The value of adding business analysis competencies to development teams

James Neethling, Business Consulting Competency Lead at Saratoga.

James Neethling, Business Consulting Competency Lead at Saratoga.

As professional consultants in the technology field, we are often called upon to increase the pace at which functionality or a solution is delivered. In almost all instances, the client organisation identifies the project issue as ‘not enough capacity’, and therefore it is assumed that adding more development capacity to a project will solve all the project challenges. 

While this approach might be successful in a handful of situations, it more often introduces new project challenges and can drastically increase the costs of delivering the project.

In this article, our Senior Saratoga Business Consulting team explores the benefits of introducing the Business Analysis skillset to a development team and how this can boost the efficiency of these teams in delivering solutions.

The business case for Business Analysis

Because a Business Analyst (BA) is not seen as directly building the solution, adding a BA to a development team is often rationalised by business as an unnecessary cost to the project. This sentiment is often echoed in technical circles where the BA competency is undersold as purely ‘soft skills’-based and not seen as valuable to the end result of the project.

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

What we’ve also found in our experiences where a skilled Business Analyst has joined a project team, is that the contributions by the BA has a multiplier effect on the overall efficiency of the team that is greater than the individual improvements implemented by the BA.

Adding Business Analysis to an international outsourced 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 Engineering and Built Environment sector.

The team was experiencing significant pressures from different stakeholders to deliver new product features within unrealistic timelines. Initial project timeline estimates were purely based on high-level discussions about the proposed new features, and the development team was then held accountable for delivering within these timelines.

To those familiar with software development, the predicament of basing estimates on very high-level, loosely scoped requirements is a familiar one. Not recognising complexity upfront often results in stakeholder expectations becoming misaligned with realistic project deliverables, which can lead to high levels of frustration within teams. This misalignment can also lead to a breakdown in trust between the business stakeholders and development team, which can have a devastating impact on the team’s performance and morale.

The addition of a BA to this project team meant that the team now had access to the requirements elicitation and management competency that would complement their technical competencies and created a well-rounded, multidisciplinary project team. With the professional BA skillset this means project requirements aren’t just being written down but are analysed, unpacked to a sufficient level of detail, modelled, traced and validated – ultimately providing much needed context and highlighting the potential implementation risks to improve the overall accuracy of project estimations.

The BA as the ‘communication champion’ in remote work

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

A skilled BA breaches the knowledge gaps between stakeholders and acts as a ‘communication catalyst’ within the project team. By cultivating a shared understanding within the project team and driving collective problem solving, the BA directly impacts the team’s efficiency and outputs.

The need for BA competencies becomes even more crucial in fully remote settings, where miscommunication can happen due to the inherent challenges of a purely tech-driven environment where we often miss out on social cues we’d normally receive from face-to-face communication. It’s become increasingly important to pay close attention to how we communicate; as remote environments require higher levels of communication awareness. This is where the soft skills attributed to Business Analysts supports the cultivation of healthy communication practices within project teams and supports overall team efficiency.

Our approach to Business Consulting

If you recognise any of the following themes or behaviours in your software development teams, you could most likely benefit from adding BA competencies to these project teams:

  • There seems to be a constant need to have to re-architect the solution based on a misunderstanding of core concepts,
  • the scope of a new feature is negotiated after development tasks have been completed,
  • multiple meetings are taking place where the meanings of 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 to industry best practices. Even though the core skillset of the Business Consultant is business analysis, our consulting teams are able to look at projects more broadly and adapt to different roles such as Team Lead, Scrum Master or Agile Coach throughout their consulting careers. This range of exposure gives our consultants a unique edge, ensuring that they are able to drive project success throughout the entire Software Development Life Cycle.

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