How Should BAs Relate With Other Project Stakeholders?
Blog: Business Analyst Learnings Blog
According to Stephen Ward & Chris Chapman in their piece, Stakeholders and uncertainty management in projects, “Stakeholders are a major source of uncertainty in projects and this uncertainty stems from whom these stakeholders are, their motives, and how they can influence a project.”
It is this uncertainty that constitutes risks to the project. BAs should relate with other project stakeholders to overcome this uncertainty by improving their ability to convince stakeholders to see things their way, thereby influencing the course of the project.
The next question would then be, which stakeholders matter?
Numerous techniques and methodologies have been proposed for managing stakeholders based on their contribution to the project, their knowledge, attitude, power, influence, position and a host of other factors. See Stakeholder Matrix: A Practical Guide. While it is not practical to expect every stakeholder need to be met, the BA should recognize when concessions need to be made for the overall benefit of the project.
I once worked with a stakeholder who would announce key project changes that had not yet been approved by the sponsor or even implemented in the system, to company staff. She would then approach me based on this premature communication thereby leaving very little wiggle room for any sort of negotiation. In some cases, the battles weren’t worth the time and effort while in other cases, I would leave it to sponsor to overrule the decision.
During implementation, BAs will often need to deal with stakeholders such as quality analysts, usability professionals, developers, database administrators, vendors, subject matter experts (SMEs), to mention a few. Each stakeholder will have varying levels of influence on the project and successful BAs learn with time, how to balance multiple stakeholder needs and navigate through the intense political atmosphere that often surrounds many projects.
A wide-scale awareness of the role of BAs and the value they can bring to projects, which is lacking in many organizations, can help to increase acceptance and reduce the amount of resistance BAs face on the job. That being said, there are certain peculiarities associated with 3 key stakeholders that BAs should be aware of to deliver successful projects.
Relating with SMEs
Let’s first define who a Subject Matter Expert is. In the simplest terms, a subject matter expert is someone who has expertise in a business area or subject. They may or may not end up using the application but the BA often needs to liaise with them during the course of the project as they can provide critical information needed to understand how the business functions and which solutions are practical.
BAs should talk to SMEs, ask them for advice, and make them feel valued and appreciated. The insight they can offer is in most cases, invaluable.
Relating with Project Managers
A Project Manager is responsible for managing the project and ensuring it meets the objectives of the business. While the Project Manager manages resources such as funding and staff, the business analyst manages requirements. These 2 roles should not be merged as it can easily lead to occupational burnout and project failure.
Project managers always try to maximize time. They love brief presentations that clearly state the main points and provide graphical summaries of data.
For business analysts, the project manager is usually the gatekeeper who holds the key to information that can affect the success of business projects. It’s advisable for business analysts to walk the project manager through their tasks, assess risks and take the time to discuss resource needs throughout the course of the project. See The Project Manager and Business Analyst Collaboration.
Relating with Sponsors
The sponsor secures funding for the project and his main aim is to ensure that key business objectives are met. He eventually determines if a project was implemented successfully. Because sponsors are busy executives with limited time, it’s important to get straight to the point when presenting them with updates.
If things are not going as planned and you need to provide the sponsor with an update, focus on the solution or what you are doing to move things forward and not the problem or the reasons why things are not going as planned.
The main concern of the business sponsor is whether the solution will meet the needs of the organization and add value. Business analysts can add value by proffering solutions with the potential of increasing revenue, decreasing costs, minimizing risks to the organization, improving accuracy, minimizing rework, and minimizing ongoing support and maintenance costs, to mention a few.
When business analysts can adjust their communication style to suit their audience, business sponsors are guaranteed to be impressed. Sponsors usually need to digest massive amounts of information in a very short amount of time; clarity and brevity will go a long way in getting their attention.
To maximize their value to the organization, business analysts should strive to achieve alignment between stakeholders’ needs and values. This is difficult to achieve without building strong relationships with other stakeholders and gaining a thorough understanding of their needs and roles.