Dale Turner, an American songwriter and rock musician, once said that some of the most memorable lessons we will ever learn are from past mistakes. As a new BA, there’s a world of possible mistakes though not all mistakes need to be made if they can be anticipated and prevented. Here are some examples of common mistakes every BA should be aware of and avoid:
1. Leaving out key stakeholders
2. Analysis paralysis
3. Scope creep
4. Untimely submission of deliverables
5. Going beyond the level of detail required
6. Missing requirements…the list goes on
How can rookie business analysts avoid making some of these avoidable mistakes on the job?
Here are some quick tips to get you started:
1. Communicate Extensively
One of the key mistakes I made as a new BA was not listening during workshops. Because I wasn’t listening, I also could not ask the questions that needed to be asked. During one of my first projects, I missed out on key information that was necessary to understand how the application should work – The only thing that saved the project was the fact that we had knowledgeable SMEs on board the project. Be bold enough to ask questions so that you can attain a level of knowledge that is sufficient to solve business problems.
Also, a business analyst doesn’t just pass information between the business and the IT department, but also translates it in a way that helps each stakeholder understand what the other is trying to say. I’ve used the word “trying” deliberately because stakeholders often work with very rough ideas, expecting others to polish them to perfection.
Asking questions is the simplest way to turn a rough idea into something actionable. Unfortunately, stakeholders will sometimes make it tough for you to get any answers. Some stakeholders may be difficult to deal with, and others may be difficult to get hold of. That’s where the business analyst’s interaction skills come into play.
It’s often best to isolate difficult-to-work-with-people and work with them individually. Get to know them a bit and try to figure out what’s making them uncooperative. It might be a personal grudge, lack of motivation, or something else entirely. Some stakeholders may find it too demanding to give detailed answers in person, preferring email over personal interviews, and others may prefer the exact opposite.
A lack of communication can occur for a variety of reasons. This can lead to serious problems down the line. The earlier communication problems are sorted, the better for the project and the fewer the requirements that will be missed.
2. Over-Reliance On Templates
While templates are useful in structuring thinking and deciding which questions are relevant, the contribution of other tools, techniques and elicitation activities to achieving the desired outcome of the project should be recognized and well understood.
Many rookie business analysts love using templates because they help produce deliverables without much effort. A quick online search yields business analysis templates that cover everything from day-to-day email communication, requirements discovery, requirements prioritization to decision-making. They can be very useful since they provide a high-level conceptualization of what BA deliverables should look like.
As convenient as they may be, over-reliance on templates can get in the way of creativity and the discovery of actual problems, if not used effectively. To get the most benefit out of them, they should only serve as “guides” to be customized to suit the requirements of your project.
Once a business analyst starts to see templates as the end goal, his or her focus shifts from the collaborative discovery of actionable solutions, which can lead to missed requirements, untimely submission of deliverables, and analysis paralysis.
3. Doing Too Much At The Same Time
Business analysts who are still fresh out of water often try to demonstrate their capabilities by attempting to work on multiple projects at the same time while bombarding stakeholders with constant status updates and deliverables.
What they don’t realize is that stakeholders often perceive this activity as low-value. While the occasional positive recommendations may be hidden somewhere deep in the pile of emails and documents, they are likely to go unnoticed.
Develop a laser-sharp focus on your primary objectives and try to come up with the most direct and effective way to accomplish them.
If you’re just starting out as a business analyst, don’t be scared to ask what is expected of you and what you can do to work more efficiently. Most mistakes made by business analysts have something to do with confusing the goals with the means, and senior business analysts are no less guilty of making them than newbies.