In our presentation on Business Analysis: From A Role to Мindset at the IRM UK’s Business Analysis Conference Europe, we shared experience on incorporating the mindset thinking into the entire team. From the evolution of the role over the years to the main challenges to consider throughout the process, the talk included some practical tips and focused on a project-level business analysis and its application in software development. There was a lot of discussion at the end of the presentation and we have received some great questions. That’s why, we’ve decided to put the most interesting and frequently asked together and share detailed answers for anyone who missed the live event.
How do you manage client expectations in the early stages of adopting a Business Analysis Mindset?
Clients need to be mindful that in some respects applying the Business Analysis Mindset represents a significant shift in responsibilities and ways of working.
As such, there may be short-term adverse impacts on productivity (either due to the need to build new skills or adhere to new practices, both covered below), which are completely normal and to be expected.
However, an emphasis must be placed on the fact that the long-term yield of the Mindset will greatly outweigh any short-term issues, and that there will be significant benefits not only in terms of productivity, but also higher output quality and greater strategic focus.
What are the most critical Business Analyst skills that the technical team needs to embrace?
Whilst the Business Analysis Mindset builds a variety of skills within the software development team (as per the full presentation), perhaps the most critical ones are domain understanding and stakeholder management.
The increase in domain understanding allows the technical team to comprehend the bigger picture around some of the low-level requirements. This in turn means that they can apply critical thinking not just in terms of a functionality’s technical properties, but also assess whether it fundamentally addresses the underlying business needs.
In combination with enhanced stakeholder management skills, this means that the software development team can gain a pivotal role in communication with the client and contribute on a much more strategic level.
How do you ensure you keep your focus when engaging in shared responsibilities?
The team needs to pay attention to two main elements when it comes to shared responsibilities: knowing how much to share and how to deal with collective ownership.
In terms of the former, knowledge sharing sessions can be key to ensure that all members of the team are aligned and in the know of significant developments. At the same time, a degree of abstraction must also be present, as otherwise the benefit of distribution becomes diminished.
As for the latter, the team has to ensure that despite the elements of shared responsibility there is still a clear owner and/or decision maker for each task – the Business Analysis Mindset does not deny this, but merely ensures that there is not a single bottleneck responsible for everything.
The Business Analyst needs to act as a coach here and can be key for delivering a smooth process transition.
What are some best practices for interaction between the client and the team?
In terms of interactions between the internal technical team and the client, the Business Analysis Mindset is all about an enhanced way of working, whereby the BA is no longer a process or decision bottleneck, and strategic discussions can (where appropriate) be federated across the entire team.
This fundamentally changes the way both parties interact. While this means that there might not be a single point of contact, it ensures that the team member who the client reaches out to is the most appropriate one for any given situation.
Naturally, this can take some time getting used to, and in the beginning may need to be facilitated, pointing the client in the right direction, and carefully fostering a sense of trust. To achieve this, the BA can still be present for most initial interactions, providing a sense of familiarity and security until both the client and the technical team are comfortable with the new setup.
What are some tools which could help teams adapt to the new process?
For ways of working, there are а variety of formal and informal tools which could support the transition.
Formal training can take the form of process workshops and sessions, as they are excellent ways to quickly diffuse complex knowledge. However, ultimately, they need to be reinforced by less structured and, most importantly, continuous informal tools (e.g. knowledge sharing sessions, ad-hoc discussions, team huddles).
However, perhaps the most important factor for instilling the Business Analysis Mindset within a team are the BAs themselves, who should act as coaches and evangelists, and who should be present to guide, answer queries and assist with adopting the new processes.
To sum up
Beyond tools and techniques, the principles of the business analyst mindset reinforce the importance of building successful relationships and communication patterns. This included taking accountability for achieving consensus and addressing gaps and guiding stakeholders to make analysis-based decisions.
Emphasis on the business analyst mindset and fostering its principles is an important foundation of a successful business analysis practice in any software development project.