The Challenging Job of Leading BAs

Author: Adriana Beal

When I was first asked to take a lead business analyst position, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. One of the things that most attracted me to a BA career was the opportunity to dedicate large blocks of time exploring a business problem and investigating the best alternatives to address it. Would I have to leave my beloved BA activities behind in order to be able to coordinate the efforts of multiple business analysts on my program? 

are you up for the challengeAs a BA goes from analyst to a manager or lead role, it’s easy to fall back to what’s comfortable and neglect leadership responsibilities to work on requirements elicitation or stakeholder analysis. It’s the power of old habits.  But let’s face it – no one is promoted to a managerial or coordinating position to increase their own productivity. 

Your job as a BA manager, lead business analyst, or BA practice lead, is to amplify the results of the whole BA team. I never thought I’d actually enjoy coordinating the work of other BAs. But seeing how establishing better standards for documentation, feedback loops, and shadowing activities rapidly increased the quality of the requirements delivered in our projects made me change my mind. 

I quickly realized that I still had tons of opportunities to do analytical work — only of a different nature. Instead of being responsible for each detail of the requirements for my projects, I was more focused on multiplying the effectiveness of the resources and making sure each aspect of the business problem was being covered by the right person. For example, I was able to assign a data-centric BA to work on the data aspects of the solution, and a process-oriented BA to be in charge of modeling the workflows, while a more junior BA became responsible for annotating the UI wireframes under my guidance.

Seeing the team develop their skills as the project progressed became as rewarding as it used to be performing the requirements work myself. And I still had to put my analytical hat on numerous times, like when I had to figure out the best way to explain to a BA what was wrong with his use cases, in order to give him the opportunity to practice and learn rather than just follow orders to fix any issues. 

Another benefit of taking a coordinating role was freeing time to work on developing influencing power. With extra pairs of hands responsible for decomposing the requirements for the developers, I could now pave the road forward developing relationships, allies, and supporters for our proposals at the various levels of the organization. Also, I could spend more time looking for shorthand stories to make my ideas more memorable and help stakeholders retain and commit to the message we wanted to deliver. 

Not all business analysts are cut out to be BA managers. It’s perfectly understandable for an analyst to prefer to grow in an expert career track, tackling increasingly complex business challenges and developing specialized industry knowledge or advanced analytical skills to drive results throughout the organization.

But even when not interested in taking a traditional people manager position, with responsibilities for hiring, firing, and developing BAs, it’s common for more senior business analysts to be asked to take a leadership position within their organization. 

As happened in my case, a senior BA may be asked to supervise the work of other BAs in a program or project that is large enough to require the work of multiple analysts. Or invited to develop and manage the BA standards shared across the organization, or lead a community of practice or center of excellence. Being prepared to jump at these opportunities will not only create career opportunities but also help you affect change at a much larger scale in your organization.

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