Business Analysis Resource Manager | Are you running a "body shop" of Business Analysts?

As the Business Analysis Resource Manager…

Is your Business Analysis team being treated like they work in a “body shop”?

If we can perhaps take the word “body shop” in the title of this article and replace it with words such as: “swap around constantly”, “reallocate the Business Analyst where we need them more” or “throw another Business Analyst at the project” then you may better understand the intention behind this question. Does it work when Business Analysts are constantly moved between projects, split across many initiatives and often not consulted along the way? The simple answer would be “no, off course it doesn’t work”, but why do some organisations still do it?

In this blog article we outline a few reasons for why this unfavourable but sometimes unavoidable resourcing strategy is rampant in some large reputable organisations today. We identify the problems that cause this “body shop” resourcing strategy and finally we will attempt to outline some solutions for helping to manage what is often a very complex problem for the Business Analysis manager or resource planner to deal with.

However, before we analyse the causes of this Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy further, we need to just high light a few key perspectives to make sure we set the scene for where we are coming from in this article.

  • We are talking about the project based Business Analyst.

We are specifically referring to Business Analysts who are involved with or assigned to a particular piece of work or more specifically a project. They invest all their focus and attention in a project and delivers against its timeframes and output expectations. In some organisations, there are people working as Business Analysts in operational roles. Note, we are not talking about these types of Business Analysts here. We are purely talking about Business Analysts who work within project environments.

  • Change is normal in the life of the project Business Analyst.

The fact is that change is normal in the life of the project Business Analyst. Excessive change however is not. For the purposes of this article we are referring to a situation where excessive change is introduced in terms of what a Business Analyst is allocated to do within a company. With excessive change we specifically mean moving Business Analysts between projects or initiatives on a two to four weekly basis and expecting the Business Analyst to perform optimally and be productive almost from the word ‘go’.

How does a Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy get created?

In most cases the Business Analysis “body shop” strategy is a result (and not a choice) of external factors that directly impacts the way that a Business Analysis manager or resource planner makes Business Analysis allocation decisions. There are a few primary reasons why the Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy occurs within organisations.

REASON #1: Continuous reprioritisation of projects

You would have heard the phrase “my project is under resourced” many times in your career as a Business Analyst. This is something that is very common for project managers to complain about and is mostly due to factors such as poor forward planning by the business or the project manager, low budgets or scope creep which is more commonly known as change on a project. In larger more complex project environments it is almost impossible to get resource planning right without recruiting a buffer of Business Analysts who effectively sits on the bench waiting to be allocated. This is not a solution in most organisations because no project or business unit is willing to the bare the cost associated with having people sitting around while waiting to be allocated to projects.

So what is the Resource Manager suppose to do when a Project Manager demands a Business Analyst to help them meet their deadlines and a Resource Manager doesn’t have any Business Analysts available to provide? The Resource Manager has no choice but to react (often due to business pressure) by simply taking a Business Analyst from a project of lesser importance to the business and re-allocate them to where the pressing immediate needs are or where the new priorities are set. At the end of the day, the Business Analysis Resource Manager must serve the rest of the organisation by providing Business Analyst resources when and where they are needed.

REASON #2: Lack of future planning

Although this reason links back to the reprioritisation of projects, it is worth high lighting specific aspects here. Large organisations with hundreds of projects in progress at any given time find it very difficult to plan for resources. This is because there are so many different variables when it comes to running programs of work. These variables include changes to scope, schedule, budgets and overall change to business priorities.
Considering each of these factors in turn you would soon see how complex a project environment can become and how the demand for specific types of resources will fluctuate and change on a continuous basis. Even with the best of endeavours to forecast and plan for what the demand will look like especially in relation to Business Analysis resources, when you deal with such a large organisation with so many moving parts and dependencies, you will soon realise this is a daunting and practically an impossible task.

REASON #3: Recruiting a new Business Analyst typically has a long turnaround time.

Ideally a Business Analysis Resource Manager could simply recruit new Business Analysts when they are required. This is unfortunately not that simple in the real world. The typical recruitment cycle from start to finish within a large Business Analysis department can take anything from 4 to 10 weeks. This means that if there is a sudden demand (due to unexpected change but high project priority) for a new Business Analyst to start on a project, then it is practically impossible to fill this need within the expected timeframe (usually within a week!) using the external recruitment process. So once again, the Resource Manager is not really left with any choice but to reprioritise where their Business Analysts are allocated. This puts them back in the unfortunate position where they must follow the Business Analysis “body shop” strategy to meet the demands of the organisation.

So what are the consequences when you apply the Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy in your organisation?

#1 – Consideration for the Business Analyst’s body and mind.

