Elevating the Role of the Business Analyst: Interview with Rick Clare

Rick Clare CBAP PMP Business Analysis Practice DirectorRick Clare, OCP, CBAP, PMP is the Business Analysis Practice Director and a Senior Instructor for PMCentersUSA with over 20 years of experience as a developer, business analyst, trainer, and project manager. Rick is actively involved with IIBA, chairing the Chapter Growth Committee and leading the effort to product a book concerned with management of business analysts and the business analysis process on large projects.

Rick was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me about elevating the business analyst role in organizations.

Laura: How did you get started in business analysis?

Rick: I was working in a development organization and my role had grown into managing some of the projects. At that time, most projects had two main roles: developers and managers. I enjoyed being social and so I took on more management responsibility.

Later I moved to the US and had continued in the same pattern for a few years, my boss discovered IIBA, which at that time was a very new organization. I checked it out and I was very excited to find an organization that was dedicated to formalizing these activities as a profession. My company got involved with the business analysis discipline from a training perspective and I wrote the first eight courses. I was the 300th CBAP, although I would have gotten my CBAP sooner if there had been a local place to take the exam.

Laura: I often entertain questions about the BA role and what all it should involve. From your perspective as a manager of larger teams, what do you see as the ideal make-up?

Rick: I think that it is important that you do not break up the roles too heavily. An example of this would be separating business requirements and functional requirements into two separate roles. Role splits such as business/systems analyst or business/requirements analyst limit people’s experience, in my opinion.

Another management perspective is whether to assign an analyst to their area of expertise or enable them to broaden their perspective by providing an opportunity to take on a new challenge. A short-term focused project manager would often prefer to assign the analyst to areas of a project that leverage their expertise, as this is likely to help the project run more smoothly and efficiently. A manager should assign roles and responsibilities to help the BAs continue to mature as professionals, however, even if this is not in the immediate service of the project.

Laura: What do you see for the future of the business analyst profession?

Rick: The future of the profession is huge. The IIBA’s vision is expansive and involves people climbing into the ranks of senior management and still being a “Business Analyst”. As a career path, business analysis requires all kinds of skills, and many of these skills are the same ones that get someone promoted to CIO. In its full capacity, the work involves pre-project activities such as business case preparation and post-project activities with customer follow-up on how the solution is working for them.

Laura: What advice would you give for an individual business analyst who is looking to advance to these levels in the next few years?

Rick: The main obstacle business analysts face is the corporation’s perception of the business analyst. You really need to get someone at a higher level to buy into the new BA career path. Sometimes this can come from a leader in the PMO. In reality, even though BAs try to “manage up” and sell the vision, I’ve seen many examples where, unfortunately, nothing ever comes of it. For example, if you find yourself in a company that’s recently implemented a PM methodology that limits the role of the BA, it probably is not going to have a BA career path until the person leading that effort is no longer in that position.

Laura: I can see how in many situations, there are road blocks at the management level that would prevent a specific career path from being available. What recommendations do you have for managers in elevating the role of the business analyst and investing in their employee’s professional development?

Rick: As a manager, supporting your business analysts is not just about securing funds for training. It’s about giving your employees opportunities to execute on what they learn through training.  To advance the business analyst career in an organization, the company needs to be enthusiastic about the role. Managers and executives need to see and believe in the capabilities that senior-level business analysts can bring to their organization. They need to get fired up. Then, when you couple training with new experiences and an expansion of the roles and responsibilities of the business analysts, you’ve got a recipe for growing the BA role within an organization.

Laura: Rick, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate your insights and I’m sure Bridging the Gap readers will as well.

Rick: Thanks, Laura.  I had a great time talking with you.  It is great to get together with someone who shares my enthusiasm for the BA profession.

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  1. Joe Ballou says

    I completely agree with Rick! As business analysts, our responsibility is to learn a company’s business processes and support structures, including systems. Our knowledgebase should always be increasing, as we take on and complete more projects, to the point that we become the ‘go-to’ resource for information about our company. If we aren’t the CIO or COO, we could very well be their ‘right-hand-(wo)man.’

    Thanks for opening this important discussion.

  2. Nancy Carr says

    I 100% agree on Rick’s observation:

    “Rick: The main obstacle business analysts face is the corporation’s perception of the business analyst. You really need to get someone at a higher level to buy into the new BA career path.”

    Coupled with:
    “In reality, even though BAs try to “manage up” and sell the vision, I’ve seen many examples where, unfortunately, nothing ever comes of it. ”

    Changing perceptions can be a daunting task.

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