Where Should Business Analysts Fall on Your Organizational Chart?
As more companies realize the benefit of hiring business analysts, they’re often left wondering where they fall on the team’s organizational chart. Who do the business analysts report to? What team should they be on? Do they need their own team?
The answer isn’t always easy. Business analysts often go where the company needs them, changing desks and departments as management develops an understanding of what they do.
Here’s where business analysts might fall on your organizational chart, and why they move around so much.
Which Department Do BAs Work In?
The first step a company takes when hiring a BA is determining where they work. While larger companies might have a BA for each department, smaller organizations might not know where to place this unique position.
The team at IT training company New Horizons explains that the role of business analyst is constantly changing. As technology evolves and the needs of the organizations they work for change, the day-to-day tasks of analysts change to meet company needs. An analyst might work for one team for several months, and then start a project with a coworker across the office. They always seem to be working with different people and doing different things.
“The role of the business analyst is NOT confined to just business solutions or just IT solutions,” Modern Analyst writes. “There are many business analysts who help the business improve the operational procedures, or business processes, or financial structure.”
It’s this flexibility that confuses managers. If not in the business or IT departments, then where? Some experts have found that it’s ideal when BAs stay outside of a set department, because it allows them to approach new projects with fresh eyes.
Business analysts who work outside of the operations and IT departments can view both teams objectively, consultant Lora McCoy, CBAP, explains on a Mastering Business Analysis podcast. They aren’t swayed by one team and can approach each problem with a clean slate.
This is essential when an analyst is making decisions that could change the structure of the company or lead to dramatic changes for some team members.
Who Do Business Analysts Report To?
If business analysts don’t have a set department, then who do they report to? It’s not uncommon for BAs to change managers multiple times over the course of their careers at a company depending on what the organization needs from them.
Some companies place BAs on project teams, so they constantly help with projects regardless of the department they are on. This gets increasingly complex when you have multiple business analysts.
In a video for Bridging the Gap, founder Laura Brandenburg, CBAP, proposes two options for structuring your team: Dividing your BAs by project (where each BA sees their own projects through completion); or dividing BAs by project stages (where each BA specializes in one part of each project).
There are pros and cons to each. In the first case, a BA can maintain the quality of work across every stage. However, your BAs can also specialize in one part of the production process if they stick with it regardless of the project. In some cases, this may come down to personal preference or it could depend on how your company is structured.
Of course, business analysts don’t just help with projects. They also work within a company to improve processes and take on internal projects for corporate improvement, the team at online IT training resource ZaranTech explains. The role of business analysts is to review various business processes and take on projects to improve these processes for maximum efficiency.
This means that it is unlikely that your BA will be part of a set team, or even a set department, as they work across the company to reduce friction and optimize performance.
In fact, the role of the business analyst often intertwines that of management consultants, business strategist Richard Lannon writes. Both are seen as experts in their fields, and are tasked with coming up with unique solutions to problems. Management consultants and BAs alike wear many hats and go where they are called. They don’t live in one department or position in the company.
BAs Increasingly Report to VPs or Directors
The team at Hierarchy Structure, which specializes in understanding the nature of hierarchies, says that organizations as a whole have become flatter over the past several years.
Rather than placing a business analyst as someone who “reports to X and manages Y,” most companies give business analysts a direct report (typically at a director or VP level) and let them work with people at all levels of the organization.
How Agile Project Management Changed the Game for BAs
Just as companies started to grow more comfortable with business analysts, agile development came along and changed everything, including the role of BAs.
We were at a recent conference where the discussion centered on how agile has limited the role of BAs. Many in the conversation were quick to explain that while some companies might not need an employee with a formal title of business analyst, they do need people with that skill set.
“Some may be discouraged when they hear the business analyst role is going away, but they need to recognize that it’s just the title, not the discipline that may be replaced,” an attendee stated. “Be proud of your profession and discipline. Support your industry. Your skills are invaluable to the team and organization.”
There are ways that agile development can improve the role of business analysts and help them do their jobs more effectively. Tony Higgins, CTO at Blueprint Software Systems, sees three ways business analysts fit into the agile management process:
Enhance communication. BAs serve as a bridge between developers and stakeholders.
Create a product roadmap. BAs set priorities and design plans to launch a product or complete a project.
Keep the team on course. BAs keep the team focused on their goals and help them understand how each step helps move the project forward.
In some cases, companies may bring in BAs to reduce bottlenecks and work to move products forward.
Agile Teams Are Bringing Back BAs
If a few companies removed the business analyst role when they embraced agile development, more are bringing them back to the table to improve project workflow.
Agile coach Rich Stewart was brought in to advise product owners at a company who split their time between meeting with clients and rushing to create user stories ahead of the next sprint. This overwhelmed them and meant they weren’t able to actually help the development team.
Stewart recommended adding some BAs to reduce bottlenecks between the product owners and development team so they could focus on client communication without holding up the project. The company has since taken steps to implement the plan, with great success so far.
To compliment Stewart’s case study, ReQtest cofounder Ulf Eriksson lists several ways that business analysts support product owners. These steps require their own skill sets and create an essential role on corporate teams.
They focus on requirements elaboration and acceptable criteria in user stories.
They advise the product owner on requirements, testing, scope, and other elements.
They provide everyday requirements during sprints and help as solutions support to the Scrum team.
They serve as a system analyst and work with teams to keep everything flowing smoothly.
So is there a role for a business analyst in agile development? If you want your projects to run smoothly while preventing burnout, there may be room for multiple business analysts.
The Basic Principles of Business Analysis Have Not Changed
The reasons BAs are still in demand is because companies need the same work done.
“Because the Agile team always has more potential items it could do than the team can do right now, the Product Owner is tasked with managing that backlog of items,” Peter Vogel, instructor and editor at Learning Tree International, writes. “While all items may not have an absolute valuable, the team must still know which items are more valuable than other items on the list...assessing the value of some item to the business is a business analyst task.”
The basic principles of agile include choosing the necessary items that will have the biggest impact first, and then working down through the priorities list. BAs can evaluate and set these priorities.
The Future of Business Analysts in Your Organization
As a whole, demand for business analysts continues to grow as companies see the value of adding these team members to their organizational charts.
Business analyst Angie M. Eissa, founder and CEO of Business Borderlines, shared a few eye-opening statistics showcasing the value of BAs. For example, the addition of a business analyst to a team decreases project failures by 20 percent.
Furthermore, the number of business analyst roles is expected to increase 20-25 percent over the next few years. As technology allows companies to scale, business analysts make sure they do it well.
BA Roles Continue to Change
Even as people embrace agile, business analysts will continue to adapt and provide value to organizations. Senior IT consultant Kirsten Eriksen explains that the business analyst role has been evolving over time, and most people are starting to enter what she calls the “BA 3.0” process.
Historically, BAs spent months reporting on what needed to be done and what improvements needed to be made, Eriksen writes. Then they evolved to provide fast feedback and implement on-the-go changes. Business analysis 3.0 requires BAs to focus on the customer, rather than the business, and to work with the business to develop products. This fits nicely with brand transitions toward the more customer-focused agile development plan.
However the role of business analyst evolves over the next few years, the skills these team members have will keep them in demand.