When starting a new job or project, it is particularly important as a Business Analyst to have a good idea of how an organization or business operates. This helps you navigate the internal and external ways of the business and understand how it affects the customer base. I currently work in the hospital healthcare industry for an organization that acquires several hospitals each year. The more companies that the business acquires, the higher the chance that there will be more growth, responsibility, and opportunities (including problems), and the business can easily become chaotic if not properly structured.
On my first day of the job, I made a typical project manager request and asked for a copy of the organizational chart from a recently acquired hospital. Unfortunately, as is often the case in an acquisition the org chart was not up to date due to employees leaving, lay-offs, promotions, and staff moving to different departments. As a result, I did not know who to go to for information or to execute certain tasks. Org charts are vital for the following reasons:
- It helps Business Analysts understand the different functions throughout the business, the team, and team members.
- It is very important to understand who needs to be involved or the appropriate audience when it comes to sharing information for projects or initiatives.
- There is always room for improvement – informal lines of authority, influence and communication are not included and may even conflict with the organizational chart.
If organization structures were more emphasized, there would be much more efficiency, productivity, and less stress and chaos for employees throughout the business.
Knowing Your Industry & Business
Knowing your industry and business are super-beneficial in so many ways.
- It helps boost productivity and performance. By understanding the organization and its structure, the Business Analyst will know exactly who to go to for tasks and get stuff done, instead of going around in circles. It is all about delivering and proving the return of investment (ROI) based on what you delivered.
- It allows you to network outside your team and gain relationships. You probably hear this often, but your network is your net worth (internally [within your team and organization] and externally [the industry and working with vendors]). In a perfect world, everyone has a role and numerous responsibilities, and they are obligated to make sure they uphold their responsibility no matter what. But in the real world, that is not always the case. If a team member on a project does not know you well enough, there is a chance that he or she will be less motivated or enthusiastic to work with you, or even go above and beyond the call of duty to get last-minute extra tasks done for the project. It is also important for the organization to know who you are. You are a great professional, but now it is time for everyone else to know that you are great! Your reputation is everything. If no one knows who you are besides your team, what reputation do you really have?
- Exposure is key to taking advantage of new opportunities and gaining new insights into what is going on in the organization. If you constantly perform to your greatest height and continue to have a great reputation across the organization, people will come to you for input and new opportunities. Being a Business Analyst is a wonderful role with great rewards, but always allow yourself to grow when the opportunity knocks. As human beings, we must challenge ourselves often in order to grow and not become stagnant. As you accomplish a major challenge, another will come and that is how you improve physically, mentally, and spiritually. Always aim higher and be better! In addition, if there is a change in operations or process for a department and you have a good working relationship, there’s a high probability that information will be communicated to you, which you can in turn communicate to your team. Yes, spread the word! From a team perspective, you are trustworthy and reliable when it comes to your ‘say-do’ ratio and knowledge of information.
Putting the Pieces Together
During the initiation stage of a project after getting the project charter approved, it is the job of the Business Analyst to identify the stakeholders, and determine their expectations, influence, and impact of the project. In order to know the major and minor stakeholders, you must understand the structure, culture, existing systems, and project management processes of the company. Below are a few pointers when it comes to identifying the right stakeholders:
- Understand the problem that needs to be solved. This is very important (and a core part of Strategy Analysis [6.1 Analyze Current State])* because it provides an opportunity to understand the current state and the people who are involved in the current process that needs to change. By understanding the current state and pain points, you automatically get buy-in from the end-users, and it is perceived as if you are intrigued and determined to be solving the problem. Believe it or not, this will be in your favor as the project continues. After determining the people involved in the current process, they should be listed in the stakeholder register and evaluated based on their impact and influence on the project. Most importantly, they must be kept in the loop of what is going on throughout the project no matter if it is a weekly or monthly project status update and/or meeting.
