Attending the BA Summit hosted by the IIBA this week was a great way to introduce myself to the world of Business Analysis. As the Head of Mindworx Academy, where we focus on business and data analysis in particular, I left with many lessons learnt. One of those lessons was the importance of stakeholder involvement and engagement across the different phases of business analysis projects. Francois Combrinck, one of the Lead Business Analysts, spoke about the importance of moving from stakeholders to partners in unlocking value. He explained that through nurturing stakeholder relationships, from users to sponsor, business analysts are able to create and deliver value to clients.
As a business professional who has been passionately involved in stakeholder engagement, particularly in projects, I would argue that the following pre-set conditions are necessary for a successful stakeholder involvement and engagement programme.
- Identify relevant stakeholders – In the business analysis planning phase, it is important to identify all the relevant stakeholders that will have impact on the change or project to be undertaken. This will also help unearth the needs of both those stakeholders and business analysts. Business analysts require certain information from a wide range of stakeholders to come up with, for example, an all-encompassing project/change specification. Shallow identification of stakeholders, where some of them are omitted, may lead to incomplete specs, delays and unfinished projects as a result of not meeting all stakeholder needs. Speaking to some of the business analysts from different industries, one gets a sense that the identification of all the relevant stakeholders needs some improvement. Sometimes the big mistake that businesses make is to identify only “important” stakeholders, who at most are not even implementers of solutions. When the real stakeholders are left out, many projects fail. Appropriate identification assists in pre-analysing the stakeholders’ power, needs and influence on a project.
- Involve and engage stakeholders early on – Once the identification of all the relevant stakeholders has been done, involving and engaging those stakeholders is the most important step. The emphasis here is the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, not just the ones perceived to be important. This process will allow stakeholders to have an understanding of what’s required of the team of business analysts, the information they need to provide, the activities they will do etc. It clarifies expectations of outcomes. This process also allows for idea solicitation on which change or project to go with, debate on the appropriate process and eventually buy-in from all stakeholders. It makes the job of the business analysts, and all other stakeholders, very easy in the long run. It helps business analysts to come up with avenues for customer/stakeholder value creation and execution.
- Verify requirements with stakeholders – business analysts would normally embark on a process of collecting all the information in terms of the needs of the stakeholders as well as the future desired state of the business. It’s then important to revert back to the relevant stakeholders to present to them the understanding of their needs, expectations and requirements in a process of verification. This allows the stakeholders to engage the business analysts in the analysis process for the business while simultaneously to ensure that they deliver the outcomes desired. This also allows the process of identifying potential solutions and selecting the one that is most appropriate and suitable for the business. The danger that many business analysts find themselves in is that they skip this stage and zoom into solution-mode without verifying all the requirements with stakeholders. This also helps in confirming and aligning the understanding of what the business needs and the solution in the mind of the business analyst.
It has been reiterated at the Business Analyst summit that the above should form part of the foundation for a successful stakeholder engagement process that builds meaningful partnerships in the business analysis environment.
Sabelo Myeni is the Head of the Mindworx Academy that turns inexperienced graduates into confident professionals capable of fulfilling highly skilled analytical roles with our clients in the scarce skills category. To find out more, have a look at our online brochure or read Sabelo’s article on digital jobs and the next big revolution.