This meeting followed the usual format with a presentation from Steve Danby, head of business analysis at Prudential, and an update on the IIBA from Martyn.
Building a business analysis capability
The presentation was preceded in the previous meeting with the distribution of a questionnaire (30 organisations responded) to determine the state of play for business analysis capabilities within other organisations.
Steve explained how he has been responsible for building the business analysis capability within the Prudential since 2003. Prudential has a central change function which exists outside of the IT function but reports to Group Operations. Steve reports to the head of the central change function.
It was formed from 6 disparate functions, each with their own idea of the role of business analysts and project managers.
He stated his challenge was to keep the unit independent from IT so that it continues to be perceived as a business capability and separate from the business so that the staff do not ‘go native’!
He was asked about the relationship with any strategy unit and he described how their is a central strategy group with which they do have a relationship but admitted this is an area which needs improvement.
He presented some of the survey results which showed how business analysis is positioned within other organisations – key findings were that 58% were part of the IT function and 26% were part of a central change function. He made some statements to challenge some of the alternative models:
If it is part of the IT unit, how can we be considered business analysts
If it is not decentralised, how can we ensure consistency of practice?
If there is not a head of business analysis, who is deciding on business analysis priorities?
Some other models were mentioned and debated, including a centre of excellence. Steve described how he wasn’t claiming this was the best model, simply trying to generate debate around the subject.
Steve went on to describe the initial priorities which were:
- standardising roles
- ensuring strong BA line management
- ensuring a standard lifecycle
- supporting study for a specific qualification (e.g. ISEB)
The key areas that they continue to focus on are:
- support infrastructure
They defined clear goals for each area which included vision, measures, current position, target for year end, specific initiatives and a champion.
Steve mentioned one of the historic problems in his organisation with a slide of polyfilla – in other words, the business analyst will change to fit the gap whether that be business, technical or project management.
Steve was asked how he measured success. He was honest about the fact that, initially, he had a very unscientific measure which was simply whether the head of change management was happy. He went on to explain how project metrics (at present) are quite poor and tend to be based on perceptions with no explicit measures.
He explained how different individual’s expectation, experience and preferences of the role can be stretched to cover a spectrum from more business-process focused to more IT system-focused. There is also a different skill set where individuals are more innovative and solve business problems which is more of a consultancy-style interpretation of the role.
The survey results showed the following:
- 53% – documenting IT requirements or system experts
- 29% – identifying innovative solutions
- 39% – process improvements
You may notice that this adds up to more than 100% which is because some respondents provided more than one answer.
(Read my article on trends in business analysis for more on how the business analyst role is diverging)
Steve described how business analysts in the Prudential have all achieved ISEB accreditation. They have recently completed a Training Needs Analysis and have determined they need to improve their consultancy skills and start to understand Service Oriented Architecture.
Steve described how he ensured the involvement of the majority of the team and had business analysis specific meetings. This involvement motivated the business analysts as they see the benefits. Otherwise, there is a risk of business analysts being immersed in large programmes or being reluctant to seek advice to avoid appearing ignorant.
Steve described how a clear career path was created with four levels of capability and clear expectations of what is required for each level. He was particularly pleased with this model and how it has survived well with little need for change since its inception. This instils a sense of pride in the community and in being a business analyst.
Steve admitted that least progress had been made with the support infrastructure. It had been inherited from IT and was considered ‘good enough’. Peer review and QA processes have been introduced. Some progress in knowledge management has been made with an intranet but more effort is required.
All in all, it was an interesting presentation with a real world story from the trenches of how things are actually being done. Steve is an engaging presenter and the content was an interesting mix of his immediate experiences with a healthy debate of how things actually are from other’s experiences. I’m sure Steve would agree that it is very much a work in progress with potential for improvement albeit a very interesting case study.
Steve has agreed to take part in an interview so I will have a podcast of him on the site which will bring to life his experiences.
IIBA Community update
Martyn Wilson gave his usual update including a review of successes over the last year and the IIBA accounts. The summary was that IIBA has invested heavily in the monthly meetings which is started to pay dividends with increased interest and a 30% increase in membership in 2008 compared to 2007.
He mentioned the IIBA conference in September and a call for papers which closes on 1st April but mentioned they would still consider papers after that time.
Finally, he described the 5 positions that have become available on the board due to a variety of reasons.
There were five people who offered to take a board position including myself who all spent a few minutes describing themselves and their reason for standing.
All candidates came across well (modesty forbids me from mentioning myself !) and it appears I have a rival going for the Marketing & Sponsorship position. You will hear more about my candidacy on future posts and my twitter profile (the latest updates are to the right of this article).