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Empowering Business Analysts

By Kevin Cochran, Senior BA, ServiceMaster, CRM Technology/Customer Service

“Knowledge is power” so goes the old axiom. While that sometimes proves true, I would offer a new statement for BA managers looking to maximize their teams: “knowledge is empowering”. This is especially true when the right atmosphere is created to foster knowledge acquisition and application. As managers, we really want BAs with the skills and know-how to proactively address the needs and support the values of our organization.

Training is an essential part of reaching that target. This simulated exchange between a CFO and a CIO illustrates this well:

CFO – “What if we spend all of this money on training and then our staff leaves the company?”

CIO – “What if we don’t spend money on training and they all stay?”

Benefits

Training must be viewed as an investment that yields returns rather than as an expense. Some of the key benefits include: 
  1. Consistency in methodology: Teaching business analysts the tools of the trade helps focus your team on how to get the job done. It can shore up or revisit any foundational gaps in experienced team members. Teaching methodology can also start the inexperienced team members on the right course. This will help ensure the development and delivery of project artifacts and deliverables that are consistent across all team members and projects.
  2. Speed to productivity: Learning by experience takes time. Also, learning by experience requires a high tolerance for mistakes. Someone who is new will typically either shadow a more experienced person in the same role or have to learn a lot via trial and error. This will consume people resources and/or time until the person develops into a productive team member. Training your team on new technology, key aspects of how the business works or key information within a given industry can shorten the learning curve and speed the time until they become a productive business analyst with knowledge in place.
  3. Aid in attracting or retaining top talent: We all want the best of the best on our teams. A key to getting and keeping the best BAs can be the company’s attitude toward professional development. When hiring new team members, I always affirm my desire for them to see this experience as a win-win. I readily acknowledge that they may have a long career ahead of them with this current opportunity or that it might be a short-term engagement. Regardless, I want them to be able to say that they benefitted from the time spent and the investment that I made in their growth.
Approach

There are many different kinds of training that can be provided. Don’t overlook training on aspects of the business analysis trade. Many businesses already have orientation training that is designed to educate staff on the industry or on a given vertical such as sales or accounts payable. It can also be important to train on specific tools that someone is expected to use to get the job done. I would advise against prioritizing one type at the expense of others. Sometimes a blended approach can address multiple needs.

I was involved in a company effort to shift its IT strategy to a centralized staff model rather than distributed among the different business areas. We developed a new engagement process for getting IT projects approved and accomplished. I was on the team that developed the engagement model and trained it to the entire IT organization. We combined this very organization specific training with some business analysis fundamentals training. The fundamentals training was designed to refresh and/or introduce key aspects of business analysis processes to our business analysts. Providing these two types of training in conjunction with each other enabled consistency in our documentation along with a full knowledge of the deliverables expected at each step of the engagement model.

All training does not require a formal classroom environment. Providing corporate membership in organizations such as International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) is a great example of an informal approach that fosters knowledge acquisition. By encouraging participation in local chapter meetings, online resources and discussion groups among your BAs, you can enable professional development at each team member’s own pace.

Summary

There are numerous benefits to training your business analysts. The key is to shift your view from seeing training as IT cost, toward seeing training as an investment in your IT staff. How you approach training can vary according to the needs of your team and the goals for your organization. As your staff sees the commitment you are making to their growth and development, you will see how truly empowering knowledge can be toward reaching the goals that your company’s leadership has set!



Kevin Cochran - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kevin-cochran/1/5a7/7a5