How to make your executives CARE about business analysis

Author: Adriana Beal

“Why do we need business analysts?” is a question that many BA managers and practitioners face at some point in their career. In particular, when a company is trying to cut costs, or moving into agile development, it’s not unusual for top management to start questioning the need for BAs in their organization. “Let’s save time by skipping the requirement-writing phase, and dive right into code!”, an executive might say.  Or,  “the business stakeholders are already providing all the requirements; the project manager can write the functional specs for us.” 

Don't careAs executives that have first-hand experience with high-quality business analysis know, skilled BAs can play a critical role in delivering outcomes that help move the business in the right direction. These executives don’t need convincing: they are aware of the key role high-performance BAs play in software projects, from separating user “wants” from the underlying true needs to identifying unobvious dependencies before they create issues. 

But what can BA leaders do when executives don’t understand the value of business analysis?

An effective way to get buy-in for business analysis is to collect performance data for both “projects executed without a BA or with a weak BA” and “projects assisted by a skilled BA”. Example of measurements that can help build the case for adding skilled business analysts to the team include: 

  • Number of change requests received after the requirements were considered finished.
  • Quality problems with the solution attributable to flawed requirements.
  • Time lost due to the development team being unable to proceed until nebulous or conflicting requirements are clarified.
  • Discrepancy between actual delivery date versus requested and promised date.
  • Complaints and compliments received during user acceptance testing and post-release.

If you start measuring these dimensions of performance in different projects and segmenting the data by project executed with and without a talented BA on the team, you should be able to produce solid evidence that projects with high performing BAs finish faster and deliver higher quality products. Present your findings to the decision-makers to provide instant justification to hire and retain high-performing BA practitioners. 

You may be thinking, “but what BAs who do the initial requirements work but then are left out as stakeholders start talking directly to developers to change requirements mid-project, only to be blamed later when things go wrong?”. Yes, based on the emails I get, this happens with relative frequency. 

If this is the case in your organization, it’s the responsibility of the BA manager to intervene, bringing the issue up the chain of command. And the recommendation to start measuring BA results doesn’t change. You may want to slice the data by different segments, such as “projects that followed the established requirements change management process” and “projects that didn’t follow the process”. Again, your measurement should be able to produce crisp findings to convince the business of the positive ROI of following better practices and keeping BAs involved throughout their projects.

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