Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration – by Pascale Weir, business analysis consultant

A good Business Analyst is always focussed on stakeholder management, helping  elicit, specify, analyse and manage their needs to help them improve their business. This is very simple when the Business Analyst is engaged purely for this purpose, and the stakeholders are clear. However, BAs often work as part of a team to assist with implementation of solutions, and in our ever-changing world, where there are more resources working on a project, the BA may overlook the stakeholders who are right under their noses.

Why? Well, the reason is very simple – as part of a team, the Business Analyst often believes and works with the view that the project team is a unit, and that everyone on the project team has the same views and objectives – often forgetting, that each team member on the project is an individual person, with their own views, ideals, and objectives.

Lack of collaboration within a project team can lead to delays on the project due to lack of communication, undefined or lack of expectation management and a lack of or incorrect requirements being elicited. Every member of the project team is an integral, vitally important stakeholder on the project, who needs to be supported, just as much, if not more than all the other “business” stakeholders. The question then arises “How do we manage the expectations and needs of these integral stakeholders?” There are a few ways in which this can be done effectively, and if done correctly, it can contribute to the successful completion of a project.

Using requirement elicitation techniques such as interviews, meetings and workshops (formal or otherwise), you could identify the needs of the other project team members, and develop a clear understanding of what the benefit of your analysis would be for them on the project. Don’t underestimate the process of discover, refining, and validating these requirements as well. These needs are likely to change as the project progresses, so continuous improvement is a core concept for effective team collaboration and productivity. This underpins self-organisation within a team. You can also embrace some of the collaboration techniques. For instance, collaborative games are great at breaking down silos or establishing team work foundations. They also drive focus towards working efficiently. Additionally, embracing visual displays allows team members to be constantly reminded about key concepts, and enables open group conversation. For managing work in progress and dependencies, incorporating Kanban boards and story maps provides a more tangible way for the team to understand what is currently underway and any gaps in business value. These strategies are the same, no matter what kind of project you are working on, waterfall, iterative or agile project. In fact, the more “fluid” the project, the more important the collaboration and communication within the project team.

The key to collaborating effectively in a project team, is clear, factual communication, along with flexibility and adaptability to change. Additionally respecting others area of expertise will allow team members to communicate and develop an understanding of what the needs are for each of these team members.

Of course this doesn’t guarantee that there will not be any conflicts or disagreements within the project team, but through using effective communication and flexibility, conflict can be resolved timeously. This allows all the team members to focus on the work to be done to complete the project successfully; business outcomes, on time, within budget and to the satisfaction of the customer.