Are you wondering what it takes to make the move from business analyst to enterprise analyst? Dr. Laura Kesner and her colleague BA</span><span style=”line-height: 1.5em;”> have expanded the business analyst role in their organization and leveraged the opportunity to build their skills and make a more significant impact on their organization.
In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at how they made this opportunity a reality.
The IT department was shifting to SCRUM and five teams were formed. There were only two business analysts. Requests to hire additional analysts to fully support the product owner and analysis roles for each team were not feasible due to budget concerns.
The Enterprise Analysis Solution
Douglas County IT refocused their business analysis efforts so that the department was more aligned with the business. Laura and her colleague were now focused at a more enterprise level, with the responsibility of understanding each business unit and identifying those projects with the highest business value to the County.
Primary product ownership responsibilities were shifted to stakeholders within the business group. These Product Owners are trained and coached by Laura and her colleague.
Understanding the Business Domain
We think we have it tough, understanding an industry or a business domain. Laura and her colleague have 17 departments to work with, which are composed of dozens of business units (upwards of 87). Over time, they have developed stakeholder relationships with key members of each of these business unit, begun to model each part of the organization, and developed an understanding of the key processes in place.
Laura works within a County Government organization, so business processes include everything from law enforcement processes such as booking, to finance and budgeting, to event management, to building inspections, to death investigation.
The Enterprise Business Analyst Role
One analyst meets with each department on a regular basis, as frequently as twice per month, but at least once per quarter. Frequency is determined by the number and potential value of projects initiated from the department. In each meeting, the analyst discusses the department’s strategy, how it relates to the organizational strategy (documented via a Balanced Scorecard) and develops an understanding of the department’s key initiatives. Laura has also actively observed staff members in many departments.
Sometimes department stakeholders will identify projects that require IT involvement. Other times, the BA will help identify those projects. Process improvement projects within departments can also be supported by the BAs.
Supporting Project Prioritization
Because of their close relationship with each business department, the business analysts are in a unique position to funnel projects into the organization-wide portfolio management process. As new projects are identified, the BAs help the stakeholders quantify the value, they assign 4 metrics to each project, and work with the IT team to complete a preliminary estimate. If the ROI doesn’t stack up, the BA might go back to the business and help them redefine the project for a more compelling business case. Many projects never make it past the BA and into the Steering Committee because they either lack significant value, they can be handled by using existing software or equipment, or because business process re-engineering efforts address the issue.
The Steering Committee is a cross-departmental group of individuals whose responsibility it is to recommend project priorities based on the initial analysis and any subsequent questions.
What Laura Loves About Being an Enterprise Analyst
Laura’sis overwhelmingly enthusiastic about her role.
“I have the opportunity to understand dozens of business domains. I’m never bored and I’m always learning.”
In other contexts I’ve heard Laura say
“I really am lucky to have the job that I have , where I can use my BA skills to help ensure we are working on those projects that have the highest business value to the County.”
Enterprise analysis is the holy grail for many BAs. It’s a collection of responsibilities that leverage some of our unique strengths at a higher level than any specific project assignment. It’s an opportunity to be recognized as a senior professional while also doing interesting and meaningful work.
Some Challenges in Being an Enterprise Analyst
Of course, accomplishing this isn’t easy and Laura did mention some challenges. The primary challenge is keeping track of all the incoming information. Laura picks up tidbits of information relevant to understanding the business domain or identifying projects in multiple contexts: reviewing documents, observing staff at work, formal meetings, hallway conversations, newspaper articles, etc. Keeping all of this information organized while the initial models are being developed is a challenge.
The second challenge is simply the sheer amount of work involved. Each meeting requires an agenda and has several outputs for the business analyst. Keeping up with the meetings as well as being sure she’s got time to do something productive with everything she learns is a new time management challenge. I can also imagine that without the imposed deadlines of project deliverables and timelines, keeping up is more of a matter of personal motivation.
>>Interested in Moving Up the BA Career Ladder?
In Professional Development for Business Analysts we’ll show you how to take measurable steps forward in building your business analyst career even if your organization can’t afford training and you have no “extra” time.