Schedule for Success
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Lead meetings that are more productive and appreciated.
- Recognize the danger of solutioning before knowing all requirements.
- Describe the benefits of delivering a quick win early in a project.
Timing Is Everything
You’ve probably heard the phrase “timing is everything.” It turns out that as a business analyst, doing the right things at the wrong time can cause all sorts of trouble. In this unit you’ll learn how to make timing work to your advantage by leading effective meetings and delivering your work when it matters most.
There’s no two ways about it, as a business analyst you’re going to hold a lot of meetings. And news flash, people don’t always look forward to more meetings in their already busy schedules. Thankfully most people appreciate meetings that are productive. So your job is to make meetings as meaningful as possible.
Arguably, the most important part of a good meeting is the agenda, provided before the meeting even starts. This tells people what you hope to accomplish with their valuable time, and it sets expectations for your time. They’ll have an idea of how time is budgeted, so there’s a better chance the meeting will stay on track. If it starts getting off track, you can return to the agenda as a way of bringing things to order. Providing an agenda also gives everyone an opportunity to prepare questions and comments so they can be ready to participate to the fullest. In addition to providing an agenda, if you need someone to contribute something specific, be sure to tell them personally so they can come prepared.
Put together a presentation for every meeting, no matter how small.
- It makes you look prepared and in control.
- It gives your meeting structure, making it that much easier to follow your agenda.
- It acts as a signpost, so people know where you are in the meeting (even if they join late).
- It can include tidbits of information meant to provide context (such as definitions), even if they’re not specifically addressed.
- It gives people something visual to focus on, which can help retain their attention.
Record your meetings. We live in a world where data is cheap, so use it to capture everything you can when permissible. (Remember to get consent first!) When you record a meeting, you don’t have to worry about taking detailed notes in the moment. Instead, you can be fully present and engaged in the discussion. You’ll still take a few notes to help facilitate the meeting, but the work of parsing the details can be done afterward on your own time. Also, sometimes you just need to go back and hear exactly what someone said about a topic, instead of relying on notes (or worse, your memory). A recording remembers everything.
Finally, near the end of the meeting, recap what was covered and summarize what was gained from everyone’s time together. Be sure to identify who’s responsible for next steps, and if anything from the agenda must be revisited in the next meeting.
Running a good meeting can make you look poised and professional, even if you don’t have the most experience in a given industry or domain.
Understand, Then Solution
It might seem obvious, but you must finish understanding a problem before you begin to solve for it. In the business analyst world, that means gathering all of your requirements before solutioning. The timing of these two steps makes sense, but there are a few times in which people try to reverse them, and it almost never works out.
The first is when a stakeholder comes to your initial meeting already bearing a solution. They’ve seen a demo of a product, and they want to know how to use it in their business. Obviously this is problematic because there’s no guarantee that the product will meet the actual business needs, especially since those needs haven’t been fully defined. If you’re faced with a preemptive solution, encourage the stakeholders to think of what they want to accomplish in generic terms, not in the context of a specific product. Always guide them to think about why they need to do something differently, instead of how to do it differently. In the case of Salesforce, it’s very likely you’ll be able to meet their business needs with one of our products, so you can work out the “how” later.
The second is when an admin with a new set of skills wants to flex their admin muscles and start tinkering with the platform. They are so excited about using the product, that they forget to do their due diligence and solidify the business requirements before building. It’s hard to blame them, it’s fun to problem-solve and it’s satisfying to see something you build accomplish something new. Unfortunately it might not be doing what’s really best for the business, and you might end up having to redo a lot of work. New business analysts tend to make this mistake themselves, since they might have newfound knowledge about the system they’re working with, and a desire to quickly make something their customer will like. But slow down, and avoid a quick start down the wrong path!
Build Trust While Building a Solution
Eventually, you will have your business requirements in order, and a plan in place for a solution, so you can start building. Often there will be many parts of the solution that need building, and sometimes you have control over which parts are built first. In that case, you may want to choose a part that can offer a quick win for the customer.
Demonstrating that you can deliver a good part of the solution early on in the project has a lot of benefits. Most importantly, it builds trust in your ability to perform on behalf of the customer. It shows that there’s good reason to engage with you when you’re trying to get the time on the calendar of subject matter experts and stakeholders. It can build momentum for the overall project, getting buy-in from other teams, even those that might not have shown much interest at first.
A little strategic timing in producing your deliverables, waiting for the right time to solution, and running meetings like a pro will go a long way to increase the chances your project will be a successful one.