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How to Get Executive-Level Support for Business Analysis

It probably goes without saying that PMI’s foundational standard on business analysis has an obvious audience—those who actually do business analysis as part of their everyday job. It’s pretty unlikely executives or CIOs are going to pick it up for some light reading. That’s why I wanted to use this post to help those of us doing business analysis day-to-day think about how to make sure our executive-level managers get value from what we do, and even better—that they recognize it!

A couple of weeks ago, Cheryl Lee posted at projectmanagement.com and zeroed in on the value of business analysis (and this standard!), highlighting that poor requirements management—a key component of business analysis—is one of the top reasons that projects fail. So we all know that our executives should value business analysis, but do they?

Checking in: Do Executives Really Care?

Think about your own organization—does your CIO truly care about business analysis and whether you do it well? What about your CMO, CFO, or even CEO?

PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: Requirements Management: A Core Competency for Project and Program Success showed that top management and executive/project sponsors do not fully value requirements management as a critical competency. Nine percent don’t value it at all, only 36 percent fully value it, and the majority (55 percent) only somewhat value it. My experience is that some CIOs do care, but they will also cut scope on business analysis when budgets are tight. In fact, within the last couple of years, there was pretty upsetting news in our industry when a US corporation (that we will keep nameless!) completely cut the business analysis function as part of its move to an agile approach.

However, we also know from PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report that when top management and executives fully value requirements management, their companies are significantly better at meeting business goals. The percentage of projects that meet goals goes from 44 percent to 66 percent when executives value requirements. So, while all executives may not value business analysis today, if we can get them on board with our mission and recognize the time we put into good requirements work, our organizations will be more successful. And as follows, our executives will be successful. So do our CIOs care about what we do? Directly—probably not. But indirectly—very much so!

So let’s talk about how we can generate more direct support.

Attract Executive Attention

As Sue Burk pointed out in her post, we have to spread the word and be advocates for business analysis. Part of this is evangelizing what we do up organizational hierarchies to the executive level. The goal is that one day executives will understand the business analysis role, support it, and fight for it in budgets. So how do we get their attention?

Executives love metrics. Consider reporting out on business analysis-related metrics to help them better understand its impact on the state of the organization. Here are a few suggestions of metrics you can start with:

  • Defined business objectives: These represent the measurable end goals for the business, so start by measuring whether they are even defined for projects. They can’t know if projects are successful if we don’t define end success. For example, maybe set a revenue growth target for the project.
  • Achieved business objectives: Did projects achieve the business objectives? Even if the answer is no, at least your executives know that you’ve examined the reasons why and that you will take steps to do better next time.
  • Interim success metrics: Sometimes the end business goals can’t be measured until well after a project is complete, so look for something to demonstrate your project is on track to meet its goals. Examples might be new customers registered, user adoption of a new solution, or increases in customer satisfaction.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this topic. Do your executives care about business analysis? Do they support your teams by allocating enough time to good business analysis practices? What have you done that successfully got their attention?

And check back for a related post. I’m going to discuss how business analysis can help define and achieve successful business outcomes that executives very much care about.

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