In the world of change initiation, the role of a Business Analyst (BA) is crucial for ensuring value and success. However, the specific responsibilities of a BA during the project initiation phase can vary greatly across organizations. In some companies, BAs are brought in very early in the process – they might even initiate it! – but in other companies, Business Analysts are brought in much later in the process.
In this article, we’ll explore different approaches to involving BAs in project initiation when using the Waterfall approach and discuss the best option I’ve found to be most effective for organizations and for the success of solutions.
The Extremes: The Absent BA and the Overworked Hero
In some organizations, BAs are as elusive as Bigfoot during a picnic. They’re brought in once the project charter has been created, leaving the brainstorming and ideation phase to the department heads. Picture it: a room full of department heads throwing around ideas like confetti, with the BA being invited in after the fact to make sense of the ‘pile of confetti’.
With this approach, inefficiencies and missed opportunities occur often. It’s safe to say that Business Analysts in this scenario can feel a bit like they’ve been forgotten or overwhelmed trying to understand and make mismatched ideas fit into one solution. They’re also left to pick up the pieces and try to work through a solution that usually isn’t fully thought through, plugging holes and possibly trying to make adjustments as they and the project team progress. This ultimately defeats much of the purpose of the BA. The Business Analyst is supposed to be there to gather early information from every department angle (IT, Engineering, Finance, etc) and raise their hand, questioning things from a comprehensive, holistic perspective of the business. So pulling them in later in the process creates inefficiencies, and could be very detrimental to the business solution overall. They may not even fully understand the problem they are solving or the context of why – vastly decreasing the probable effectiveness of the solution. It’s just too late in the project process to really get the value the BA role can provide.
Now, on the flip side, we have companies that rely entirely on BAs to run the project initiation show. These BAs essentially become project detectives, chasing down every detail, piece of information, and stakeholder like a caffeine-fueled Sherlock Holmes. But putting BAs in the position to track down every tiny bit of information without proper assistance is bound to burn them out. While assisting with information gathering is still part of the Business Analysts responsibilities, they need support and guidance from the business to ensure they’re pursuing the right individuals and roles for insight. Their analytical skills provide much more value when reviewing information gathered and helping piece together a solution that has been thoroughly and precisely thought out.
One Optimized Approach: BA and the Business Leader
The secret to a successful project initiation involves the BA working closely with a business leader, forming a dynamic duo that works together to build a successful solution. The business leader works with the BA (as a consultant) to properly define and refine that idea into a solid business case.
Once the business case is approved, a Project Manager (PM) enters the project, working with the business leader and the BA. The PM is responsible for asking important questions and assembling the project charter like a master puzzle solver. The three professionals ideally collaborate to define the project’s objectives and drive the project to success.
Collaboration Drives Project Success
While there is no one-size-fits-all, embracing a collaborative approach that brings together business leaders and Business Analysts is the only way for each professional to leverage their skills and strengths and, ultimately, deliver a solution that will deliver the best value.
With a collaborative and consultative approach between the BA and a business leader, a well-structured solution, and an accompanying business case that effectively communicates value, the likelihood of project success increases drastically. This approach strikes a balance between early involvement and efficient utilization of the Business Analyst’ss expertise and the business leader’s knowledge, ultimately leading to better outcomes and value for the organization.
By embracing a collaborative approach, businesses can harness the full potential of business analysis professionals and set their projects up for success right from the start.
Interested in hearing me speak about this in a video? Click here for my video “What is the Business Analyst’s Responsibility Once a Project’s Been Initiated?”
– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide