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I have often heard that BAs make “common” mistakes. Perhaps it is just an unfortunate choice of words (or perhaps my glass is always half-full), but I personally believe that we should focus less on the negative and more on the missed opportunity. So what are missed opportunities? Missed opportunities are generally considerations or course corrections that were not accounted for in the business analysis approach. We should remember that there are a million and one ways to slice, dice and do business analysis. Business analysis approaches on projects are not one size fits all nor are they ever the same. The business analysis approach is dependent on the expertise of the BA and influenced by a number of things that includes real-life experience, training, stakeholder influence, size and complexity of the project, standards and corporate culture. So what are some of these missed opportunities that BAs should take advantage of?

Opportunity #1: Project On-boarding. Roles, Responsibilities and Expectations
When you are first assigned to a project what do you do? The first thing I do is take charge of my requirements domain. How? I do this by clarifying my role, responsibilities and overall expectations of business analysis for the project with the Project Manager (also known as project on-boarding). Why? Well imagine a scenario where the Project Manager gives you a date that your requirements are due in six weeks but with no conversation or concern about how the requirements will actually get done. This is not only unhelpful, but it is a recipe for disaster! Understanding your role and agreeing on the expectations will have a greater impact on your business analysis approach, so you must explain this to the PM and work with them on what your role is and should be for the project. Why? So later on in the project when the PM asks for something you can confidently say “yea” or “nay” depending on the role, responsibilities and expectations that were set. Will you change your mind and agree to the task given to you by the PM? Perhaps. It depends on how flexible and adaptable you are, as well as the stability of your chosen business analysis approach (see the next opportunity).

Opportunity #2: Flexibility and Adaptability
Beware the inflexible approach. Your ability to adapt to given situations and the flexibility to make things happen are key to increasing the chances of your overall success. I hear time and again where someone has said “that is not in scope” or “that was not part of the agreement” or “that is not my job”. All of those things may be true to some extant, but an inability to explore them could start the perception forming that the BA “makes mistakes”. Yes, you have an approach and you want to stick to it because it is a good approach, well thought out and well planned out. However, things happen and people ask you to do things or take things under consideration and you must react with aplomb. An inability to react appropriately can damage credibility and your overall ability to lead (and that is a lot of “-ility for one sentence so let’s look at the next opportunity).

Opportunity #3: Assert Leadership
Do you feel that you have been steamrolled on a project recently? Have you been treated like a scribe or has someone tried to take over your requirements elicitation activities? Well, this opportunity is truly about you taking control of your requirements domain as a leader. Not a popular concept in some circles but the understanding comes from being a leader in the requirements area – not the PM, QA, DEV team members. You use your influence to enlist the aid and support of your stakeholders to successfully elicit, document and communication requirements that meet their needs. That is true Business Analyst leadership!

So what can we learn from these missed opportunities? I have learned that if you embrace your role as a leader of your requirements domain where you are prepared, flexible and adaptable you will truly avoid those “common” BA mistakes!


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