As a BSA, most of what we do on a day-to-day basis ends up in a deliverable that is consumed by others. Whether it is a business requirements document, feasibility study, use case diagram, or process model the goal is to produce something that can be easily understood by those who look at it. This level of consistency is not that hard on a small project where there may only be one or two BSAs. The challenge increases within large projects/programs where there may be dozens of BSAs. This challenge also exists for corporations where multiple projects are going on at once in the same line of business and they all have dependencies on each other. One of the underlying competencies of a business analyst is to be able to communicate to a wide audience in a way that is easily understandable. While it is important that each individual BSA has this skill there are things that an organization can do to help the BSA produce the best work possible.
For every deliverable that is expected within a project there should be a template available for the BSA to use as a reference. It can be something as simple as a spreadsheet with a few rows and columns that represents a requirements traceability matrix to a multiple page document with many sections that is the requirements management plan for a project. The template helps to set expectations for what the deliverable should look like. The IT world experiences a lot of resource change with contractors going in and out of corporations and even full-time employees moving from one area of the company to another on a regular basis. There are almost always new faces on a project and a template gives them a launching point for their work. It is important within a template to label which sections are required for each project and which are optional. It is also a good idea to include examples within the template so the user knows what is meant by an item that is in scope or what a use case diagram should contain. Consistency between documents is more likely to happen when a template is used. Stakeholders that have to review multiple documents will appreciate the consistency brought about by a template.
It is tempting to want to get resources working immediately on the tasks at hand. Many organizations have a goal of providing training at some point, but with everyone's busy schedule this is often put on the back burner or forgotten completely. It is important to make time for training of resources. It does not have to be a huge multi-day affair. Training can take on multiple forms. It can computer based, taught by an instructor in front of a large group, off-site, or even one on one training between a more senior BSA and one who is new to the project or organization. What is covered in the training can vary depending on the scope of the effort. Training may include basic information on how to elicit and document requirements. It can be company focused and include information on processes within the company and special lingo that is used among the team or company. Training can also be about the purpose of the project. For instance if the goal of the project is to implement a new government regulation, training should probably include information about the government regulation and how it will effect the company. Whatever form it takes, it is important the each BSA receive the appropriate training to help them begin their work on the project.
Having quality templates and training is important, but if there is not a way to ensure they are being used properly then all that effort can go to waste. Many organizations have mature PMOs or other governance groups that review deliverables to ensure they are produced with the quality expected. This level of oversight is helpful for large projects or programs, but small teams also need to review the work being produced. This can be done by having peer reviews before deliverables are presented for approval. Having other team members review your work is a great way to make sure all the work is consistent. It is important that one of the reviewers be someone with experience within the project or company to make sure the standards are being met. Peer reviews should be built into the process and not rushed.
Templates, Training, and Governance are three ways that companies can make sure quality consistent work is being produced by their BSAs. These methods can be used for PMs, developers, and testers as well, but they are especially important for BSAs because the deliverables produced at the beginning of the project, such as requirements documents, drive every other part of the project. Each company should carefully consider their deliverable quality and how it might be improved. Do you have any ideas for how to improve quality among BSAs? I would love to hear your suggestions via email.