Lead Business Analyst – Are You Ready for the Challenge?

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In the previous article, we discussed what it means to be a Business Analyst Manager, a person who is responsible for growing a team of Business Analysts within an organization.

How exactly does that differ from a Lead Business Analyst? I’m glad you asked. First of all, let’s put a definition on “Lead Business Analyst.” For this article, we are not talking about a title, but rather a specific role on a project. The Lead Business Analyst is a Business Analyst who is ultimately responsible for overseeing all Business Analyst activities on a project.

Lead Business Analyst – Are You Ready for the Challenge?Typically, a Lead Business Analyst is a more formal role on a larger project with a dedicated team of two or more Business Analysts. Often the Lead Business Analyst responsibilities fall on the most senior Business Analyst on the team; although that might not always be the case depending on project circumstances.

Focus on Execution
While a Business Analyst Manager has primary responsibilities of developing a team of Business Analysts and potentially best practices within the organization, the Lead Business Analyst’s key responsibilities also include ensuring the success of the execution of the Information Technology project, specifically the Business Analysis portion.

A larger project typically has a dedicated Project Management resource or resources responsible for ensuring that the overall project analysis, development, risk reduction, mitigation issues, testing, etc. is successful.

The Lead Business Analyst inherits many Project Management type responsibilities within the realm of Business Analysis activities such as:

  • Ensuring there is adequate staffing to complete the required analysis work

  • Managing the onboarding/roll-off activities for Business Analyst resources who join or leave the team

  • Participating in status meetings and other leadership activities for the project

  • Understanding the requirement needs for the iteration including the project responsibilities of the Business Analysts

Own the Process
The Lead Business Analyst inherits responsibility for the entire requirements process. Including this person as early as possible in the project planning is key to ensuring the Business Analysis track is being set up for success. There are several critical components within the requirements process that the Lead Business Analyst considers:

Methodology and Artifacts:   This includes responsibility for making sure that organization (or project) best practices are established and followed throughout the duration of the project. Typically the Project Methodology is dictated by the Project Management Office (PMO) or the overall project team, but the Lead Business Analyst should have influence on how requirements are elicited; what documentation will be produced; and how it will be signed-off and transitioned to other project resources like Development and Quality Assurance/User Acceptance Testing (QA/UAT).

Whether requirements are elicited via JAD sessions, workshops, or individual interviews with subject matter experts, it is important to establish expectations upfront for common understanding and managing. One key point is an intimate understanding of the level of detail that needs to be captured for development and testing. Another is establishing any documentation templates that are going to be used for the project. It is important for the Lead Business Analyst to work closely with the Technologists and Lead QA/UATs to understand the appropriate level of detail needed by each of their teams.

Estimating:  Once the Lead Business Analyst understands the defined scope of the project (based on a project charter or other scope-related artifacts), he or she can provide estimates for requirements elicitation, documentation and review activities. It is extremely important to have an understanding about availability and expertise of the subject matter experts or other stakeholders who need to provide business knowledge and ultimately sign-off.

Typically, stakeholders have other responsibilities within an organization and may not be able to dedicate 100 percent of their time to the project, so the Lead Business Analyst needs to consider this when estimating. The Lead Business Analyst also must take into account the level of expertise of the members of the Business Analyst team when estimating how long certain activities will take. The estimate should incorporate how long it will take the assigned resource to complete the task, not how long it would take the Lead Business Analyst themselves to do the work.

Staffing:   With scope defined, the Lead Business Analyst assembles the team of Business Analysts who will aid in executing the project. The Lead Business Analyst needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the assembled team in order to assign work effectively and position them for success.

For example, a Business Analyst with a developer background may be a better fit for a more technical part of requirements on an undocumented legacy system. Another part of staffing is the availability of the organization’s stakeholders for requirements sessions. Ensuring SMEs availability and participation is a must to understand the business scenarios.

Managing Scope:  As the project evolves, changes in scope are inevitable. Increases or decreases in scope usually result in a requirements change. The Lead BA needs to understand the overall scope of the project and be able to identify when requirements are changing and ensure that project change management procedures are being used properly.

Lead the Team
With the BA team in place and the process established, the Lead Business Analyst now takes on the responsibility of making sure the business analysis portion of the project meets the needs of the project and ultimately the goals and priorities of the business. With the fast pace of business, a Lead Business Analyst needs to keep focused on the following: Delegation, Coaching, and Business Goals.

