In working on your organization’s business analysis competencies, it’s useful to do a formal assessment to see where the skills are currently. This would be wise to do prior to implementing any kind of training, mentoring, or methodology practices, so that you can tailor the assessments to the areas of greatest need, and so you can later measure whether there were improvements.
There are three types of assessments we like to perform: knowledge tests, documentation reviews, and elicitation observations.
Knowledge tests – first and probably easiest is to test the BA knowledge. You can use basic training course tests that are designed simply to see if BAs understand the concepts. This is also a good way to see what requirements terminology your team uses and is familiar with already. When we do this, we give tests in the areas of requirements basics, elicitation where you test their knowledge of different types of elicitation techniques and basic knowledge of how to run sessions, and models where we look for whether they understand what the models are and can describe generally when you’d use them. These provide the least detail, but allow you to assess basic knowledge across a large set of BAs. Being able to recall and test well on the subject is one thing, but being able to apply the skills is another. So the next two parts of the assessment are actually looking at your BAs doing the job.
Documentation reviews – we like to do documentation reviews, where we select a sampling of requirements documents from across the organization and various authors and then review them against a set of predefined criteria. For example, we look at basic things like – do the requirements all have unique IDs to more complex things like whether they are using visual models throughout the requirements document. We use an assessment worksheet and review documentation against a standard set of criteria. It’s not important that you review every page of every requirements document, but rather a broad sampling.
Elicitation observations – The last part of assessing is probably also the hardest and it’s to watch your BAs in elicitation sessions and evaluate their performance. We typically have 4 or 5 criteria and a pretty subjective rating system to evaluate them on. The types of things you would look for include capability to facilitate a session, keeping it on track. Can they think on their feet? Can they engage the entire audience? Do they handle challenging participants well? And can they actually elicit requirements from the audience in the moment?
If the BA organization as a whole is relatively immature without a lot of expert-level BAs, then this is the best order to perform the assessments, knowing that you may not get them all completed:
- Documentation reviews
- Elicitation observations
- Knowledge tests
The key with all types of assessments is to take any fear out of it by doing them anonymously if you can, like with the tests or the documentation reviews. And beyond that, especially if you can’t do any of it anonymously, then do everything you can to help them ensure they aren’t going to be punished for their results.
I would follow the same basic evaluation as in the pre-assessment looking for improvement. I would want to not vary the things we looked for so we have a baseline to measure improvement from. It would be ideal to understand their target improvement metrics with this as well.
Stay tuned for my next post which will point you to additional resources!