Monday, September 3, 2012

Why Should I do a BA Assessment? Know If Your BAs (and Organization) Are Equipped for Innovation.

by Kitty Hass

This belief is held by many managers and executives.  The problem with “what you already know” about your business analysts’ capabilities is that you don’t have actionable information

The Devil is in the Details
Conducting a BA (or PM) Individual or Workforce Assessment based on a validated reference model (see below) provides insights as to your teams’ strengths and opportunities.  The summary report provides details about specific gaps in capabilities that are most likely preventing your team from attaining higher levels of project success, accompanied by actionable recommendations to close the gaps.

BA/PM Workforce Capability Models
I designed the BA/PM individual/workforce capability models to help my clients determine the level of capability that currently exists within their organizations, and the level of capability needed to successfully execute projects based on the complexity of the initiative.  From this information, I are able to identify the gaps in skills and competencies and draft a recommended PM/BA Learning and Development Plan. 

As described in prior posts, my model is four-tiered for both project managers and business analysts as described below.  The levels of the model are based on the escalating complexity of typical BA/PM project assignments, as follows:

Most organizations know they have projects that align with the first three areas of focus. However, many organizations fail to realize a number of their projects are competitive focused; traditional BAs with enterprise-level skills using standard processes and methodologies may not achieve success on competitive-focused projects. Business/Technology Optimization PMs and BAs are business and technology visionaries who serve as Innovation Experts, Organizational Change Specialists, and Cross Domain Experts. Business/Technology PMs and BAs focus outside of the enterprise on what the industry is doing and design innovative new approaches to doing business to ensure the enterprise remains competitive, or even leaps ahead of the competition.  Business/Technology PMs and BAs forge new strategies, translate strategy into breakthrough process and technology, and convert business opportunities to innovative business solutions.

It’s about Innovation
According to the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study, Capitalizing on Complexity, creativity and innovation are essential for a business to remain competitive.  So, if projects bring about innovation, how are we doing?  Only 37% of projects delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions according to the 2011 CHAOS Report by the Standish Group.  And we don’t even measure business value or benefits in terms of innovation and the resulting competitive positioning.

Achieving innovation requires very different PM and BA competencies.  Enterprise Business Analysis to arrive at the creative idea, and Complex Project Management to implement the innovation.

We must change the way we do projects!

Clearly, the current BA and PM practices are deficient as revealed by our success rates.  To elevate our game, we need to focus on innovation and value; adopt iterative project approaches; and begin using integrated BA tools. That’s how a BA capability assessment can help your organization. You will have the roadmap to achieve the change necessary to ensure your BAs and your organization are equipped to handle innovation.

Monday, August 20, 2012

BA Applied Capability: Is Your Organization Consistent or Inconsistent?

by Kitty Hass

When I conduct a BA workforce Assessment, because of the integrated format of my organizational and individual assessment models, I am able to evaluate BA Applied Capability (BAC). BAC is the collective application of BA Technical Competencies by an organization’s BAs. It is an indicator of skills application consistency (variance) across an organization’s BAs.

Participant skills application levels are aggregated and reanalyzed using a calculation similar to that used for a BA Practice Maturity Assessment; however, BA Applied Capability is not a measure of BA Practice Maturity. See my February 6th posting for more information about the full BA Practice Maturity Model.

The figure below presents an example of an organization’s BAC. The BA Applied Capability of 2.05 in the exhibit reflects skills application inconsistency in Level 2 BA Practices and incomplete application of Level 3 BA Practices created by the variance in skills application across individuals and BAs groups.

Scores over 2.0 indicate that a number of more mature BA skills are being applied. Requirements Analysis, however, is fully applied at the Project Level (2.0). When full application of Project-Level practices is not achieved, upper level practices may be less effective. These less effective practices may impact an organization’s ability to achieve success on more complex projects. In prior assessments and ongoing research, I have found that there is a strong correlation between project complexity and BA Applied Capability. This means that as projects become more complex, organizations need more consistent application of BA practices and complexity management practices across the organization to achieve success on these highly complex projects.

