The Responsibilities of the BA Manager

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In our first article, Stepping Into a BA Leadership Role: Do You Have What It Takes?", we introduced the core competencies of a BA Manager. These included Team Manager Competencies, the ability to define BA best practices, and responsibility for BA delivery. In this article, we will examine the role and responsibilities of the BA Manager further, and discuss how these may differ in different sized organizations.

The Responsibilities of the BA ManagerThe first core responsibility of the BA Manager is managing the team. BA Managers tend to be practice oriented. They strive to help grow and challenge their BA’s to be the best BA’s that they can. The BA Manager must know and understand the skills every BA needs and have the ability to help each BA perfect them. Understanding each BA’s strengths and weaknesses will help them create a development plan for their BA’s.

In order to help their BAs, the BA Manager must have already possess these skills and continue to practice and modify them. Ideally, good managers should also have coaching, mentoring and training skills and provide a work environment that fosters open and honest communication for the betterment of each individual and the team.

Common tasks of a BA Manager include:

  1. Recruiting and hiring for an expanding BA team. On a growing team, the BA Manager may spend a significant amount of time looking through resumes, conducting phone screens, hosting and coordinating in-person interviews. Not only are they looking for the right analysis skills, but the BA Manager must be in tune with the strategic needs of the organization, seeking out candidates that are right for the culture.
  2. On-boarding and training new hires. Hiring good talent is only the beginning. Putting them in a position to be successful takes some effort as well. Developing the program to on-board new BA hires includes domain training, project shadowing, and eventually a transition to independent work on their own project.

To illustrate this point, let’s see how a hypothetical BA Manager, Joe, improved the way he on-boards new BAs.

Joe had a problem. Even though he was hiring well-qualified Business Analysts, some were having trouble fitting in to their first projects. His company put a lot of time and effort into hiring the right people so why were they having trouble? Since the office was so busy, and the demand for Business Analysts so great, a new BA was typically handed off to a Project Manager and left to their own devices. Unfortunately, this practice made it very difficult for some of the BAs to make a good first impression in their new jobs, creating anxiety for the new hires as well as the project teams.

When Andrea started, Joe was determined to help her get off to a good start. Andrea’s first day was spent doing the typical HR stuff, getting acquainted with her new desk with introductions to her new co-workers to follow. Because Joe had promised Andrea that she would serve on an upcoming enhancement project on the company’s Online Sales Application (OSA), the remainder of her first days were spent supporting her ramp-up on OSA. On Tuesday, she attended a training class for operators that used the application to process orders received via telephone. Later on, Andrea spent time with one of the BAs on the team who had served on multiple OSA projects, knew most of the stakeholders, and understood the product roadmap. With his help, Andrea was better able to understand the history of the application and get a head start understanding the needs of the players involved.

Andrea spent the remainder of the week shadowing two other Business Analysts to get a deeper look into her new company’s project culture. Joe also introduced Andrea to her Project Manager in a meeting that included a review of her upcoming project’s charter and scope documents. By the end of her first week, both Joe and Andrea were feeling confident Andrea had what she needed to be successful in her new position!

3. Coaching, reviewing and encouraging growth. A BA Manager can benefit from regular 1-on-1 meetings with their direct reports. A good approach for these meetings is to encourage the BA to set the agenda, allowing them the opportunity to voice specific areas of concern. Other topics you might want to address include validating their approach to work, relationships with other project stakeholders, and estimating both effort and duration. This can also be a good time to check their progress on specific projects, assess how they manage their time, determine availability as a resource for other work, and uncover synergistic opportunities to assist the others, through knowledge earned on a previous project.

Wendy was Joe’s top performing Business Analyst. She thrived on challenging assignments and had built a great reputation across both the business and technology teams. When resources were being assigned for new projects, it was common for leaders to ask for Wendy.

1-on-1’s with Wendy were always enjoyable for Joe as it gave him a look into how she solved problems and managed her demanding schedule. Wendy opened each meeting with a quick status on how her current assignments were going, highlighting critical issues that might require escalation and giving Joe insight as to when she would be rolling off some projects and ready for others. For her part, Wendy liked the opportunity to use Joe as a sounding board, validating such things as requirements planning approaches, estimating effort, and managing relationships with challenging stakeholders.

4. Defining best practices. Because every organization has slightly different BA needs, it is important for the Manager to define what this means for their team in their particular organization. This involves managing the tools and templates the BA’s will use, how the team will use these tools and how the tools fit into their organizations software development program.

5. Planning and resource allocation. The BA Manager must be prepared to assist with long-term staffing decisions, forecasting how his team could be assigned to serve on future projects.

Armed with the knowledge of each team member’s current assignments, Joe was able to articulate the longer term view of how he deployed his team. When Joe joined other leaders in an annual planning exercise, he came prepared with the knowledge of how his team was currently assigned and when they might be available. After evaluating scope statements and other documents used to roughly size proposed projects, Joe could best determine whether he had adequate staff to tackle the proposed projects.

