Posted by: Adam Deane | 25/05/2010

BPM: Working with Business Analysts

BPM Business AnalystsI like working with business analysts. Let’s face it – They make my work easier.
Business analysts are the bulldozers that open the way for us developers to rush through.

I haven’t met a business analyst I didn’t like.
Most are perfectionists , they like to worry, and are an enthusiastic bunch of workaholics.

While reading some blogs over the weekend, two BA related posts caught my eye:
Brad Wray’s “So what makes a good business analyst?
and Laura Brandenburg’s Don’t manage me, I’m a business analyst!

Brad says that a good business analyst needs to have 3 things:
• Customer service skills
• Ability to think strategically
• Breadth, not necessarily quantity of experience

And Laura states that ”What makes us great business analysts does not necessarily prepare us to be managers”
Both posts are interesting reading.

So why am I talking about Business Analysts in a BPM blog?
My only criticism of business analysts that I meet, is that they usually have little or no background in BPM.
It’s not their fault. The organisation has suddenly realized that they need BPM.
The business analyst is given the task to learn all about it quickly (yesterday..).
It’s a steep learning curve. Luckily business analysts are like sponges and learn fast.
But nothing beats experience. So I find myself helping them avoid the potholes on the way. They learn to trust my advice.
My success in building the workflow solution is linked to their ability to define the requirements correctly (and more importantly – to define the business pain)
Their social and communication skills (communicating with the different business departments in the organisation) is crucial for user acceptance.

I think BPM would be embraced in more organisations if business analysts knew more about Business Process Management.
The BPM industry invests a great deal of effort and resources to educate enterprise architects and management on BPM.
Somehow I feel that Business Analysts are an audience we have missed.


Responses

  1. I think you’re absolutely right that mainstream BPM doesn’t invest enough time in working with BAs. I’ve tried to do my bit and have spoken many times at BPM, EA, and BA conferences about the topic. Two themes emerge:
    – BPM folks don’t realize what a goldmine of info the organization’s BAs are, and don’t realize that many important process redesign initiatives were actually first formulate by BAs who were tired of constantly trying to stitch the proverbial silos together.
    – BAs, notwithstanding the previous point about spotting redesign opportunities, often have next-to-nonexistent skills in working with business processes. Too many are stuck in the failed “writing requirements” and “requirements management” paradigms.
    What’s interesting is that after a group of BAs takes my workshop on working with processes, they’re invariably completely enthused about using their new “process toolbox.” Why weren’t they before? Because the BPM folks at their company were often focused on:
    a) tools (evangelizing a BPM suite)
    b) adherence to some external reference model, approach/methodology, or (worst of all) some standard like BPMN which is great for implementation activities, but complete overkill for business analysis work.
    I’ve blabbed on too much, but you hit on a topic which is near and dear to my heart. Thanks.

    Alec

    • Hi Alec,

      Thanks for your response.
      I agree that we don’t invest enough in working with BAs. I’m trying to do my bit here, and getting the discussion going…
      I think we do know what a goldmine of info the organization’s BAs are, but we don’t know how to communicate with them properly and are missing out on opportunities.
      I’m getting a bit frustrated training up the BAs on BPM, during the project. Not because I don’t like them, but because I don’t think that it is the correct way. I’m a techie.. probably not the right perspective for teaching a BA how to analyse… (and don’t forget that Clariteq has the “luxury” of working with organisations that are smart enough to send their BAs to proper workshops.)

      Cheers,
      Adam

    • Alec, I would disagree that BPMN is overkill for BA work: the smaller subsets of it are perfect for BA work, since they provide a standard syntax for representing processes in an unambiguous manner as part of documenting requirements. They don’t need to learn the entire 100-element standard, but they should know enough about a substantial subset to use them properly. Otherwise, you end up with BAs making up their own process syntax (which I see on every project) that typically ends up with ambiguous process maps and a lot of spaghetti process diagrams because they never learned how to use a fairly simple BPMN event construct.

      BPMN shouldn’t be the only thing that they learn about processes, and not even the most important thing, but it definitely should be a tool in which they are trained. If they can learn how to create use cases (as many BAs who I’ve met have), then BPMN is not going to be a big challenge for them.

      • Hey Sandy –
        Great to hear from you here in Adam’s sandbox. I agree with what you say in principle, but I see things unfolding differently in practice. This issue is that BAs “should know enough” is quite different from what BAs actually know and can apply.
        I’ll put together a better reply tomorrow – right now, it’s late here!
        A

  2. Interesting that a Forrester analyst recently stated that 50% of BA’s don’t have what it takes to be process analysts, that is, that they don’t have sufficient skills in process analysis and optimization. I’m not sure that I agree with the specific number, but I’ve worked with plenty of BA’s who don’t understand that analyzing a process is different from analyzing data for a report: surely there are specialist skills within the BA community, and we can’t expect every BA to be a process specialist?

    • Hi Sandy,

      BAs are one of the links in the BPM chain. Currently, they are one of the weaker links.
      If a way is found to “toughen up” this link, I believe that our BPM success rate will be higher.
      I agree that most BAs do not have sufficient skills in process analysis and optimization, but I do see a lot of enthusiasm on their side to learn about BPM.
      I’d like to help them, but I’m not sure it’s something you can learn from a book.

      Judgment comes from experience – and experience comes from bad judgment.

      Cheers,
      Adam

  3. Thanks for the post and interesting dialog here. I can say from some of the business process content and training that has made it into the business analyst profession, there is a huge interest and demand for this sort of information. BAs are starting to see business process as a larger part of their role and are getting actively involved in the types of initiatives discussed here.

    I host a blog for business analysts (Adam links to one post here) and I’d invite anyone who would like to share some ideas on process analysis and BPM for the BA to submit a guest post. It would be a great way to reach out to the BA community.

    Laura

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your response. I’ll continue to follow your blog.

      Cheers,
      Adam

  4. […] BPM: Working with Business Analysts « Adam Deane Very interesting discussion on working with business analysts in BPM: I think that this is critical for BPM success, and is a key weakness on many of the projects that I've worked on: even though I've been in the role of application architect, I've had to take on the role of business process analyst because the BAs have no experience or training on process analysis or process modeling. (tags: bpm businessanalysis) […]

  5. […] BPM: Working with Business Analysts « Adam Deane Very interesting discussion on working with business analysts in BPM: I think that this is critical for BPM success, and is a key weakness on many of the projects that I've worked on: even though I've been in the role of application architect, I've had to take on the role of business process analyst because the BAs have no experience or training on process analysis or process modeling. (tags: bpm businessanalysis) […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: