Start your team off on the right foot, whether your project uses an Agile or Plan-driven project method, by ensuring that your team kick-off activities set accurate expectations and reinforce how you will work together. As the role of the business analyst begins to include more project management work, there are opportunities for business analysts to gain visibility and increase their business value within their organization.
Specifically, business analysts can take a larger role in designing and facilitating Team Kick-offs and Working Sessions, fostering productive collaboration between the business and the project team, and developing effective reliable relationships with subject matter experts. Often this work is called the “soft stuff” or the “soft side” of project work. The challenge most project professionals encounter is how to turn it into implementable work outcomes. This article focuses on the business analyst’s role in designing and facilitating Team Kick-offs and will provide specific techniques for Team Kick-offs employing adaptive or plan-driven project methodologies.
Project methodologies have been evolving from Plan-driven (e.g., Waterfall) to more incremental adaptive approaches (e.g., Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, and Agile). Some companies are firmly rooted in the ever popular Plan-driven methods where the entire project is defined in detail from start to finish while other organizations are evolving towards clarity and detailed definition in the short-term and are accepting of more ambiguity in future stages of the project. Of course, there are also firms who are using a hybrid approach to extract the best practices out of each method. Business analysts must understand the differences and incorporate them into their work at the activity level, not only at the theoretical level.
The Role of the Business Analyst in Designing and Facilitating Team Kick-offs
Prior to the recent acknowledgement and formalization of the business analyst role, the project manager owned the majority of the Team Kick-off activities and the business analyst was relegated to only administration and documentation. See diagram below.
Business analysts worked more behind the scenes in support of the project manager and waited for their opportunity to influence the project during subject matter expert (SME) interviews and business requirements working sessions. Now, as business analysts increase their role to include more project management activities, they can build on their current facilitation skills used primarily for requirements sessions to help the project manager develop the project team. All of this work begins with taking a more active role in the Team Kick-off. The diagram below highlights additional activities that will leverage the Project Manager, ensure their leadership positioning, and increase the business value and initial visibility of the Business Analyst.
In order to take on some of the above activities in the Team Kick-off, business analysts need to schedule meetings with their project manager to offer additional support in developing the Team Kick-off. Once new responsibilities are agreed upon, the business analyst should ask the project manager the following questions in order to begin the work:
· What outcome is this project expected to deliver?
· Which executive is sponsoring this work?
· How is this work perceived in our organization?
· When are you planning to conduct the Team Kick-off?
· What are the primary skill sets and knowledge that we need on this project team?
· Which organizations will you approach for resources?
· Which project method will you use to complete this work (i.e., plan-driven or adaptive)?
· What expectations will you set with the new project team?
· How do you envision the project team operating or working together?
· What expectations will you set with the stakeholders?
Business Analyst Team Kick-off Practices
How are Team Kick-off practices different for plan-driven and adaptive projects? It is important to recognize that shifting the project method does affect how work is completed at all levels in the project. See the diagram below.
All teams benefit from setting expectations up front, building trust, and understanding their shared purpose. The dimension that most increases a team’s probability for success is a clear understanding of their shared purpose. Business analysts can help drive shared purpose by designing the key messages, activities, and work approaches into the Team Kick-off. After all, project managers are known for following the plan and managing the schedule while business analysts ensure that the right work is completed within the work activities and deliverables.