Team Synergy

It was a tex-mex night at Rose and Crown where we have our monthly GTA Business Analysts meetups. Bennett (who is btw, the voiceover on TheBACoach podcast intros) always has interesting insights that he brings to the table (no pun intended).

He seemed to really enjoy the “10 Powerful BA lessons from the Life of Pi” that I had posted on BA times as an inaugural guest post. In addition to these 10 inspirations, he reminded all of us on the table about a scene from the movie that can serve as a very important lesson in life; his perspective on this event in the movie inspired me to write this post (Thanks! Bennett).

Let’s also explore the angle of how this can serve as a powerful lesson for Business Analysts later in this post. Click to continue

Thumbnail image for A Halloween Costume Every BA Must Avoid

A Halloween Costume Every BA Must Avoid

by Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo9

I vividly remember my first halloween party at work back in 2006, in San Antonio, TX. We were co-located as a team on an agile project. Being relatively new to the concept of ‘dressing up to the occasion’,  I was fascinated to see how creative some people can get.  I had to actually take a closer look at my own team members to recognize who they were, and when I did that they would pull-off their antics to create a jerky reaction from me (not-so-funny then, but hilarious in retrospect).

“Are you behaving like ‘monsters’ with your stakeholders?”

 

We, as business analysts ‘dress-up’ differently to cater to the varying needs of the project and stakeholders. In this post, I want to emphasize a crucial element of avoiding to dress-up as monsters for our stakeholders. We are business analysts, and at any place we tread, our primary responsibility is to help the business achieve its objectives. In order to realize this, we should focus on engaging the stakeholders like a business analyst would, rather than a monster dressed up for halloween.

Being a BA, Not a Monster

Here are five things that we need to avoid as business analysts, so that we can seem like project Samaritans:

  • Disregarding the Human Element – relationship building is  the fundamental element of effective stakeholder engagement. If you cannot connect with them, you cannot go beyond elicitation. They are not robots waiting on our command to enlighten us with the information that we seek. It is extremely important to keep this in mind when dealing with stakeholders. One simple way to do this is, asking them “How are you?” or “How is your daughter’s health now?“. May seem too simple of an advice, but can go a long way.
  • Forcing them to Fit Into Your Template – filling templates is not business analysis, its documentation. And documentation is not the primary responsibility of a business analyst. We have to find ways to keep the template out of the picture until the review process can start. If your stakeholders see the template in the first meeting, you have failed as a BA. Don’t ask them for information to fill-out certain sections of the template. Instead, listen and ask questions that they can relate to better. Talk about day-to-day business that can lead to information in the template.
  • Not Being Adaptive in Engaging with Stakeholders – This is another huge mistake business analysts make, and is slightly related to the point above. When we engage with our stakeholders, we need to be cognizant about their awareness of certain tools and techniques. This is something I have elaborated and highlighted in Pillar 2 of my book. Adapting your elicitation to the comfort level of your stakeholders is essential; and will help in free-flow of the required information. Adapting to various personalities to fit their working styles is crucial too. The book has a few examples and suggestions on how you can do this effectively; I highly recommend you download the book and read Pillar 2.
  • Scaring Them Off with Technical Details – I still remember a BA at work explaining ‘garbage collection’ (the way a program or application manages memory) as being a cause for the slow response in an application. Like seriously? As business analysts, we need to have the tact of coating technical jargons in a language that they can understand. It is also important to keep this in mind when conducting elicitation for your projects. Don’t talk about buttons, talk about actions and consequences. Don’t talk about pull-down menus, talk about options or choices.
  • Not Recognizing the Helpless Hangover- sometimes stakeholders get beaten up by a slew of BAs that have behaved like monsters with them in the past. Like the Pavlov’s dog responding to a ringing bell, they will treat you like they treated the BA before. Take a step back and glean signals, and try to discern the signs of wear and tear; assess the damage and then seek to help. Start by developing a solid relationship with them, and gradually help them to be captivated by your charm and calm.

Well, you don’t have to think too much about the last sentence above. Calm and charm will be a given once you achieve your objectives in the projects you work on. :)

These are just a few pointers and thoughts that I could think of on this theme. I hope this can help you go to work and help you control the urge to treat every day like a project halloween.  If you need a quick summary you can read it here.

Your Thoughts Please

What are your thoughts on these pointers? What else do you think we can do as business analysts to avoid being monsters when dealing with stakeholders? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

And, yes, “Happy Halloween and please don’t dress up as project monsters!” :)

When I was 17, I stumbled upon the fascinating world of audiobooks. The first audiobook that I ever heard was the life changing “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, read by the author himself. The riveting real-life examples, practical advice, and the passion in delivery made this book have a huge impact in my life.

