When considering establishing a Business Analyst Center of Excellence (COE), there are many components to consider. Be sure to include the “people” component. In other words, what can the COE do to help Business Analysts (BAs) grow and progress in their roles?
When I mention the people component to our customers, the first thing that many think of is training. What training should be established for BAs. And yes, training is definitely a part that needs to be included. But the people part of a COE is so much more than just training. In fact, many of these other aspects actually lead up to training. For example:
- What core competencies should your BAs have and are expected? This is usually part skills, part knowledge and part talent. Competencies may be things such as Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring, Elicitation, Requirements Management, etc.
- Competencies can also be split into proficiency levels, allowing for growth from a junior person who is just learning to a senior person who has mastered the competency. Once the competencies have been defined, you will need to do an assessment to see the proficiency level of your BAs. This assessment is something that would need to be repeated periodically, as people grow and mature in their skills.
- The results of the assessment will help you understand and determine what your training needs are. Looking at this information will help you understand where the greatest need is and allow you to search or develop the appropriate training that is required.
You COE might also want to consider a career path, which can help define the job progression that is available for your BAs. This would include not only what competencies at which proficiency level for each level in your career path, but also what experience, what the job duties might be, what contributions to the community is expected, etc. This provides a guideline for BA’s on what sort of things they need to be able to do in order to be promoted.
NOTE: Do be careful about how a career path (or similar tools) are described and introduced. There are always many aspects to a person being promoted. You do not what people to think that if they have mastered everything on the list that they are automatically going to be promoted.
Mentoring programs are also an excellent consideration. Mentoring programs can help pair more senior BA’s with more junior staff, to help guide and teach. This has benefits on both sides of the program. Obviously, more junior BAs get another source of learning and guidance. But senior BAs benefit as well. Not only is it a way for them to give back, but it allows them to provide leadership as well.
The people aspect can also include activities that help build the community of BAs. Have a forum where BAs can get together and share ideas or learn about a new topic together. This could be lunch-n-learns, or if you have remote staff, you could have webcasts. Webcasts can be an ideal communication tools to promote the activities of your COE, to provide some continuing education and to celebrate successes.
Other community events could include team building activities and even external events such as IIBA chapter meetings. All of these provide additional ways to help your community grow.
An additional aspect about people that I don’t want to over look…and that is adoption. Whether it is the adoption of many of the various aspects that I have discussed above, or adoption of new tools, new templates, new processes. Adoption is key to the overall success of your COE.
One way that you can help increase adoption is by including your community of BAs in the development of the various aspects of your COE. Not only do you build consensus in a particular item (such as the adoption of a new requirements management tool), but you end up with a better product because you were able to pull ideas and thoughts from a variety of people. Their knowledge and experience can be invaluable to you as you development and implement various aspects of your COE. In fact, if you don’t have their help, you will have a very difficult time with the adoption of anything that you hope to accomplish.