This month I have been exploring the IT and Business working relationship. It is a hot topic these days getting a lot of press. STAR BASE Consulting is conducting a pulse survey asking what is the relationship like in your organization. BA Times notes that your “Customers Don’t Want to Work with You!” A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the relationship and how BAs could reduce the rivalry, if there is one. Last week I took the relationship to the Organizational level and described how the Organization can build a unified, collaborative team.
You say Organizational Structure, Seating Charts, Enterprise Analysts (EA) and Business Analysts (BA) are all find and dandy, but what about me and my small IT shop? I don’t have enough people to split into EAs and BAs. How do you split one person? Small-to-Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs) usually have an IT shop of 10 people or less. Maybe at most 2 of them will be BAs. I even had one CIO recently tell me that in his small shop he doesn’t really have full-time BAs, but five Programmer/Analysts that do their own analysis. So we will assume these are the hybrid Developer/Business Analyst role within the organization. So in this kind of structure, how can we improve the IT and Business working relationship?
In SMBs, where resources are scarce, it is not uncommon for people to perform multiple roles or “wear many hats” within the organization. In today’s economy, where IT spending and salaries have stalled but the workload has not: IT is getting even more squeezed. In this situation, when the SMB cannot make one of its BAs the strategic role (EA), or perhaps the organization does not need full-time enterprise analysis activities going on, it becomes even more crucial for the BAs to assist in building a unified, collaborative working relationship between IT and the business. So let’s look at some of the key points I have discussed in the past two weeks.
Seating Chart - Two Desks
When looking at this seating chart you realize that there is only one person, so you only need one desk, correct? Allowing the BA to have a desk in the IT Department and one in the business unit of the organization allows them to build a working relationship with each team. By spending part of the day or week with each team, the BA can understand the challenges each team faces. Even if the BA can spend only part of his/her time sitting with the business unit that they are suppose to support, it helps build awareness of the daily challenges that the business people face on a daily bases. This helps the BA identify business needs to improve business processes and make the business run smoother. This also makes the BA approachable by the business people to assist to work on problems and will help get buy-in from the business people when the BA has analysis tasks that require business input.
Communication is Key
Communication is a key skill for a BA, but becomes even more important in this situation. The trap that the BA must avoid is the business feeling that the BA is approachable only when he/she is sitting at the desk in the business area. Or that the BA is available for IT project work only when he/she is sitting at the desk with the IT business solutions development team. The BA must communicate to both teams that he/she is available whenever they need assistance; it is their goal to assist. The BA also must represent the needs, desires and limitations of each team to the other. Make the IT application development team understand the business requirements and why these requirements are needed. Make the business understand the time involved to make “a simple change” to an enterprise application. By representing each team to the other, and making each understand the work at hand, whether that is requirements or solution testing, they are creating a shared vision across the organization.
Build the Bridge
Through effective communication of the needs and limitations of one team of the business to the other and representing the each team to the other the BA can build a bridge of understanding between the two groups. By making each side realize that we are all in this together and desire the same outcome, you can build a relationship of trust and get rid of the “Us vs. Them” scenario and replace it with a collaborative working relationship that brings about better IT solutions to business needs.
Whether in a large organization or SMB, business must go to IT for technology solutions. Even in an IT Outsourcing situation, there are on-site IT people to directly talk with the business people. In SMBs, where resources are less and people “wear many hats”, the BA role of liaison becomes more important to overall IT business solutions success.