The current level of BA Applied Capability depicted in the exhibit provides a strong foundation for more consistent success on highly complex projects and innovation programs. Basic practices are being performed by BAs on projects and the limited use of higher-level practices may be related to the lack of formal BA training and inconsistent and multiple roles on projects. However, for a more targeted long-term improvement roadmap, one that leads to true BA performance improvement and practice consistency, try out a full BA Practice and Workforce Capability Assessment. You will be glad you did!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

You Think I Should Conduct a BA Assessment? Really?

by Kitty Hass

Have you just assumed responsibility to a team of BAs?  Have you had a group of BAs for a while, but you are still not sure of their capabilities?  Then, our BA Individual and Workforce Capability Assessment is made for you. 
  • Each of your BAs receives two reports, a benchmarking report showing how their capabilities stack up against their peers, and the second is a personal professional development plan containing proposed learning and development suggestions.
  • You receive a summary report providing you with a snapshot of your BA workforce benchmarked against other BA teams in your industry.
Bonus: Kitty Hass is available virtually to help you understand your assessment results and develop learning and development plans for each participant, and/or for the BA lead.

If you would like sample reports from a BA Assessment, please leave a comment here or send an email to

Monday, July 23, 2012

BA Applied Capability: You Are Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link.

by Kitty Hass, PMP and Lori Lindbergh, PhD

In a recent BA workforce capability assessment we conducted, the group average scores for the application of BA skills and competencies were fairly high. Based on our BA Workforce Capability Model (See our February 13, 2012 entry), the organization’s BA workforce consisted of three groups of BAs: Project Focus BAs who worked on moderately complex projects, Enterprise Focused BAs who worked on highly complex project, and Competitive Focus BAs who work on innovation projects and programs. Each groups’ overall average scores met or exceeded the associated BA model expectations and the current BA benchmark scores for each group. What does this mean for the overall organization? Do these findings translate into mature BA practices at the organizational level?

This is where BA Applied Capability comes into the picture. BA Applied Capability examines the consistency of the application of BA practices across the organization and is not affected or masked by computing average scores. What we found in the situation described above was moderate practice consistency across the organization aligned more with Level 2 BA practice maturity. A few BAs in each group (outliers), who indicated higher skills application, were raising the overall averages for each group. By examining BA Applied Capability, the organization was able to identify critical areas of inconsistent skills application and focus its BA improvement efforts.

However, examining BA Applied Capability is only possible if you have integrated and aligned BA measurement models, such as our research-based BA Practice Maturity Model and BA Workforce Capability Model. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, an organization’s BA performance outcomes are only as strong as the least-consistent BAs. This inconsistency is often a symptom of knowledge and/ skill gaps and lack of organizational support for effective application of critical BA competencies and supporting competencies. BA Applied Capability translates these individual weaknesses into the weakest links in your BA Practice Maturity. Armed with this information, an organization will be better able to focus its improvement efforts on strengthening the chain and creating improved project outcomes and realization of business value for stakeholders.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Complexity Exceeds BA Capability: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

by Lori Lindbergh, PhD and Kitty Hass, PMP

We have been working on a BA Workforce Capability Assessment for the past few weeks. We have delivered each participant’s assessment report and professional development recommendations and will be conducting individual coaching sessions this coming week. Our workforce assessments also include a group summary report to provide managers with a current snapshot of their BA workforce characteristics and capabilities.

We always look forward to seeing the integrated charts that come out of the assessment findings. These charts examine project complexity, BA skills application consistency, and projected project status for budget, schedule, and scope, and forecasted business benefits. Not surprisingly, we find similar findings in most organizations: The BA capability level required to be successful on the complexity of the organization’s current projects exceeds the actual capability level of the organization’s current BA workforce. And, according to most experts, projects are only becoming more complex.

Most BA participants feel they are over allocated because they are working on multiple projects and have a number of maintenance/service nonproject work assignments. Many are required to play multiple nonBA roles, which further diminishes their ability to perform their BA activities effectively. With a lack of formal BA training, effective processes, and an organization less supportive of BA practices, you have a recipe for failure.

Take a look below at a sample integrated graph from a prior assessment client. The client’s projects included in the assessment were plotted on the graph with project complexity on the vertical axis and project budget, schedule, and scope status on the horizontal axis. Each diamond represents a project; the diamonds are color coded to highlight their status across the horizontal axis. The BA Applied Capability line represents the collective application of BA Technical Competencies in the organization and provides an indicator of BA skills application consistency across the organization.

As projects become more complex, you can see that they tend to become more challenged for budget, schedule, and/or scope (positive correlation). Furthermore, most projects that plotted above the BA Applied Capability threshold (increased complexity) are challenged. The most likely cause for this is: Complexity Exceeds Capability!

In our assessments and our ongoing research, we continually find that there is a statistically significant, positive correlation between project complexity and BA Applied Capability. This means that as projects become more complex, organizations need more consistent application of BA and complexity management practices across the organization to achieve success on these highly complex projects.