As a result of the Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy, some work environments will first re-allocate the Business Analyst to something new and then just inform the Business Analyst of the change. Because most people like to be consulted about things as significant as what they will spend most of their time on, it doesn’t take long to make Business Analysts feel like “bodies” in a body shop (even where this is not the intention!). With the Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy, this consultative engagement doesn’t happen. It is important to understand that an unhappy Business Analyst is also a disengaged and unproductive one.

#2 – Splitting the Business Analyst like a pea can be a problem.

Again, it is not that unusual for an experienced Business Analyst to be asked to spend time on more than one initiative at a time but this only works when the delivery expectations are in alignment with the number of hours per week allocated to that Business Analyst for that particular initiative. A key result of a Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy is to cause too much splitting of a Business Analyst’s time whilst also expecting quality outcomes.

#3 – Low quality outcomes.

It is inevitable that when a Business Analyst is moved too many times between too many different subject matter areas in too short a space of time, this individual will start to deliver lower quality outcomes. This is because the Business Analyst doesn’t feel as if they will be in a particular environment long enough to make a proper contribution and pre-empts the fact that they will most likely be moved onto the next project again soon. This often translates into low quality outputs. Another reason which has nothing to do with the Business Analyst’s feelings but can definitely also result in low quality outcomes is that the Business Analyst doesn’t have enough time to “get up to speed” in the subject matter and project expectations to make a valuable contribution in the time they are there.

What is the solution?

The solution to this complex problem has been a challenge that many experienced and highly intelligent Business Analysts have struggled with because although some answers exist, they are not always that easy to implement. The ultimate solution lies with having an organisational and cultural shift in how Business Analysts (and other roles in the same situation) are treated by the senior leaders within an organisation. Ultimately, the organisational leadership must make strategic decisions around the way they agree to manage people in their organisation and the way they choose to prioritise business objectives. The organisation as a whole must accept that to compete and achieve great results for the business, they must invest in the correct procedures and resources when it comes to achieving those outcomes.

Many large organisations have challenges around getting an organisation wide acknowledgement of these types of challenges and have to come up with their own initiatives to lessen the disruption of the Business Analysis team members and still achieve great results for the organisation.
Some practical ideas for how some of the effects of being stuck in a Business Analysis “body shop” resourcing strategy environment can be minimised are outlined below:

Solution Idea #1 – Recruit a Business Analysis Resource Manager

Recruit a Business Analysis Resource manager (or more than one if required) who is a great people person. This is the simplest but also the most important remedy that can be applied in this type of situation. This Resource Manager is responsible for engaging with every Business Analyst up front about any changes that are planned for them. This Resource Manager must seek to engage and get active “buy in” from the Business Analyst prior to assigning or committing this individual to a new project or initiative.

Solution Idea #2 – Implement and advertise the agreed resourcing process

Implement a Resource Demand Process and advertise this from the most senior leadership level that is practically feasible. Make sure that all project stakeholders are aware of what the process is for asking for a new Business Analysis resource for their project and make sure that the Resource Manager only follows this process. No special favours should be given when it comes to Business Analysis resource allocation. Although in the real world there may be exceptions to any type of process, when people understand what the process is, most will endeavour to follow this if they are guided that way. If there is no process, then everyone will follow his or her own initiative around obtaining a new Business Analysis resource.

Solution Idea #3 – Sell the benefits of change to Business Analysts!

Consider actively selling the benefits of continuous and short-term change to Business Analysts. You can do this by combining the benefits with a reward system for Business Analysts who volunteer to take on a lot of change. This could for example be rewards linked to their annual performance reviews, it can be to perhaps give these Business Analysts extra time off, paying Business Analysts who work in this type of environment a bonus or provide them with formal Business Analysis training. There are numerous ways to incentivise people.

Solution Idea #4 – Rotate Business Analysts between short term and long-term assignments

Develop a rotational system to encourage Business Analysts to sign up for. This entails a system where a Business Analyst can agree to be in a group of Business Analysts who are re-assigned on short notice without prior consultation for rotational period of 3/6/12 months. Once they have done their period of working as a “body shop” Business Analyst they are able to choose from the available assignments for a longer-term assignment or perhaps choose a particular subject matter area they might have an interest in working in to gain more specific experience. This type of system will help the Business Analysis Resource Manager to respond to short term demands of their customers (internal or external) whilst also meeting the career needs of the Business Analysts within their Business Analysis team.

In conclusion

As you can appreciate this is an universal challenge in the larger Business Analysis teams where continuous business change, result in a continuous level of Business Analysis resource allocation change too. It is up to the Business Analysis leadership teams to come up with creative and responsive solutions to both facilitate the needs of the business and the needs of the Business Analyst. Using a combination of the proposed solutions in this article to the complex problem described of Business Analysis Resourcing, you would be able to achieve great improvements for your Business Analysis team.

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