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The power of business analyst communities - become associated!

By James Neethling and Shaheen Abdullah.

Johannesburg, 06 Sep 2013

Imagine it. You're a business analyst working in a high-performing organisation; one that cares about your development and growth, and equips you with the skills and tools needed to deliver true business value. As a member of this supportive community, your role is clearly defined and you're encouraged to evolve within your field - and to continually challenge yourself!

The rapid pace of change, together with the increasing need for benefits management and delivery within organisations, contribute to the increasing demand for business analysis skills. The professional life of a business analyst can be challenging, and the infancy of the profession leads to frequent misunderstanding of principal tasks and responsibilities.

At Saratoga, we've come to recognise that the work of the business analyst is about more than simply developing and managing requirements. In our roles as collaborative communicators, we are regularly called upon to uncover the root cause of problems, challenge assumptions, and to act as change agents that assist organisations to better understand themselves. Ultimately, our role as business analysts is to create and facilitate business value.

It is these insights - together with the desire to mature the competencies of the Saratoga business analysis team and its individuals - that prompted us to establish a formal BA body within our organisation. This required an earnest commitment from the top, and the concerted effort of a core group to drive the growth of this community. The long-term objective was to proactively counter performance-hindering factors and to provide our BAs with a platform to share experiences, expertise, knowledge and skills.

The importance of community in professional growth

This highly specialised discipline requires unique skills in analytical thinking, as well as an innate understanding of technology and the development process. The International Institute for Business Analysts (IIBA) Competency Model was selected to identify the behaviours and outcomes of the "successful business analyst".

An internal forum was established at Saratoga to provide a space in which to safely raise challenges encountered within projects, where BAs seek coaching from colleagues and develop soft and technical skills. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to exchange best-practice concepts, to help new members integrate into their role and projects, and to share ideas or improvements. A key benefit of an internal business analysis community is the collective focus on professional development. The community is instrumental in not only helping the group form its own sense of identity, but a common voice facilitates organisational engagement in the role of the analyst in the organisation.

Championing business analysis as a service

Recognising that the challenges and benefits experienced are not limited to Saratoga, Mohamed Bray, along with Joe Newbert, worked to develop a Business Analysis Advisory Model to help other organisations build and sustain their own communities. The BA Advisory Model is centred on BA assessment and maturity and is both a framework and an implementation programme to assist companies to develop roadmaps during this process. This approach recruits, develops and mentors the best business analysts, who integrate with client teams and ensure the best possible outcome on software engineering projects. In addition, this approach enables the concept of business analysis as a service (BAaS) that provides client teams with the flexibility to scale as required.

This model defines the eight main competencies of a business analyst as: eliciting requirements, creating the business requirements document, structured analysis, object-oriented analysis, testing, end-user support, IT fluency and business process re-engineering. This offers a more structured, systematic approach to identifying and addressing any skills gaps within the team.

By forming a BA community within the company, it has also given us the ability to share experiences that others can learn from. These gatherings also create opportunities for re-use or synergies between projects, leading to increased business value. In this way, a culture of continual personal development is fostered - and members are challenged to pursue personal mastery. It is our hope that the Business Analysis Advisory Model used at Saratoga will play a significant role in the transformation of business analysts as agents for organisational change.

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