Why business analysts can be difficult to manage

Way back before I was a BA consultant, and before I started offering BA training at Bridging the Gap, I was in a director-level role leading a department of business analysts, project managers, and quality assurance engineers.

Even though I had several years of experience as a business analyst, just a few as a quality assurance engineer, and none directly as a project manager, I found the business analysts to be the most difficult people on my team to manage.

It was easy to evaluate the work of my QA engineers. Was their test coverage complete? Did releases go live with findable issues that they failed to bring attention to?

And even though a lot of factors play into successful project management, I could look at metrics like on-time delivery, clear and actionable status updates, and the ability to manage a team of people to a desired end result.

But when it came to business analysts, I felt like the “right” qualities slipped through my hands like sand on a beach.

On the one hand, part of me believed that great business analysis required a little bit of magic, so I simply wanted to hire talented professionals and let them do their thing. (If you’ve ever felt like your manager gives you an incredible amount of independence and trust, maybe more than you feel you deserve, this is probably why.)

On the other hand, I was too close to the work, and I thrived on understanding the details. (If you’ve ever felt micro-managed as a business analyst, it could be because your manager needs to understand it all to make decisions. Getting out of this mindset requires a big personal growth curve.)

As I’ve matured as a business analyst, trainer, and leader, I see now that I was missing the opportunity to hold my BAs accountable to what was most important – gaining clarity and alignment around the vision and requirements for the project.

What’s more, since I’d been in their shoes, it was way too easy for me to make up excuses for why the requirements might get delayed or be unclear. I knew such and such stakeholder was difficult, or such and such system integration was complex, or such and such developer wasn’t being forthcoming with information.

As you grow in your business analyst role, and eventually seek to move into a team lead or management position, you’ll likely run up against these same thought patterns too. Getting on the growth curve into leadership is not natural for us as business analysts.

And if you are just getting started and wondering why your manager is doing something that seems completely counter-intuitive, it’s probably because they are on a rocky part of their development into BA leadership.

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