Once you embark on a new business analyst job or project, chances are that you will try to avoid past mistakes and look for ways in which you can deliver better results.
A lot can be said for this motivation. The beginning of a project is usually an opportunity for a fresh start. Regardless of how advanced your business analysis skills are, or how fine-tuned your business analysis process is, there is always room to do better.
While it is true that we can't control project outcomes, we can approach our business analysis role in a manner that produces a significant and lasting effect.
Below, we explore 5 simple ways to avoid repeating mistakes made in previous projects.
1. Clarify Your Role
One of the most detrimental mistakes business analysts can make is creating assumptions about their roles. This often makes them overlook their responsibilities and areas of expertise. When you are not clear on your role, you may end up trampling on other project team members' roles, or following the job description to the letter only to discover that your team needed something extra that wasn't explicitly asked for. The end result? You fail to deliver what is expected of you.
There is so much debate over what exactly the role of a business analyst should be. To make matters worse, jobs vary so widely across different companies that we sometimes layer expectations on ourselves or overlook what a certain organization or team considers important.
Overcoming this shortcoming is relatively simple. All you need to do is clarify your role and ensure that you have a thorough understanding of it. If at all you feel that something is not clear, do not hesitate to ask questions. Inform your team and manager of what you will do and when you'll do it, and then deliver on your promise. Develop this habit and be consistent throughout the project.
2. Involve Key Stakeholders
The second mistake business analysts make most is trying to move forward without involving all the relevant stakeholders. A myriad of reasons can be attributed to this. Stakeholders could be lurking in the corner, too busy to meet with us, or perhaps we just prefer not to meet with them, the list is endless. Whatever the case may be, not having all the relevant stakeholders on board can prove catastrophic.
When you are embarking on a project with new stakeholders, you should go out of your way to ensure that you get to know who they are, what's important to them, and under what circumstances they work best. Even if you already know and trust the stakeholders you are working with, you should look at every new project as an opportunity to deepen that relationship and come up with ground rules that ensure you don't repeat past mistakes.
Regardless of whether you are facing the pressure of a deadline, or running short on time, engagement is key. You must ensure that everyone is on board in every step of the way. Otherwise, you will only be setting yourself and your team up for failure.
3. Don't Expect Perfection
One of the shortcomings of being a business analyst is that you tend to demand perfection in every project. This isn't necessarily bad. However, when you focus too much on what's missing, you will fail to see what's working.
There will be times when a project won't meet the original scope, timeline goals, or quality but still deliver great value to the business. If you focus too much on perfection, chances are that you will miss out on such successes.
Perfection also comes into play in how we view our meetings, relationships, milestones, and deliverables. It is illogical to expect that our stakeholders will provide us with their requirements to the last level of detail, or to expect that our tech team will never stray off track once in a while when they get excited about new technical prospects.
Rather than demanding perfection and getting buried in an avalanche of frustration once your project misses the mark, loosen up and accept that things won't always be perfect.
Sometimes there will be missteps, mistakes, and diversions. Learn to anticipate these roadblocks so that you can quickly develop a strategy to get back on track if you stray. To be successful in a project, you and your team need to remain steadfast when dealing with challenges that come up along the way.
4. Focus on Business Outcomes
Most of the challenges we face when executing a project arise because of having lost sight of the big picture. As business analysts, we ought to keep first things first, and that means achieving the desired business outcomes. We also need to ensure that achieving these outcomes takes priority in the minds of the project's sponsors and stakeholders. Without focusing on the desired outcomes, we risk spending our time doing irrelevant things and dooming our project to failure.
If at any time you find yourself in a project without well-defined and understood outcomes, it is imperative that you bring this level of clarity to the project sooner rather than later.
5. Build On The Positives
It is important to realize that there is always something positive to build on regardless of the outcome of a project. Perhaps you engaged and established a relationship with a new stakeholder, leveraged a new analysis technique, or learned a new software program. It could also be the case that despite not achieving the desired outcome, your team created the underlying infrastructure that will pave the way for bigger and better things.
At the very least, you will have learned why a certain project was a failure and discovered what doesn't work so that you don't repeat it in the future.
Take the positives with you and build on them. Leave failures behind, because that's where they belong. Your next project is not doomed to be like your last. You have the power to assess failure and grow from it. Determine what works and drop what doesn't. This is the way to success.