Joe had learned to not to over promise. Rather, he makes realistic estimates and has enough slack to cover the typical unscheduled projects that pop-up throughout the year to chase new business opportunities. Joe also watches out for projects involving unique tools or technologies that might require training for his team.

6. Helping to execute organizational goals. It is critically important for the BA Manager to be aware how the role of the BA fits within the organization. Additionally, the BA Manager must effectively communicate this to their team in ways that the BA can understand and deliver on. It is no great surprise that organizational direction can change over time, even in the very short term. Therefore, it is important to be able to adapt to changes quickly and have the ability to communicate these messages to the BA team in a timely manner.

The role of the BA Manager can look different depending on the size of the organization. The description of the BA Manager responsibilities above are in line with the BA Manager of a larger organization. In larger organizations, there is a greater need for a BA Manager because the BA team may be much bigger than that of a smaller organization where the Manager may also play other roles. Smaller organizations may have less of a need for a BA Manager and those responsibilities may be absorbed by a few different roles.

It is important to note that the BA Manager will sometimes need to also play an execution role. This is likely when there are large, highly visible projects. When this happens, the BA Manager often acts as the BA Lead. In large organizations, the BA Manager and BA Lead are often separate roles whereas in smaller organizations, they are combined into one role.

In our next article, we discuss the more execution-focused role of a BA Lead and the unique opportunities and responsibilities that go along with it.


Authors:  Greg Kulander & Jen Nolan, Senior BAs, Geneca

Greg Kulander is a Senior Business Systems Analyst at Geneca, and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) through the IIBA. He has been working primarily as a Business Analyst or Project Manager on software projects since 1999 for such companies as JP Morgan Chase, U.S. Bank and NAVTEQ (now NOKIA “HERE”). He has helped lead successful projects in government, healthcare and private sector e-commerce, and was a founding member of the U.S. Bank Business Analysis Center of Excellence. He has a M.S. in Management Information Systems from Benedictine University, and a B.S. in Marketing from the University of New Orleans. Greg thoroughly enjoys seeing a project go live and watching an organization reap the benefits of well-made software.

Jen Nolan is a Senior Business Analyst at Geneca, a custom software development firm. Jen has over 10 years of experience working on complex, strategic IT projects in both domestic and global financial services organizations. She is adept in various roles, including Business Analyst, Business Analyst Lead and Product Manager, with particular strengths in client reporting and account management. To date, her work at Geneca has been with clients in the professional services and healthcare industries. Jen attended Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania where she studied Finance and Economics.

Article image © kreizihorse - Fotolia.com

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COMMENTS

claire.o'rourke@redvespa.com posted on Monday, January 13, 2014 1:05 PM
Greg, Jen,

I'm not sure I agree with the piece that reads "...the BA Manager must have already possess these skills and continue to practice and modify them...."

The breadth of skills, techniques that can be encompassed in the BA role, needed within an organisation can be... large... I'd instead that a BA Manager has to have many of these skills to a practise a level, an awareness of others, and know who is more the expert and coach for where their own skills are lacking.

And for Defining Best Practise - A BA manager has to also watch, try, develop the new techniques and understand the value any of these may add to their "evolving" practise... Someone once said to me "best practise" is yesterday.. and I agree... at a minimum current practise need to be continually assessed for value add...

There is one aspect here I'm not sure you have covered yet and is the challenge I've found the greatest as a BA Manager - Continually communicating the value of business analysis. Yes you can convince/influence people on this but its now a continual mission, not a once done task. With turnover and change in your own leaders and business partners within an organisation I find that developing a programme of comms, and actively reaching out to new faces needs a decent chunk of your time..the on going buzz that can result for your team being sought after and valued is the pay back.

And I do love have a good natter about the BA Manager role, thank you so much for this sharing and the smiles it brings.
gkulander posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 3:21 PM
@Claire,
Thank you for taking the time to comment on our article. “The idea that a BA manager must already possess the skills necessary…” is really to say that a BA Manager should have the skills necessary to guide, manage and help grow the BA’s on their team. Not that they must have all the necessary BA skills as those change over time.

We agree that the BA Manager must continually define the BA best practices. It is very true that these change and evolve over time. Furthermore, organizations have different needs and a good BA must know how to use their BA “toolbox” in the best way to meet the needs of each organizations they service.

Jen and I have also seen situations where communicating the value of the Business Analyst was crucial to helping BAs get set up to do their best work. I remember a time early in my career when I wondered if my organization was seriously considering getting rid of BAs. In the end, they came to recognize a correlation between Business Analyst participation and successful project outcomes. As this is still a challenge in many places, it is likely worth exploring for a future article.
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