- Ask your business sponsor and/or champion. Most of the time, the business sponsor/champion will let you know the details of the problem and/or project that no one else will know or share, including the stakeholders who need to be involved. As you list these different stakeholders, try to understand their current role and responsibilities, and how they fit into the current business problem(s) that need to be resolved. By doing so, it will show their value and impact to the project. A ‘good’ business sponsor/champion will be your best ally when it comes to the project, because they will provide as much support as possible to solve the problem because of the value added to the business.
- Build a Relationship with Your Sponsor/Champion! I cannot emphasize this enough. To build a relationship, you must gain trust. In order to gain trust, having a ‘100% say-do’ ratio is necessary. Always deliver what you say you are going to do, and then they will like you. Also, treat your champion how you want to be treated. Key words to apply are truth, respect, enthusiasm, reliability, inclusion, and help.
- After gathering your initial list of stakeholders, sit down with your manager and review the list to get feedback. This is especially important to fill any gaps. Your manager is in that position for a reason, so use them for your benefit. If you are successful, your manager is successful. It is a win-win situation!
There are ALWAYS Opportunities for Improvement
Two of the greatest traits that a Business Analyst should have is being inquisitive and innovative by looking at how things are currently done and can be improved. As you get a better understanding of the organization, and the roles and responsibilities of all teams and their team members, ask questions. Why is the person doing this task? Why is the person doing the task this way? Is there an easier way to get the same output? As Business Analysts, it is our sole responsibility to create value, efficiency, and productivity throughout the entire organization. This might not be easy to get the top people (executives, senior management) on your side, but this is where your influencing skills apply.
Although eliminating waste and creating value should be coming from the top-down, that is not always the case. There are times where you must step up and be a change leader. Yes, you will have to open your mouth and communicate this to senior management, but you can back it up with facts, pain points that affect productivity, the potential solutions, and quantitative benefits (dollar amounts is highly suggested) when the pain points are resolved by one or more or a combination of the solutions. By including these factors to your story while presenting the opportunity, you can make a difference and also shift the company culture to innovating constant improvement. So, let’s put on our capes and become change leaders!
Sum It Up
Organization structure is necessary in order to complete projects successfully. According to 10.32 Organizational Modelling in the BABOK® Guide, the organizational model defines how the organization is structured and provides a visual representation of who is in the group, reporting structure, functional roles and interfaces between units/lines of business. Existing systems include an org chart where you must understand the roles and responsibilities for every team and team member. Organizations may use a functionally oriented organizational chart (based on standardized work or processes) or a market-oriented model (usually used for customer groups) or a matrix-based chart (includes a number of defined roles). The organizational chart is the fundamental diagram used in organizational modelling. There is no recognized standard for org charts, but they typically show the organizational unit with roles and people in those roles, and their lines of reporting. In order to conduct a successful strategy analysis, you must have the organization chart as part of understanding the current state. If there is no order, there is chaos; and this applies to projects or initiatives, which create tons of value.
To learn more about Organizational Modelling (there is no recognized standard for org charts but there are some more common conventions used), Scope Modelling (relationships of this type appear as an organization chart, in a class or entity-relationship diagram), Plan Stakeholder Engagement (a company’s organizational chart and business processes can provide an initial source of information for establishing and maintaining effective working relationships with the stakeholders), and Reference Models and Techniques (default architecture ontology for the industry or function) refer to A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) or the INTERACTIVE DIGITAL BABOK® GUIDE (for IIBA Members only).
About the Author
Frankie Mouzon is an IT professional and has been in the industry for almost 10 years. He has worked in several industries such as healthcare, banking and finance, and retail. He is a proactive team leader, organized, a great communicator with strong analytical and presentation skills.
*STRATEGY ANALYSIS, 6.1 Analyze Current State; TECHNIQUES, 10.32.4 Usage Considerations; 10.41 Scope Modelling; BUSINESS ANALYSIS PLANNING AND MONITORING, 3.2 Plan Stakeholder Engagement; PERSPECTIVES, 11.4.3 Reference Models and Techniques, BABOK® Guide v3