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!”