Ever try to bring technology people and business managers together to discuss better ways to manage information and automate processes? While they generally agree on the macro objectives, they often have very different ideas as to what to do and how to do it – sometimes to the point where I want to put on a striped shirt and a whistle to resolve issues and continue the conversation.
A business analyst, among other roles, lives and breathes this issue every day, as his or her job is to ensure the organization’s technologies directly support the business’ requirements. It’s a role that requires a thorough understanding of the needs, politics, and experiences on both sides of the fence, and a deft ability to reconcile and synthesize multiple perspectives.
“Out of Bounds!”
“Delay of game!”
After a morning, a day, a week of trying to facilitate meaningful collaboration, you may want to start calling people on every teambuilding infraction you encounter. But honest though this feeling may be, I’ve learned that the better strategy is to keep the ball moving forward so you can minimize the time and energy lost to time-outs and conversational replays. Here are the five high-level strategies that have worked best for me over the years:
- Do your homework. Learn all you can about how work flows within and among departments, and what constitutes an acceptable level of performance. At the same time, immerse yourself in the technologies that you already have in place and the capabilities they provide to understand where they match and/or miss the business requirements.
- Remember that technical folks often are focused on the “how to” of getting things to work, while business staff may be concerned more about the “how much.” Your job is to “solve for X,” which is that unstated variable that can convert one perspective to the other.
- Seek and highlight areas of agreement. Miss no opportunity to identify and match information and opinions offered by both sides – and realize that many times it’s simply a matter of vocabulary. (E.g., a business manager may use the word “workflow” to mean “what we need to do” while an ITer might interpret it as an uneducated demand for a particular kind of technology.)
- Reframe statements in a positive light. Depending upon the personalities and frustration levels present, many contributions made may be tinged (or overtly colored) with negativity, and that’s always a decelerant to progress. Rather than put someone on the spot about it, though, try restating them by saying “here’s what I think you said; is this correct?” Putting the clarification on yourself is a good way to calm what otherwise could lead to a good deal of turbulence.
- Perhaps most importantly, always remember that the issue isn’t that business and IT people don’t get along; rather, it’s that where one side sees the glass as half empty, the other is drinking from a bottle. In other words, never forget that while their perspectives are often different, their goals are largely the same. The hard part is helping them come to see this for themselves.
These are my top 5 items for business analysts to embrace – what would you add?