Tips on Becoming and Being a Better BA Manager

By Julie Chase, Sr. Director, Business Analysis, CNO Services

What does it take to be a great manager of a business analyst organization? It takes a person who has strong communication skills, is adept at planning and organizing, can effectively resolve conflict, and more. My Successful Manager’s Handbook lists 28 similar attributes. So what differentiates a business analyst manager from any other manager?
Consider the manager of the coffee shop down the street. He has a thriving business and a loyal customer base. What is the secret to his success? Not only does he possess all the attributes of a highly effective manager, but he is also passionate about coffee. My experience supports that it is very much the same for a manager of business analysts. You have to be very passionate about the profession of business analysis to be effective.  
If you are a business analyst who would like to follow a career path to a management role, how do you get there? I will assume you are already passionate about the business analysis profession. What you may lack is the management experience. What can you do to prepare yourself and your résumé for that next step in your career? 
Build your management skills. My advice would be to look for ways to demonstrate and strengthen your managerial skills: 
  • Volunteer to mentor or coach other business analysts.  
  • Look for assignments where you can be the lead business analyst coordinating the work of other business analysts.  
  • Volunteer to serve on the board of directors for your local IIBA® chapter.  
Study other managers. Be aware of how the managers you work with handle different situations. Choose those behaviors you admire and work to emulate them. Look at the behaviors you don’t like and make sure they don’t become part of your repertoire. 
Read. I would advise the aspiring manager to read about leadership and then practice those things that make you a better leader. There are many books that can provide you with great insight into effective leadership. I must admit that I rely heavily on several of my favorite books to keep me grounded as an effective leader. (Editor’s note: You’ll find books on leadership in the IIBA Online Library, including Managing Business Analysts published by IIBA.)
Find a mentor. One of the most valuable things you can do is connect with a mentor, a champion, a sponsor—someone who will not only provide you with coaching and advice but who will also advocate for you.  
Advise your company. Finally, let people know that you want to be a manager. Telling the right people that your career goal is to be a manger will significantly increase the likelihood that your name will come up in discussion when openings need to be filled. 
Being a Better BA Manager
If you are already a manager and possess all the skills you need to be successful as a manager, what can you do to become an outstanding business analyst manager? 
Like the coffee shop manager, develop a passion for your product; in this case business analysis. Learn about business analysis as a profession. Keep in mind that business analysis is a young profession and you will encounter many people who feel that anyone can do a business analyst’s job. Even worse, there are those who feel that engaging a business analyst doesn’t add value to a project. You don’t need to know how to write effective use cases. You don’t need to know how to do modeling. But you do need to understand the value business analysis brings to an organization and be able to advocate for your staff and for the profession. Enthusiasm is contagious—if you are enthusiastic about business analysis your team will be enthusiastic too and pretty soon you will find the rest of the organization will follow. 
You may already think business analysis is a terrific profession, but what are some of the things you can do that will help you to become an effective advocate? Attend local IIBA chapter meetings, serve as a board member for a local chapter, attend professional development days, and convince your company to become a Corporate Member of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). All of these provide you with opportunities to learn about the profession, as well as a chance to network with other leaders in the business analysis profession. These types of networking opportunities have helped me to become an effective advocate for the business analysis profession, both within my company and within my community.
Whether you are a business analyst wanting to become a manager or a manager wanting to become a stronger business analyst manager, I would encourage you to pursue this path. The business analysis profession can certainly use more strong advocates and leaders!