The following phases are part of a complete business analysis center of excellence (COE) implementation, though your organization might not need to go through all of these steps. In an organization that hasn’t done anything to mature their practices, we typically start with an assessment of the current organization and help you build a roadmap with milestones that show measurable progress. That roadmap might include: training, template creation, adapting practices, selecting tools, deploying tools, deploying new practices, and even embedding in projects to help them improve.
Organizations ranging from 10 business analysts to 500 and beyond can benefit from a center of excellence. Often we see companies that want to increase their level of requirements maturity, add consistency to requirements practices and deliverables, and increase the quality of the requirements. That said, the real justifications for this type of effort typically are:
- Rework on requirements that leads to late projects
- Many defects because the development implements without clear definition
- The business doesn’t get what it expects out of projects
- Projects are over budget because it takes more resources to build from unclear requirements
It’s important to understand the reason you want to implement a business analysis center of excellence, because that will drive setting the correct business objectives and interim success metrics.
Developing a Business Analysis Center of Excellence
Our approach to any kind of center of excellence or methodology implementation is similar to working on projects. We are not a big fancy consulting firm that will come in, stand on a pedestal, and tell you what to do. Instead, we work with you, side-by-side, to figure out what is working and what needs to be improved. Then we get our hands dirty and actually work on the projects to improve them. Most commonly we are going to sit side-by-side with your practitioners to teach them and help them grow, while also helping them get their project work done.
- Documentation assessments: Review of a sampling of existing requirements documents against preset criteria to determine trends across the organization
- Self-assessments: Business analysts rate their own skills
- Observation assessments: Most commonly used to evaluate elicitation and facilitation skills or agile team relationships using a few subjective performance criteria
The assessment results help set the scope of a business analysis center of excellence effort and to prioritize the activities on the roadmap. The assessment results can be summarized in an executive format to engage management and generate their buy-in for the improvement efforts. Similarly the activities, if performed correctly, start to build key relationships with the business analysts themselves.
Whether you formally assess the organization or not, it is helpful to understand what level of maturity the organization is at currently and where you want to take it. Building a business analysis organization’s maturity is an incremental process. For details about the five stages of business analysis maturity and the people, processes, and tools involved, download the pdf here: Business Analyst Center of Excellence Levels of Maturity
The roadmap phase involves working with organizations to help them set the scope of a COE effort. This phase involves laying out a detailed roadmap for the near term and high-level roadmap for the long-term. Roadmaps also include setting improvement targets and timelines, creating a detailed activity plan, and finding a pilot project to work with working.
You can’t build a center of excellence alone. With this statement, we don’t mean you have to have outside expertise. We mean that you must engage your entire team in the COE effort. Managers can’t just dictate that teams adopt a methodology or tool. Specific activities must take place that allow the teams being affected to feel like they are part of the change and have some ownership in the outcomes. We won’t even work on an effort in an organization that doesn’t get this because we know it cannot succeed.
Requirements Methodology Integration
This phase is about adapting a requirements reference methodology to your organization. We have various starting points, ranging from waterfall to agile approaches. However, no one methodology fits everyone. We will work with you to adapt one of these or something of your own to find a standardized requirements methodology and then we will work to integrate that requirements methodology into your teams’ daily project lives. We introduce your teams to common techniques and approaches, facilitate them in selecting an approach for your organization, ensure we are generating buy-in for that approach. This phase often includes setting up a business analysis toolkit as a repository for techniques, best practices, templates, and examples.
If a business analysis tool is needed, this phase is used to identify candidate tools, identify the selection criteria, evaluate the tools, select a tool, setup, train, and deploy the tool. We also work to set realistic adoption targets and help ensure you reach them. Tool selection most commonly centers around requirements management tools, but this could apply to any tool, such as an agile development tool, requirements development tools, or BA toolkit repository tools.
There is no one perfect methodology or tool. Given that, we find it’s most helpful if we can work with some of your project teams to try the new methods and tools early in a COE effort. Then if there are things that aren’t working well, we adapt them early before a lot has been invested in training, documentation, and rollout activities. We typically start with 1-3 pilot projects and after a few months, pilot another 3-5 projects, before trying to roll things out to everyone. They key to this phase is being iterative and constantly improving the methodologies and tools as lessons are learned.
Skills growth can include updating hiring practices to identify new superb business analysts, customizing a career path for your existing team, training them on techniques, methodologies and tools, mentoring them, running skills forums, and measuring their results. Training can include courses on requirements core concepts, requirements models, requirements elicitation, agile product ownership, agile business analysis. Onboarding and training BAs isn’t limited to just basic business analysis skills. They also need mature skills in communication, leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation, prioritization, critical thinking, and abstraction and decomposition.
We found training alone does not get people up to speed. Workshop and mentoring let the students practice using the concepts on their own project materials with an instructor to help them past any roadblocks. This was a way to have let the concepts sink in, let them come up with new questions, and also to let them get started on actual materials for their projects.
To learn more about starting a COE or just maturing your business analysis organization in a less formal way, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.