Delegate:  One of the pluses (and minuses) of being the Lead Business Analyst role is that he or she gets a strong say in how work is distributed amongst the team. However, it is not often as simple as it sounds, as each BA has different abilities as well as different career goals they are looking to achieve. The BA Lead has to strike a good balance between setting the team up for ultimate success from a project execution standpoint, and also ensure that each Business Analyst has the opportunity to grow as individuals on the project.

The Lead Business Analyst needs to take the time to recognize each team member’s individuality and career goals.. Clarity about the team as early as possible will help the Lead Business Analyst understand the team as a whole and allow him or her to make assignment decisions accordingly.

While ideally the Lead Business Analyst is able to meet all team members’ aspirations, a balance is usually agreed upon. As such, the Lead Business Analyst continues to work with the team to make sure everyone is challenged and the team remains aligned and set up for success.

Coach:  In addition to setting up the team and delegating responsibilities among team members, the Lead Business Analyst needs to serve as an ongoing coach and advisor to the team. While coaching can take many forms (not to mention that there are entire books dedicated to how and when to coach), for the sake of this article there are two main types of coaching the Lead Business Analyst is responsible for. First, technical coaching includes ensuring documentation is accurate and complete, meets the agreed upon standards, and deadlines are being met. Second, non-technical coaching can include how a Business Analyst is interacting with stakeholders, facilitations skills, participation in meetings, all the way down to discussions on personal appearance and showing up on time!

Review:   The Lead Business Analyst should provide at least some degree of review of documentation for consistency and accuracy, especially as it relates to requirements that might span or relate to multiple functional areas (and thus potentially multiple Business Analyst contributors). Additionally, the review of documentation can help the Lead Business Analyst understand the functionality being defined and help them understand the different functional areas of the system. The amount and intensity of reviews can differ based on the complexity of the system and seniority of the Business Analyst team in place aid with coherence and consistency.

Know the Big Picture:   One of the more difficult aspects to the Lead Business Analyst position can be the lack of familiarity with the details of the system being created. On smaller projects when a Business Analyst is able to be the sole possessor of the requirements, it is easy to be the “expert” and understand exactly what the system is supposed to do. However, regardless of project size, The Lead Business Analyst must still understand all aspects of the project and maintain a level of expertise for the system as a whole (even if they might not understand every little detail). He or she is the “go to” person from a functional requirements standpoint. For some Business Analysts, this is much easier said than done!

Be an Engaged Player, too:  In addition to having the leadership responsibilities, many times the Lead Business Analyst will also be expected to perform Business Analyst duties as well. When delegating work and functionality, the Lead Business Analyst needs to understand the leadership aspects of the role and the time commitment involved. He or she should take care to assign less critical functionality to themselves and understand their limitations due to primary responsibilities.

Ultimately, the role of a Business Analyst Manager or a Lead Business Analyst is very rewarding. However, these are certainly not the only career advancement options for Business Analysts. The next article will focus on roles beyond traditional Business Analysis.


Authors: Charlene Ceci & John Pobloske, Geneca

Charlene Ceci,  Geneca, Senior Lead Business Analyst

Charlene Ceci has over fifteen years experience in all aspects of business analysis and project management. Her proven ability to streamline processes, rapidly define requirements, control scope, mitigate risks, and delegate tasks results in the implementation of powerful systems. She builds high-performing teams with local, virtual and off-shore resources. Known for her excellent cross organizational communication and problem solving skills consistently leads to exceed expectations. Ms. Ceci is a Senior Lead Business Analyst at the Chicago-based custom software development firm Geneca, and plays an instrumental role in the adoption and success of Geneca’s business analysis best practices.

John Pobloske, Geneca, Lead Business Analyst

John Pobloske has more than 15 years of experience in business analysis and project management across start-up and Fortune 500 companies. He was formally trained in a Big Five consulting environment and has worked with clients across a wide range of industries. www.linkedin.com/in/johnpobloske/

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COMMENTS

michellenefdt posted on Friday, January 25, 2019 6:25 AM
Thank you so much for this article Charlene Ceci & John Pobloske. This has been a huge help, since I started as an LBA on a large programme of work, I have been searching and searching for guidance on key responsibilities & accountabilities in terms of this role versus a practice manager and project manager role. In addition, you provided great insights on LBA strategy and an operating framework e.g. defining quality standards supported by technical coaching for quality and consistency.
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