Value of a Certified Business Analyst in a Project Context
Consider this scenario, you have been assigned a new client project. Now this project comes with some constraints. It was initiated in the context of historical workplace practices that were unreliable, not forward thinking, and unsustainable. Also, this project is quite complex involving multiple systems coming together to solve issues of transparency and accountability. Clearly it requires professional elicitation of requirements and careful understanding of the needs of the stakeholders. Collaboration within and between stakeholder groups is critical. This is a big transformational project! If delivered successfully, the project will be a significant milestone in the history of not just the organization, but the industry itself.
Mid-Project Status: Red
You meticulously planned the kick-off to engage stakeholders and set expectations. The project structure is reinforced and fortified by independent teams involved in operations, audit and approval. But still, midway through the project, the status is in red. Struggling to make forward strides - there are longer meetings and fewer resolutions; increasing list of issues and action items; and a ballooning feeling of burden; tougher but more rewarding decisions, some of which are long pending.
There is a divide developing: the usual one. The divide that separates those who acknowledge the problem and those who are still figuring if the project status is accurate; those that have bias for action, and those that are still searching for solution miles deep in status reports!
Working dynamics are shifting. Personnel is evaluating each other. There is a reason that everyone seems to converge to for the state-of-affairs. There is gossip. It is that specific STAKEHOLDER that is targeted. He is the sign-off authority, but he often comes across in meetings as unintelligent, asking basic questions and requiring elaborate answers. If only he was quick to understand, the project would be flying! Risk log has a big entry, issue log has become stagnant. There are now escalations from the client!
Getting Back on Track
The project manager decides to tackle the problem before it blows up any further. The project clearly requires course correction. From experience, the project manager understands that gossip is seldom accurate. So, he decides to investigate and deal with this head-on.
As a first step, he invites the product specialist to discuss the overview of the overall situation.
Project Manager: How do you think you are doing on this project?
Product Specialist: I am doing well in all areas, except in dealing with that STAKEHOLDER. He bothers with questions that confuse everyone.
Project Manager: I know you are doubling up as a business analyst too, but do you think it is working?
Product Specialist: I know the product and I’ve captured the requirements of the stakeholders. I don’t know how to deal with this stakeholder.
The project manager knew who to call in next. The personnel manager was available at short notice given the gravity of an impending escalation.
Project Manager: Why don’t we have a full-time business analyst?
Personnel Manager: Being a product company, we emphasize having product specialists. Over time, they begin to understand the user requirements and visualize how they fit into product.
Project Manager: You seem to imply that one skill begets another. The reason we are facing this troubling scenario is lack of proper facilitation skills, lack of skills in engaging stakeholders, and eliciting their requirements. I recommend that you immediately recruit a certified business analyst.
Personnel Manager: Why a certified business analyst? They may be expensive and may have to be billed to the project. Is that agreeable?
Project Manager: For a project of this magnitude, complexity and scale, we need a digital BA who has demonstrated experience in bringing out operational excellence and customer delight. Someone who can manage not just incremental improvements, but game changing innovations. Having a certified business analyst is an investment that we must make if we want to progress and avoid failure.
Personnel Manager: Okay then. I will begin sourcing profiles.
At least two emails were to be written before any further meetings can happen. The two quick meetings gave deep insight into what may have gone wrong, and what required fixing. The project manager began writing:
Email 1: To the Project Team
We will need to meet for a quick review on the project status. Also, there will be a revision in role definitions and accountabilities as we will have a business analyst joining us soon. Let us reorient ourselves and push forward to bring the project back to green status.
Email 2: To the client
We had an internal review about the project progress. We believe we have identified and addressed the areas of concern. Also, we are excited to tell you that we are bringing on board an IIBA certified business analyst to work more closely with the stakeholders.
Have you experienced this challenge, where the PM or the project lead doesn’t understand what a BA brings to a project or program? According to the 2019 IIBA® Global Business Analysis Salary Survey 27% of respondents report the project manager only sometimes involves them in decision making, but one of the biggest barriers' BAs face in their role (44%) is a lack of understanding of the role of business analysis while another (33%) of respondents reported they have to explain what business analysis is to others. You can read more about this in the How to Break Down Barriers at Work blog.