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How Do Business Analysts Measure Their Value?

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Business Analysts turn an idea, problem or opportunity identified in the business, into something that IT can engage with and deliver. Business Analysts deal with work where the ‘input’ is amorphous and intangible and typically produce a set of documentation and/or specifications that can be measured. But is this the right measure of a Business Analysts value?

Take a look at BAs who are working in your organization, and then how their performance is measured internally by their management. You might have seen feedback forms or appraisal documentation that asks specific questions and their performance. Do you find…

  • Is it demonstrating the application of a proscribed process?
  • Is it having domain knowledge?
  • Is it producing well articulated documentation?

The measures above tend to be the norm. They are the wrong ones. Most organizations I’ve experienced use these kinds of measures to assess performance, but in my opinion, they are just the ticket to the game. Managers should really take for granted that BAs possess these skills and competently use them. They are not a measure of business value. Hear it from a Project Manager, Karen Tipping:

Karen is a Project Manager based in Ontario. Recently, she was asked to complete an appraisal form for a BA who had recently worked on her project. The BA was new to the organization, but was up for promotion. What Karen discovered was that the appraisal requested feedback on the process adherence of the BA, which covered only whether the organizational process had been followed, documentation produced and that he was demonstrably a Subject Matter Expert. Karen had to give top marks in each category, but guess what: the BA was lousy. He couldn’t build rapport, he failed to engage with people effectively, he struggled to make decisions quickly, and misunderstood the fundamentals of the idea, wasting time. Without intervention, Karen would be sealing the promotion! (She did provide feedback off the form to share her experiences.)

Contrarily, I met a modest guy a while ago who I will call Dave. Dave is a BA who was an excellent communicator and had a reputation for helping business people turn a rough idea into something specific, realizable and measurable. He works with the people by building relationships, forgoes process if he feels it would be inappropriate. His background (law) is different to his business (manufacturing), so he often has to go away to research a subject, and isn’t afraid to admit when he lacks knowledge. He doesn’t document very well because he is dyslexic, but he can stand up and present facts and opinions like a maestro. Dave builds confidence in his customers and is called into a wide variety of situations as he always delivers.

If we measured Dave by the same criteria as Karen’s organization measures BAs, he’d probably get fired.

Go see some of your ‘customers’ and ask them to appraise your performance against what they consider important

This illustrates a fatal flaw in the de facto measurement of the performance and value of Business Analysts: it should be about business value created, and nothing else.

OK, I am not advocating the encouragement of mavericks. In fact what the de facto intends to measure is still very important – without following process, and an ability to articulate effectively, BAs like Dave could be frustrated genii. That’s why I said you should take these for granted as without them, the BA is dysfunctional. But the measures mustn’t end there.

BAs must be measured on their creation of business value as their differentiator amongst peers. One reason why this hasn’t happened in the past is because ‘business value’ is hard to measure, from an individual’s contribution. But it’s not impossible, and there are ‘behavioral indicators’, or ‘competencies’ that can be used. Many of these measurements are subjective and based on opinion. Measures such as:

  • Confidence created
  • Rapport and trust built
  • Effective decision making
  • Foresight and anticipation of risks
  • Leadership effectiveness
  • Verbal communication
  • Pragmatism and reasoning

The best way of receiving feedback against these ‘softer’ measures is using 360 degree feedback. Assessing their impact on customers, colleagues, subordinates and superiors gives the best overall view of the BAs effectiveness in these areas. 360 degree feedback is a structured method for consistently measuring the performance and value of individuals, and can consider both qualitative and quantitative performance data.

If you’re a BA like Dave, or the one who worked for Karen, then it is in your interest to ensure that your value is measured above and beyond the hard factors like process adherence, as your value isn’t in the numbers, it’s in the hearts and minds of the customer. If you’re being measured just on process-adherence, then go see some of your ‘customers’ and ask them to appraise your performance against what they consider important.

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This post is part 11 of 11 in the series Careers in IT
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Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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2 Comments

  1. Chris Mahan

    You know, I agree with you there…

    Measuring to the process is only good if the process in place is the best way to attain the objective. If following the process does not result in the most effective return on investment, modify the process.

    One should note that a lot of things can’t be quantifies on a spreadsheet. Some people disagree with that, saying anything can be measured. I disagree.

    For example: asking people how whether they would buy product A will yield different results than measuring actual sales of product A. Why? Because different elements are involved in the two decisions.

    Asking a client whether he’s happy with service is different than having the client renew the service contract.

    Ask a business unit director whether he’s satisfied with the performance of the IT team that provides its services, and you’ll get an answer. You unfortunately don’t know what he says to his friends at home about his IT service team.

    Developing a close–and I mean close, almost intimate–relationship with the business people is the only way to accurately measure performance for the IT team. This, most outside-facing organizations know. IT has a captive customer-base who is des-incetivized about speaking the real truth. The real test in the outside marketplace is whether customers are buying from you or from your competitors. In a company, unless it is as easy to use either IT or an outside vendor (it never is), there is no true “invisible hand of the market” that forces most-efficient decisions. Instead, the company must rely on the whoever takes care the oth business-IT interaction to be smart, ethical, capable, and empowered. It’s going to be hard to create a paper process that will make things as efficient as that.

    Thus the Business Analyst is really acting as a broker/agent. In the outside world, these people are rewarded by lots of money, and they are ranked and their success recognized by how much money they bring in. Internally, you have no such measure.

    It’s a tough one. I say pay the business analyst a percentage of the project budget upon milestone success. You’ll drive the best and the brightest toward the best and most valuable projects.

    I think.

    Thoughts?

     
  2. simonstapleton

    @Chris – sure there has to be a certain amount of hard measures that are completely within the control of the BA, e.g. achievement of milestones in the process – there needs to be objectivity in performance management. So I agree with you there. I also agree that the BA is a broker, and his/her service is to provide brokerage of information, and to add value using expertise and experience. Measuring this is much more difficult, but the value will be sensed and obvious to internal customers, albeit intangible to them.
    I think ‘the process’ should be the framework in which the value will be optimally delivered, and if this isn’t the case then the organization needs to address it immediately. So often I’ve seen senior managers apply pressure to stick within a flawed process just because there is so much invested in it (assets, tools, but also reputations and politics). This is Corporate F**kwittism!

     

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