Job descriptions are a key element of our organizational lives. More often than not, our job descriptions don’t accurately reflect what we do. As managers of business analysts, it’s important to continuously re-evaluate the roles of those on our teams, ensure the responsibilities of each role are contributing to the organization, and look for opportunities to leverage our employees’ skill sets to the benefit of the organization.
Although the best employees will always go above and beyond their specific job role, starting with a well-thought out job description can make the hiring process much more effective and give current employees a solid benchmark against which to evaluate and improve their performance.
(By the way, if you are interested in learning more about leading as a business analyst, be sure to sign up for the notification list for Adriana Beal’s new BA Leadership Group and receive the complimentary handbook, Beyond SMART Goals: Effective Goal Setting for Business Analysts.)
Define the Need Behind this Business Analyst Job
The first thing I ask is: What is the purpose of bringing in a business analyst? What need does the business analyst serve? What gap exists that needs to be filled? I boil this down into a 1-2 sentence statement that I include in the Job Summary section.
The Business Analyst works with stakeholders from all business units and related third parties to define and document business processes and software requirements for technology initiatives, including online products, content management systems, and business information systems.
My goal with a summary is to enable a candidate to quickly be able to determine whether or not this job might be a good fit for them. (Yes, I do want to make it easy for the right candidates to apply. It’s the first way to improve the hiring process.)
Define the Essential Job Responsibilities for the Business Analyst
Next I walk through the process lifecycle for the business analyst and lay out the essential responsibilities.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What responsibilities does the business analyst have within each of the core BA knowledge areas?
- What are the key deliverables that the business analyst will create?
- Who does the business analyst directly support and what are those stakeholders able to do with the information or analysis provided by the business analyst?
- Is there a defined process the BA will follow or does the BA need to create the process?
- What non-BA responsibilities might the business analyst have? (Project management, QA, Development….)
- Are there any areas where the BA will be responsible for assisting those in other jobs or departments?
Here are a few examples of essential responsibilities:
- Analyze and model the business domain to create a complete picture of work-flows and technical requirements fulfilled by existing and proposed software.
- Define the business problem and primary objectives of new projects. Identify and validate the key business requirements.
- Lead cross-functional business process re-engineering teams and continuous improvement efforts.
- Evaluate potential software solutions, including off-the-shelf and open source components, and the system architecture to ensure that they meet business requirements.
- Create functional requirements in use cases. Coordinate requirements walk-through and sign-offs, verifying with user representatives/stakeholders that use cases and process models accurately portray specific business needs.
- Contribute to project plans.
Decide on Necessary Qualifications for the BA Job
This is often the meatiest section of the job description. Break down each essential job responsibility and ask yourself what a candidate needs to know or have experience in to be able to fulfill that function successfully. What I find in reviewing most job descriptions is that they tend to blend qualifications with responsibilities and the result is somewhat muddled. By breaking qualifications out separately, you should be able to trace each qualification back to a responsibility and eliminate extraneous qualifications that aren’t directly tied to what this person will need to do.
I capture each qualification in a term (1-2 words, such as “Listening”) and a clear description (1 sentence such as “Ability to listen actively by summarizing, asking clarifying questions, and interpreting.”)
I typically break this section down into sub-sections, one for each of the following areas:
- Core Business Analysis Skills — This section includes the items you might find in the BABOK or a text on business analysis. I might include use cases, process models, or BRDs here.
- General Management Skills — This section includes skills in self-management, appropriate project management skills, and the soft skills for engaging with stakeholders. Listening, communication, and scope management are placeholders.
- Technical Skills — This section includes any tools the BA needs to know to fill the responsibilities. It could be your requirements management tools, your project management tools, or specific business applications that are used to run your business. Often I substitute in a specific tool with a type of tool. For example, when I was hiring for an online job board, I preferred candidates who had familiarity with search engines and database concepts, but I did not list our specific tools.
- Experience and Education –– This section includes the specific background that is required. Does the candidate need to have strong BA experience or related IT experience or related business experience? Is a college degree required or would equivalent work experience be acceptable? Think hard about what experience will actually best support a successful candidate. Often there is a tendency to assume you need a candidate with relevant industry experience, but as finding good BAs with that experience might be tough, ask if this is really necessary to meet the job requirements?
Identify the Success Criteria for the Candidate
When recruiting, I develop this section for internal use only. It forms the basis of how I will use the responsibilities and qualifications above to evaluate potential candidates during the hiring process. For each success criteria, I capture a clear definition of what success looks like and our rationale for including it.
Strong communication and validation skills. Able to iterate through the requirements in phases. Evidence of staying in alignment with business sponsor, stakeholders, and management. Rationale: This project has gone off track a few times because the business was not involved all the way through. This person needs to be able to regain their trust and communicate the requirements in multiple ways. We cannot afford to go off track again.
After listing out all the success criteria, I add another sentence to the Job Summary that starts with “A successful candidate will…” and I summarize the most essential success criteria, again hoping to help the right candidate self-select for the position.
Although I did not use success criteria like this as a manager, I think in the position of having a business analyst staff again, I would make these a collaborative effort. We’d start with the list I recruited with, amend it with input from the employee, and use this as our joint understanding of what successful business analysis looks like.
Validate the Business Analyst Job Description with your Stakeholders
In a way, we might think of a job description like a requirements specification. And just like an unvalidated requirements document is only as good as the understanding of the business analyst, an unvalidated job description is only good as the understanding of the hiring manager. Oftentimes as hiring managers we overlook responsibilities and qualifications that our employees and stakeholders can help us fill in. So circulating the job description or otherwise eliciting job requirements from the very people who will work with the new business analyst is a great way to both pave the way for the new candidate-to-be-employee as well as ensure you are hiring for the most essential qualifications.
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