Early this week, when I learnt that Dr. Covey passed away, it gave me a sinking feeling and I felt extremely sad. 

As a tribute to him, I would like to summarize the seven habits, and provide a parallel of how business analysts can adapt them to be more effective with 3 key BA lessons per habit. These habits have a universal appeal, and could be observed as a common theme with highly effective people.

Let us see what BA lessons we can derive out of them.

(See at the bottom of this post on how to get a free copy of this audiobook from audible)

Click to continue

As a business analyst you can get only two distinct images of your project manager: “A supportive and motivating project coach” or “A slave driver asking the perennial question: ‘So when will you get the <fill in your deliverable>  done?’ “. Sometimes, both these styles can be exhibited by the same person at various phases of the project. To a large extent the way it surfaces depends on the personality, experience level and the background of the PM. So, my questions to all the project managers out there are:

Is there way that the project management community can engage business analysts to improve the synergy between them?

How soon do business analysts need to be engaged in a project?

What can PMs and BAs do together to elevate the team performance?

The Webcast That Started This Thread

In a recent webcast, with Pam Stanton, the author of “The Project Whisperer” I got the honor of speaking to 200+ Project Managers from around the world. We focused on some of the things that project managers can do to better engage their business analysts. The topic of the webcast was “PMs and BAs: Perfect Together“. Well, the reason we can be perfect together is because:

“We have complimenting skill sets that when combined well together can produce results on-time, on-budget, and on-scope, with every project focussing on the right business objectives, required functionality and with desired quality”

Too idealistic eh?

The PERFECT Formula for Engaging Business Analysts

Well, skill sets is just one side of the equation. The other more important side that both Pam and I felt was the shared passion for helping the business achieve its objectives. Both PMs and BAs when collaborate well, and nurture the healthy tension that exists between them, can deliver better quality projects. Being an obsessive, compulsive ‘acronymophile’, I created an acronym for “How PMs can engage their BAs” in seven different ways – PERFECT – which expands to:

  1. P – Plan Together – It can be fruitful to involve a business analyst in the project planning activity. Business analysts normally create a requirements management plan (RMP), and if a PM can work with the BA to integrate this into the bigger project plan it would be a great way to involve a business analyst.
  2. E – Enterprise Analyze Together – Finding out the reasons for undertaking a project together, can be a great activity to increase the synergy. Nailing down the scope items, and objectives of the project in the project charter can become easier when a BA is involved. Unfortunately, most of the times a BA doesn’t get involved in the project charter creation. I would love to see this changing in the days to come.
  3. R – Radar for Risks – Using business analysts as a “project radar” to sense risks in advance, is another great way to involve business analysts. Since BAs work so closely with the stakeholders, have a better understanding of the business requirements’ priority, and overall a tighter knowledge of the assumptions and constraints of the project.
  4. F – Frequent Communication – It is extremely important that PMs and BAs establish solid communication trust between each other. Relationship building is at the seat of establishing this trust. When I asked my current project manager about what is one thing she values the most in business analysts, she said, “I like it when they proactively come to talk to me”. In order that this can happen, both PMs and BAs need to establish that free flowing communication channel.
  5. E – Evangelize Together – At the end of the day, both PMs and BAs are working towards achieving a common business goal, and delivering value to the business. Being project and value evangelists is another joint activity that PMs can engage their business analysts in. This can mean passionately   advocating the value that the project is delivering to the business, valuing everyone’s contribution, and celebrating hitting the milestones.
  6. C – Challenge Each Other – This is the seat of the healthy tension that exists between the PMs and BAs. A project manager can constantly challenge the analysis, and a BA can reason and trace back the extended analysis to the critical business requirements. This dialogue prevents the trap of analysis paralysis, which some business analysts tend to be guilty of sometimes.
  7. T – Team Whisper – This ties in with Pillar 4 of my book. It is going the extra mile to be a project whisperer. It is understanding that tools, and methodologies are just one side of the equation. The other more important side is people. A project manager can involve a business analyst to remove the barriers for the team. This is the moment when both start to look beyond the Gantt Charts and the Business Process Flows.

The Mind Map As Promised

I hope that gave you some food for thought. I have also created a mind map to summarize some of these points and added a few other pointers. You can download this mind map using the link below: (As promised in the webcast, I am making this available to the community).

How can PMs Engage BAs Effectively – The PERFECT Formula

Nothing is perfect in this world, and so is this formula for engagement. So, I now invite you to list your thoughts on this using the comments section below.

What do you think about the PERFECT Formula? Are there additional things that could be done? What would be some of the challenges that will prevent a BA/PM from applying any of the steps?

Would love to hear your thoughts.