Finding the right BAs can be deeply challenging, particularly finding the mix of skills that indicate whether they’ll be the right fit for a project team. Faced with a scale and speed of change not experienced in pre-pandemic times, being able to find the cultural fit is increasingly a dealbreaker.

There’s little doubt that 2020 and the start of 2021 have left many of our organisations grappling with significant change in how people work, how they connect and engage, and the impact on performance and delivery. If there is a defining characteristic in the conversation of how to successfully navigate the tumult and speed of leading virtual and hybrid teams forced on us by COVID (or bringing teams back together post-COVID), it is the focus on culture.

Leadership has had to perform some considerable gymnastics in reimagining how their organisation’s culture can be sustained or expanded as they face the realities of a post-COVID work environment and the extended uncertainty of when it will end. Some businesses are driving firmly toward scattering their workforces and building cultures that will sustain distributed teams, for example, tech giant Atlassian, which announced this week that work from home would be the norm as it unveiled its Team Anywhere strategy. Meanwhile, other organisations have recognised that COVID has put their cultural fabric to the test and that they must continue to examine ways to strengthen and evolve their approach to maintaining a culture that fits everyone’s needs.

Against the project landscape, one of the critical areas where we are seeing this play out is how organisations are bringing analysts into their project teams to determine exactly what is required to enable the changes that will help support cultures to adapt and be sustainable.

And increasingly, cultural fit is becoming a dealbreaker.

The exceptional BAs are a rare find

One of the most valuable assets a project delivery team can have is an exceptional BA and yet it can be difficult to find the right layers of skill that can identify, gather, and communicate the changes required to move a business from as-is to the outcomes the business needs to deliver.

The challenge that project managers and business teams have is sorting the wheat from the chaff. It’s not uncommon to find that on paper, BAs can look great and fit the bill of the skills that are required to understand a project’s technical, process, or other specific challenges the business faces so that it can address them. The BA may have the right background, seemingly relevant experience, industry knowledge, or deep skill in technologies that the business is investing in.

Where the rubber meets the road is in the softer skills that experienced project professionals know can make or break a project’s ability to deliver.  A debate will often occur when it comes to weighing up technical and SME experience in deciding what a project team needs from its BAs, particularly when faced with dozens of CVs that meet the job description. It’s not unusual for the rejection pile to be staggeringly high.

That’s not to say that finding a compromise in the balance isn’t possible, but determining what’s most important on the experience side, that’s the easier decision. Do we need core BA skills more than we need the technical experience which is so often called a ‘nice to have’ or does that technical expertise really matter?

Where the real skill lies is in being able to recognise that that technical, industry, or SME experience sometimes simply isn’t enough for the environment that a BA will have to operate in.

Culture fit is valuable, but it’s the soft skills of driving change that are the ‘secret sauce’ of an exceptional BA

If we look at some of the significant challenges in the Australian business community of recent times, the fallout and recommendations from several Royal Commissions and followed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been major drivers of big scale, rapid change. Whether it’s process change, tighter regulatory environments, significant workplace shifts, or responding to the technical challenges of rapidly moving to a dispersed workforce, BAs are in significant demand.

COVID has, for example, accelerated the delivery of large and often complex projects that would cause major disruption and change impacts in more ‘normal’ times. Adding the multiple layers of change wrought by the pandemic has raised the stakes and put a substantial focus on finding the right BAs to facilitate sustainable change management.

But who is the right BA and how do you find them?

Over the years, we’ve found that BAs who can operate within ambiguity while at the same time shepherd stakeholders through the layers of change impacts are both rare and incredibly valuable.

The attributes of these BAs make them rarer than hens’ teeth: they can absorb, distil, and communicate complex information to stakeholders in ways that enable them to make decisions that lead to the right outcomes. It is a mix of solid BA knowledge, high EQ, empathy for the people who will be impacted, and the ability to cut through the resistance and noise that comes with change.

They are able to hit the ground running and can anticipate how challenging a project environment or unfamiliar culture can be when they don’t know how stakeholders are likely to operate. Whether it’s a permanent team member or a contractor, an exceptional BA can demonstrate their ability to swim and navigate the tide within an unfamiliar culture quickly and confidently.

Those that are able to get their feet on the ground and engage with stakeholders fast typically have a mix of experience and interpersonal relationship building in challenging environments. They also tend to have staying power in projects beyond the often typical 3-6 month roles that are often seen with BA engagements.

That staying power is usually due to their ability to identify the right people within an organisation and then start and build working relationships that extract exactly how the business operates and what needs to change. There is a problem-solving capability that comes from having enough experience to identify what the problems are as well as the knowledge and deftness required to show the business how best to solve them.

Knowing what you see when you see it

While ‘cultural fit’ might be the go-to catchphrase for finding exceptional BAs, what we’re really hunting for is the soft skills that are showcased in the nature, breadth, and insights within the projects a BA has been engaged in. To see it is to know it, that’s true; but when starting the hunt for the right BAs to fit the culture, these are the attributes that need to be drawn first when outlining what the business needs.

As project specialists, we provide fit-for-purpose project delivery and project assurance.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...