If this sounds like what is happening in your organization, where do you start your improvement efforts? The most obvious answers to this question, such as training and process improvement, may not always be the correct answers. Only a BA Workforce Assessment can provide you with the scientific study to help you make the right choices that will have the greatest impact on your BA performance and your organization’s bottom line.

Monday, June 25, 2012

BA Practice Maturity: Speculation Does Not Substitute for Careful Study.

by Lori Lindbergh, PhD and Kitty Hass, PMP

Last week, we stumbled across an informal BA survey conducted by an IIBA chapter. The purpose of the member survey was to examine the status of business analysts and business analysis practices in organizations in the chapter’s service area. Interestingly, one of the items asked the participant to speculate and choose from one of four options that most closely described the characteristics of the BA practices in his or her organization. The four descriptions contained broad generalizations of each maturity level similar to the four levels in our BA practice maturity model. (See the February 13th entry.)

Ah, wouldn’t life be grand if assessing anything, including BA practice maturity, would be this easy? Some may say, “What’s harm in asking a simple question?” The harm may not come from asking the question, but more from the interpretation of the findings. Any time you reduce a complex phenomenon down to one question, you introduce speculation. Speculation is a conjectural consideration of a matter; a conjecture or surmise that may be impossible to verify. Such is the case in the survey we found. The BA practice maturity reported by each participant could not be verified without a full organizational assessment.

Accurately assessing BA practice maturity by simply asking one question to measure one person’s perception/opinion of his/her organization is NOT (and usually never) representative of the overall organization, unless you are an organization of one. Assessing BA practice maturity involves choosing an appropriate sample of representative projects to include in the assessment. It is more complex than one survey question and requires a multidimensional approach including a reliable and valid questionnaire, onsite interviews, focus groups, and deliverables inspections. When we conduct our assessments, we typically find that organizations are more mature in some of the nine dimensions of BA practice maturity and less mature in others. Therefore, a general blanket description of BA practice maturity is never an accurate measure.

This violates an important characteristic of a psychometrically sound measure: Validity. A valid assessment measures what it is supposed to measure and provides strong evidence to support the interpretations made from the assessment. Therefore, using one question to evaluate BA practice maturity, and thus presenting the survey findings as reflective of an organization’s actual BA practice maturity level would be similar to using a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) to speculate on the status of a person’s overall health. A sphygmomanometer is a valid measurement instrument for blood pressure only, and is simply one of a many measurements that are necessary to evaluate fully one’s health.

We don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade; there is no harm in conducting a fun, informative survey. Remember, however, your survey respondents have demonstrated interest in your topic by taking the time to complete your survey. They are looking to you as the survey provider to arm them with accurate findings and interpretations that they can use to enhance their knowledge and improve their performance. Be sure to meet their expectations.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting Approval for a BA Assessment - Start with a Business Case

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD

We know it can be very difficult to get approval to invest time and resources into building a mature BA Practice.  Executives often think this can be done with existing resources.  There are many reasons why this approach almost always fails:
  • Existing resources may not have the knowledge and skills to build a mature BA Practice.
  • Existing resources are often over-allocated.
  • The change is often trivialized, and therefore, no change management plan exists.
  • All BA stakeholders are not involved in planning and executing the change effort.
  • A BA capability assessment is not performed, so it is unclear which foundational practices are flawed, and therefore should be improved first.
To embark upon a BA Practice Maturity Program it is necessary for you to start with a BA Assessment to truly understand the current state and the recommended improvements for the near term.  To propose the BA Assessment, build a solid business case for the effort. Elements of the business case should include the following:

1       Executive Summary

2       Business Need
2.1     Assessment Drivers and Expectations
2.2     Business Goals and Objectives 
2.3     Stakeholders        
2.4     Opportunity Analysis      
2.4.1  Business Problem  
2.4.2  Business Opportunity     
2.4.3  Desired Outcome  

3       Capability Gaps  
3.1     Current Capabilities        
3.2     New Capabilities Required  
4       Solution Approach 
4.1     Potential Options  
4.2     Feasibility Analysis of Options Considered
5       Recommended Solution Scope  
5.1     Description 
5.2     Scope
5.3     Implementation Approach 
6       Business Case      
6.1     Benefits      
6.2     Costs

As with any project investment, without a strong business case, you will most likely have difficulty obtaining the support you need to achieve success. If you would like a sample business case for a BA Assessment, please send an email to