeholders and the technology,” says Debra. “It is crucial to have a well-trained BA on a project to elicit the right requirements. You have to get the requirements right to avoid rework and reduce cost.”

Having a Centre of Competency to support BAs in this work not only helps them develop in their careers, but it is important to the organization. Investing in a BA Centre of Competency or Centre of Excellence is a smart move for any business planning for present and future success.