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.