How should you manage the business analyst in your midst? "The biggest thing is trying to keep them challenged. Their thrill is new projects," says Allen Hackman, senior director of information technology at Tyco International's Fire and Security unit. "Once a project is implemented, maintaining that isn't as exciting for those people."
Beyond that, CIOs and other tech managers advise:
- Focus on people skills... "A database programmer can be very successful staying in his cube and working hard. A [business analyst] who sits in his cube will fail," says Hackman. The business analyst needs to develop strong relationships with users, so they will consult with the business analyst from the start on projects.
- ...but don't forget technology. Because analysts serve as the bridge between the business side and the technical side, Northwest Exterminating's director of IT, Matthew Metcalfe, urges his analyst, Amy Logan, to spend time talking about the technical implementation underlying the business process. That helps the analyst create more realistic expectations with business-side clients.
- Train them with their business units. At Clorox, business analysts might attend conferences about gathering and documenting project requirements, but they also attend the same training and conferences that business people in their specialties (manufacturing or human resources, for example) attend, says Linda Martino, vice president of business engagement and application delivery. Likewise, Tyco's business analysts attend both formal training events, like project management classes or PMI certification, and business-specific trade shows and industry events.
- Keep them talking to one another. Clorox sponsors "communities of practice" -- grass-roots teams that meet regularly to discuss best practices, templates and tools with people who have similar jobs -- and the business analyst community is one of the most active, Martino says. These meetings explore topics like project post-mortems, discussion of positive and negative project experiences, brainstorming sessions, or note-sharing from conferences or specialized training events.
- Consider cross-training. Clorox also has started to cross-train a number of its business analysts so they can work across departments. The company's goal is not only to keep its analysts interested, but also to be more flexible in its ability to meet business needs. "Demand isn't uniform," says Martino. If, for instance, she has three business analysts with expertise in HR, but projects in marketing or supply chains have cropped up, she wants to be able to have the expertise to handle those requirements.