5 Things Every Business Analyst Needs to Do First

Brad Egeland Creator and Author of Top Project Management Blog: Bradegeland.com

Every project engagement kickoffs with much enthusiasm for the work that awaits the project team and customer. Let’s plan, let’s set the project schedule in motion, let’s get requirements documented… let’s go! Right? And the project manager handles many early duties… maybe with a team in place, maybe all alone. I know I always prefer to have at least a business analyst assigned by the time kickoff happens because a lot of great information can come out of a good kickoff session and having some or all of the team there means less information transfer has to happen in the next period when the team actually does get fully assigned to the project.

 

But if no one else makes it, I’m always hopeful the BA can be present at kickoff. They are so critical to the project. Why? Their role is diverse and indisputably crucial to success. From my experience, there are five key things that the business analyst must do first to be ready to move forward with team and project on any engagement.

Get to know the team. The business analyst will be working with the project manager very closely as well as the team. They usually will basically play the role of project team liaison between the project manager and tech team and they are also play a primary role in focusing and preparing the rest of the team for next steps.

Get to know the customer. Next on the list is the customer. Both the project manager and the business analyst will have heavy customer facing involvement. But very different involvement in general. The project manager will be leading customer meetings, interacting with the customer lead, and handling all the high-level status related duties that go with managing the project and customer on a daily basis. The business analyst may be involved in those activities to some degree. However, it is more likely that the business analyst’s customer involvement and interactions will be focused on business processes and requirements and more involvement with end users and subject matter experts (SMEs).

Know the project and high level requirements. As I mentioned above, one of the business analyst’s primary customer interfaces will be focused on obtaining and gaining clarification on business processes and requirements through customer end users and SMEs. Heading into the detailed requirements phase, the BA must know business processes and high level requirements like the back of their hand.

Understand customer business. The business analyst is going to be responsible for helping to turn a business need into a real solution. You aren’t providing project benefit to the customer if you hand them a solution that brings their business to a halt or works well but fits like a square peg in a round hole. Know what you’re giving the customer and how it will “fit” into their business and processes.

Have a perfect relationship with the project manager from Day One. I realize perfect may be a stretch. But unless the project manager is Genghis Khan, for the sake of the project, team and client, they need to push forward even if there is tension and deal with it afterwards. If the business analyst is great and the project manager is a problem, it is going to probably take care of itself somewhere else on the engagement in the form of team members complaining or the customer complaining or both… to someone high up and if that happens… trust me, the project manager will be out of the picture soon anyway. So just like staying in a marriage longer for the “sake of the kids”, the business analyst needs to find some way to work alongside the project manager to get things done on the project. Now, if the project manager is anything like me, then they will think working with their project manager is like a vacation every day…. sure. Ha.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this… a good business analyst can make or break the project. They are often the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, on the project. I’ve met project customers who didn’t value the project manager role very much and felt uncomfortable paying upwards of $150 per hour for my role on the project. I truly had to show my worth – and even had my BA defend me and my role on a couple of projects. “How can you not like Brad… you don’t even know him yet” was what one business analyst told a customer. But I did eventually win them over. The business analyst… customers see the value of a good BA from Day One.

Readers – thoughts? Do you agree with this assessment and this list? Give us your thoughts on the BA role and what they need to do first to get “engaged.”

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