How to Make a Successful Business Analyst Center of Excellence

Improving the quality of service delivery over time is vital to every organization. Our subject matter experts explore four pillars of success to ensure optimal establishment of growth while building a prosperous team.

Four Pillars of Success

Success is an objective concept depending on who the evaluator is. Does it mean financial prosperity or internal growth? For a business analyst center of excellence (BA COE), success is defined by its ability to demonstrate the clear value of it to everyone within an organization and to have its services requested on every project. Achieving those milestones is a clear marker of an accomplished COE. In order to best advise on how to take a BA COE from infancy to fruition, a group of panelists came together to discuss their personal experiences from different points within an organization communicating with an actively operating COE. They came up with the idea that there are four pillars of success that every prosperous team demonstrates.

Within this article, the aforementioned four main pillars of success that help an individual to correctly assess the prosperity of their COE will be defined and explored in depth. It is important to note that the pillars do not stand alone, and for their purpose to be realized, they must be executed and perpetuated continuously as long as the COE is in operation. The four pillars are as follows:

  1. Challenges
  2. Structure
  3. Success Factors
  4. Value Statements
     

Challenges

The first pillar is aptly named ’challenges‘. As a leader, there is a constant awareness of what the biggest areas of concern are, and what challenges people will likely face within the COE.

The biggest issue commonly reported by COE leaders was as the business analysts learned new things, that learning was not carried from project to project. A re-learning process was involved in each new project which was a visible issue to clients and the eventual effectiveness of the COE within the organization. If it is not established early on how communication will take place and findings be reported on, then a clear avenue to mishap opens up. Plan for everyone within the COE to use the same document management system to record results and learnings of previous projects in order to ensure progress continues horizontally, as well as elevates over time. Physical distance also plays into this challenge far too easily. Having a physical disconnect between team members can naturally lead to an interruption of information transfer and absorption.

The next major challenge COE leaders report coming across is having different techniques in dealing with things and not establishing a common one from the get-go. There are eight generally recognized BA methods that an individual, or team, can choose to run with at the start of an engagement. Three of the most recognizable ones are SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), MOST (Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics), and PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental). It is important to narrow down and select one as the way of operating across the whole COE before work begins on any project.

Lacking BA-specific goals comes in as the third challenge due to the fact that there are entirely different goals that can be had when creating a COE. Goals are commonly tied to job functions. To ensure the success of a COE, however, consider creating team-related goals rather than personal ones. One such way to establish a common goal is to set up a stakeholder satisfaction survey that is delivered both before and after the completion of the project. Having the team set goals oriented towards the group success of the BA COE, which can be accurately assessed by the survey, is one way to get past this challenge.

The last challenge is tied to the eventual success of the BA COE as well. Constantly having to demonstrate the value of having a BA COE to different areas of the organization can be stressful and demoralizing if a method of gathering information has not been previously set up. One way to solve this issue is to implement an IT customer satisfaction review with scoring measurements. That ensures the COE gets quantifiable data they can use to prove their worth after every engagement.

 

Structure and Focus Areas

When setting up a BA COE, one of the top considerations is who should be included. The obvious answer that most will lean towards is people who know the discipline well. To truly capture the success of the COE, however, do not limit who is included; anyone with relative expertise should be invited.

A COE that is operating at its maximum potential is one that can seamlessly fill in the gaps within an organization. In order to do so, establish managers to lead the discipline of analysis and then bring that deduction to different teams.

“How do you make the BA COE more systemic in the quality of service delivery over time?" *

Consider the following areas of focus when setting up a BA COE that delivers results: 

  1. Commonality – Treat the COE like a business capability that has methods and techniques to produce answers.
  2. Business Value Realization – Was the COE helping to advance the business case/ achieve a better business outcome over the past projects?
  3. Orchestrating Service Delivery – The COE can be structured/orchestrated however best suits the project. The COE is constantly restructured to best deliver results, so it isn’t a team that does the same thing every time. Have flexibility in optimizing the use of the resources available to the project.
  4. Future of Profession – Can the COE answer “What does the future look like?” and “Why are we not thinking of other ways we could be deploying the services the BA offers?”
  5. Measurement of Value – Is the COE accountable for value delivery? Constantly proving the success of the COE is imperative to ensure its future. The value has to be tied to the COE constantly helping the organization move forward instead of simply being task-related.

 

Success Factors

After everything is said and done, the importance placed on the word ’success’ hits home at this pillar. The below listed ’success factors’ are ones that, when properly deployed, are absolutely vital in the effectiveness of a BA COE within an organization. Implementing and maintaining these factors are like second nature in any thriving COE, which is why their importance is heavily stressed. Without them, it will be difficult to establish stability with the other three pillars of success.

  1. BA Governance Structure in Place – Formal leadership team who sets the direction and the scope, monitors goals, and makes sure the team is improving, etc.
  2. Build Strategic Partnerships with the Consumers of the BA COE – Build your relationships with PMO (Project Management Office), QA (Quality Assurance), etc., and integrate your processes with theirs.
  3. Consistent Communication – Communicate your activities and progress consistently to everyone involved, not just within the BA COE.
  4. Regular Training – Internal formal training program.
  5. Flexible Processes with Standard Core Deliverables – One size does not fit all with the COE; there must be flexibility to move around and still consistently deliver the product.

     

Value Statements

The last pillar, ‘value statements’, encompasses the ability of the BA COE to demonstrate the values that are important to the organization in order to ensure future success of the business unit. This is ultimately how a leader will know if their COE is on the right track or not. In order to properly gauge the achievement of the team’s efforts, use the stage in which the BA is brought in as an indicator of value. If the COE is being called to action in at the early stages of a project, then that means it has clearly demonstrated value. On the other hand, if the COE is engaged in the late stages, or even as an afterthought, then it may be time to reevaluate the performance of the team thus far as it has not proved its value yet. One suggestion of a method of gauging the value of the COE is surveys at the start, and completion, of projects. This ensures goals are met both within the team and externally when considering the expectations of the COE’s delivery on the engagement.

 

Conclusion

The above tips have been gathered by a panel of industry leaders to better ensure the optimal establishment and growth of a BA COE. The success of a COE is ultimately determined by its value to an organization and how soon into a new engagement their services are called upon.           

To learn more about this topic, or see the informative question and answer after the panel, click here to sign up for the webinar.
 

*Quote by BA COE panelist Wayne Godlewski