New to Managing Business Analysis Resources?

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Dec 20, 2021
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Learning how to become an effective people manager can be difficult. Becoming a manager of business analysis resources has some unique challenges, but I hope to make it easier for you by sharing some advice based on my experience managing three different business analysis teams in three different organizations.

There are two ways people become business analysis managers; from having a lot of business analysis experience or being a people manager and transitioning to leading a business analysis team.  

Establishing Credibility as a New Manager 

While an experienced business analysis professional generally won’t have to prove themselves in the business analysis field, they do have to prove themselves as a manager to build credibility with the team. That means gaining the confidence from team members that you are assigning work fairly, evaluating performance fairly, and providing support when challenges arise. This is a new skill to develop and the transition from being an individual contributor to a leader requires focus and determination. To date, I haven’t found a resource effective at communicating how to make this transition. I think part of the challenge is that this relies on soft skills and relationship skills. I feel the best way to learn how to be a manager is to rely on good role models in your past and ideally have a mentor to use as a sounding board. 

As an experienced manager, leading a business analysis team for the first time, your new team may be naturally skeptical until you prove yourself. One key tip I have for you is that business analysis professionals are all curious and love to learn. If you approach your new role with curiosity, learn what your team does, and understand how they do it, you will start earning respect quickly. I suggest job shadowing each of your team members for a day to see first-hand what they do and why. Ask many questions and immerse yourself in their day. 

Management Style for a Business Analysis Team 

In a management role, your job is to support and motivate your team. What you need to appreciate when managing a business analysis team is that your team members are very good at understanding, interpreting, and solving problems. The best management style to use is an empowering management style. These are smart people with great critical thinking skills. If you use an autocratic style for example, you risk making decisions that are not aligned well with the team and therefore lose credibility and the ability to motivate the team. 

The key skill I’ve learned over the years is along the lines of servant leadership. Get to know each of your team members and understand their aspirations. If you’re able to support them through the types of work you assign, training, and partnering them up with experts to work with, you’re well on your way to having a happy team. And a happy team is a motivated and productive team. 

Another key management skill for a team is to support them by removing roadblocks. If you’re able to tackle the challenges that come up, it leaves your team members to focus on their work. It could be as simple as chasing down a VP for a contract approval or finding out who the key leadership stakeholders are for a new project. By you tackling these pain points, your team will be more productive to do what they do best. 

Evaluating Performance 

One of my biggest challenges as a Business Analysis Manager has been evaluating performance. Business analysis is difficult to manage. For example, when an employee self-assesses their performance as stellar and you think otherwise, how do you close the gap on understanding? This is slightly easier if you have a business analysis background, but if you don’t have that background, this requires some research. 

The best practices for Business Analysis have been documented by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). To understand how well someone performs at business analysis, it’s important to know the various aspects of the business analysis profession. The Business Analysis Competency Model  defines the knowledge, skills, abilities, techniques, and personal characteristics that together define successful performance of the professional.  

Business Analysis Competency Model

 

This model includes definitions of five levels of proficiency for the six knowledge areas (wheel on the left side of the diagram) including: 

  • Level 1 – General Awareness 

  • Level 2 – Practical Knowledge 

  • Level 3 – Skilled 

  • Level 4 – Expert 

  • Level 5 – Strategist 

The model also provides guidance for measuring effectiveness for the six underlying competencies (wheel on the right side of the diagram). This structure gives you a framework to assess and evaluate the performance of your team members. 

The Business Analysis Competency Model is a free resource for IIBA members, but can also be purchased separately. It’s available in print, PDF, and interactive digital formats. 

Assigning and Overseeing Work 

As I mentioned earlier, how you assign work can have an impact on how your team members perceive you, but more importantly, how you assign work can impact how productive your team is in the long term. If you take a short-term approach of assigning work to those resources who are available or skilled in the project area, the opportunity cost is that you’re not setting up your team for the long-term. 

I recommend learning the interests of your team and their learning needs. Assigning work based on interests can be very motivating and help your team members learn more. Also consider the opportunity to pair up a less experienced resource with an expert resource for on-the-job learning. Pairing up these team members provides a rich learning experience for your junior resources. This will give you a long-term benefit of having happy team members with greater skills, making them more productive. 

Monitoring work is important to track progress and manage stakeholder expectations. I received some advice from a VP once that “I don’t like surprises… give me a heads up before something critical happens.”  It’s great advice that has served me well over the years. To keep a pulse on the work of your team, I suggest meeting one-on-one regularly. For your senior resources, you likely won’t need to meet as frequently as your junior resources, where they will need your guidance. Check in on the work, ask what roadblocks they have, and seek to understand them as a person. You will be surprised by the opportunities to collaboratively solve a problem or share some wisdom. 

My hope is that this helps you begin your journey to becoming a high-performing business analysis manager. If you’re currently in a team leader or manager role, I encourage you to join the Business Analysis Leaders group on LinkedIn for peer-to-peer networking and collaboration about this challenging role.  


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AuthorScott Bennett, Manager of Business Analysis, IIBA

Scott Bennett is the Manager of Business Analysis at the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Scott has managed several Business Analysis teams in his 20-year career in the Financial Services, Corporate Real Estate, and Non-Profit industries. Before working at IIBA, Scott worked at CIBC, Capital One, Sun Life, and BentallGreenOak. Scott holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and is CBAP and CBDA certified. 

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