Templates and Processes

I’ve had the opportunity recently to contribute to my company’s processes and templates for our BAs. For any of you who know me personally, or those of you have been reading my blog for a while, you might realize that I LOVE this stuff! I am so passionate about creating repeatable processes and creating/leveraging templates. I’ve done this with just about every company I’ve had the opportunity to work for, and my passion for it only grows.

But the question often arises as to whether templates and processes are too restrictive, or even unattainable, because “every project/client is different”. I’m here to say that I think exactly the opposite is true. And here are five reasons why.

1. Eases Training

One of the challenges of ramping up a new BA is helping them to easily acclimate to the way you do things. Without documented processes and templates, someone (or multiple people) must take time to remember everything to tell the new employee. This might be ok if you hire one new person every now and again, but it is ineffective and definitely not scalable as your organization grows.

2. Provides Consistency

Whether you’re a BA within an IT department (or internal to a business organization), or a BA for a vendor (software, consulting, etc.), your clients should be able to rely on a consistent way of working with you. You’re going to be spending time educating your client on the process and your documentation. Don’t make them re-learn with each and every project. On my current project, I have a team of BAs working with me. My guiding principle around the way we work is:

The client knows there are multiple BAs working on the project, but it shouldn’t LOOK like multiple BAs are delivering documentation.

3. Provides a Map of What’s Next

Done right, they provide a framework that takes the guess work out of what steps the Business Analyst should follow. Whatever your processes are in your organization, having standardized templates and documented processes takes the guess work out of what’s next. This not only helps during the training/ramp up phase (see #1 above), but helps to more easily manage projects and assess how well (or not) a particular BA is doing.

4. Allows BAs to focus on analysis

If the BAs on every project are spending duplicative time figuring out how to document their findings, or recreating kick off slides and document templates, they are not able to focus on the business of analysis. Give a framework for the BA to work within so that they can focus on the value-added activities of analysis, and not on the administrative activities of trying to find a way to do it.

5. On-Going Support/Maintenance is Easier

Unless you are a BA that lives forever with a project or software application (and really, it’s not good for an organization if you are), at some point someone else is going to need to step in to support the process or software. They will need to be able to quickly ramp up on what was done, and be able to keep documentation updated. With a consistent format for documenting information, the new BA will be able to easily find what they’re looking for and to keep documentation updated.

Yes, there needs to be flexibility in the templates that are created to account for client/project-specific variances, but these should be the exception and not the rule. Otherwise you’ll end up bogged down in activities that don’t actually contribute material value to the project, when your time and attention could be better spent on the task at hand.

So what do you think? Has having templates and processes helped you? What has it been like in the absence of processes and templates?

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4 Responses to Templates and Processes
  1. Yaaqub Mohamed (Yamo)
    February 27, 2012 | 11:43 pm

    Great post, Karie. I will have to agree with most of your points here. There is a lot of ‘hate’ content out there about templates and having a BA process in place.

    I think the most important point that you are making is about focusing on analysis. Our prime job is really to do analysis and bring pieces / information together. Having templates and processes gives us a roadmap for analysis, and often a good one. This is what helps us (and consultation with the team) not to tread on the path of analysis by paralysis.

    Where there are no templates, I believe a BA should be adept enough to create what fits the problem / process context. I firmly believe that a solid process comes before any templates. So, yeah I would first start with the process and manifest it with templates if there is a need to.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!
    Yaaqub Mohamed (Yamo) recently posted..What Every BA Should Learn From The Oscars

    • Real World BA
      February 28, 2012 | 6:46 am

      Yamo, I totally agree with you that process trumps templates! And also that a BA needs be adept to create what they need. I believe this is a key factor in being a Real World BA®. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  2. Susie T
    March 13, 2012 | 9:53 am

    Karie,

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve heard over and over…’no client is the same’. It doesn’t matter. Templates should be flexible. Process should be flexible.

    What I like about your article is it finally puts focus on the BA role itself. It is nice to see people understand that the role will struggle without tools in place to assist.

    Even though the old mantra exists ‘the customer is always right’, it doesn’t mean that it is ‘all about’ the customer. I hope that makes sense. What I mean is, common tools help strengthen the partnership between BA and customer. And, really, it should be a partnership anyway.

    As always, love reading your articles!

    • Real World BA
      March 30, 2012 | 9:41 am

      Thanks, Susie – couldn’t agree more that the partnership between the BA and the customer is the key, and having tools to support that allows us to focus on that partnership rather than our lack of tools.

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