The value of adding business analysis skills to development teams

James Neethling, Head of Business Consulting Skills at Saratoga.

As professional technology consultants, we are often called upon to accelerate the pace of delivery of a feature or solution. In almost all cases, the client organization identifies the problem with the project as “insufficient capacity”, and therefore it is assumed that adding more development capacity to a project will resolve all project challenges.

While this approach may be successful in a few situations, it more often introduces new project challenges and can significantly increase project delivery costs.

In this article, our Senior Saratoga Business Consulting team explores the benefits of introducing the Business Analysis skill set to a development team and how it can increase the effectiveness of those teams in delivering solutions.

Business Analysis Business Case

Because a business analyst (BA) is not considered directly building the solution, adding a BA to a development team is often rationalized by the business as an unnecessary cost to the project. This sentiment is often echoed in technical circles where the BA skill is undersold as being purely based on “soft skills” and not seen as valuable to the end result of the project.

To address this misconception, we believe it’s more effective to share project experiences where adding a BA capability directly resulted in a noticeable improvement in team performance and deliverables. These improvements were driven by higher levels of requirements clarification, more effective communication practices, and the overall improvement in quality through maintaining specification documentation.

What we have also found in our experiments where a skilled business analyst has joined a project team is that BA contributions have a multiplier effect on overall team effectiveness that is greater than individual improvements made. implemented by the BA.

Add business analysis to an outsourced international development team

On a recent project with an international client, the outsourced development team, consisting of a small team of experienced developers and a part-time project manager, worked on an award-winning international SaaS solution in the IT industry. engineering and the built environment.

The team was under significant pressure from various stakeholders to deliver new product features within unrealistic timelines. Initial project timeline estimates were purely based on high-level discussions of proposed new features, and the development team was then held accountable for delivering within those timelines.

For those familiar with software development, the difficulty of basing estimates on very high-level, low-scope requirements is familiar. Failing to recognize complexity upfront often results in a mismatch between stakeholder expectations and realistic project deliverables, which can lead to high levels of frustration within teams. This misalignment can also lead to a breakdown of trust between business stakeholders and the development team, which can have a devastating impact on team performance and morale.

Adding a BA to this project team meant that the team now had access to requirements elicitation and management skills that would complement their technical skills and created a well-rounded multidisciplinary project team. With BA’s professional skills, this means that project requirements are not simply written down, but are analyzed, unpacked to a sufficient level of detail, modeled, traced and validated – ultimately providing much-needed context and highlighting potential risks. implementation to improve the overall accuracy of project estimates.

The BA as a ‘communication champion’ in remote working

As experienced by our international client in the outsourced project, Business Analysts are often the central contact between the ‘business’ and ‘technical’ teams and therefore play an essential role in these complex environments by establishing a partnership between these two areas. distinct.

A qualified BA bridges knowledge gaps between stakeholders and acts as a “communication catalyst” within the project team. By cultivating a shared understanding within the project team and fostering collective problem solving, the BA has a direct impact on team effectiveness and results.

The need for BA skills becomes even more crucial in entirely remote settings, where miscommunication can occur due to the challenges inherent in a purely technological environment where we often miss the social cues we normally receive from face-to-face communication. . . It has become increasingly important to pay particular attention to How? ‘Or’ What we communicate; as remote environments require higher levels of communication awareness. This is where the soft skills assigned to business analysts support the culture of sound communication practices within project teams and support overall team effectiveness.

Our approach to business consulting

If you recognize any of the following themes or behaviors in your software development teams, you could most likely benefit from adding BA skills to those project teams:

  • There seems to be a constant need to have to re-architect the solution based on a poor understanding of the basic concepts,
  • the scope of a new feature is negotiated once the development tasks have been completed,
  • several meetings are held where the meanings of the terms are discussed, rather than the implications of the terms.

At Saratoga, our Business Consulting competency model is based on international standards, ensuring that our business analysts are equipped with the right skills and are aligned with industry best practices. Even if the core business of the Business Consultant is business analysis, our consulting teams are able to have a broader vision of projects and adapt to different roles such as Team Lead, Scrum Master or Agile Coach throughout. throughout their consulting career. This range of exposure gives our consultants a unique advantage, ensuring they are able to drive project success throughout the software development lifecycle.

Michael J. Chiaramonte