Article by Eileen McMurdo
By ldunn | 24 Aug 2023
This blog details some of the opportunities and challenges faced in managing the business analysis function and resources by leveraging them across the delivery teams in the Programme.
My name is Eileen McMurdo and I am a Service Owner in the Social Security Programme Management and Delivery Division, which I will refer to as the Programme in this blog. Before taking on the role of Service Owner in March 2023, I was Head of the Business Analysis Unit in the Programme.
When I joined the BA (Business Analysis) team in 2017, we were a team of around 8 and the Programme had not yet developed into different product areas. Soon after, to manage delivery more efficiently and effectively, the Programme established delivery areas each led by a Service Manager responsible for delivery of a specific benefit or service.
Drawing on my experience from the Digital Directorate and to best support the delivery of the complex programme of work, I suggested that the Business Analysis team remain a standalone function to leverage their support to the delivery teams as needed. This would enable me to co-ordinate the work of the Programme and retain an independent feel to the BA team, meaning I could flex and pivot the BAs (Business Analysts) quickly to meet demands and I could ensure a consistency of delivery whilst building capability from within.
By keeping the BA function as a leveraged resource, I was able to lead the BAs to develop their role as critical objective friends within each product team, giving them the independent view to challenge designs to ensure that they were robust and met the needs of the whole service delivery, not just that product team.
Centralising the line management structure enabled better control over consistency, establishing a community of practice and setting up a learning pathway for recruiting and training BAs from entry level through to management level. Keeping the budget for BAs centrally, enabled me to flex the resource in different areas as the need arose, rising to delivery challenges quickly and effectively. It also allowed me to manage the development, resilience and wellbeing of my team by being able to challenge team dynamics where required, prevent teams from holding on to BAs as subject matter experts and ensure the right BA was allocated to the right team at the right time for both the team and the individual BA.
I did, however, have some challenges to overcome where BAs were remaining in teams for prolonged periods of time, becoming subject matter experts and at risk of losing that critical eye. To resolve that, I introduced a commissioning approach to ensure that BAs were allocated BA work and were more easily extracted when that work was complete. I also worked with Service Owners, Service Managers and Product Owners to share my vision of the BA function within the Programme and the value of developing BAs in different areas across the Programme highlighting the benefits of the learning and expertise they gained and how they could then bring these to each delivery area. I explained the dangers of BAs becoming ingrained in product teams and, therefore, less able to take that helicopter view that is often needed to provide robust challenge to design ideas.
Learning from the experience
So, what have I learned and what I’d do differently?
I would implement a robust commissioning process from the beginning, ensuring that BAs were requested to undertake a particular activity rather than to support the product for the full end to end delivery. That’s not to say I’d change the BA in each product team for the sake of it, however, having clear roles and responsibilities for a BA makes it easier to extricate when new priority work comes in.
I’d continue to have the BAs line managed centrally and build a clear learning pathway and progression route for people to progress from entry to senior/leadership level. I believe we did this well in the Programme and we have many BA success stories where we have trained and supported people new to the BA role to progress up to leadership roles, both inside the Programme and into wider Agency and SG (Scottish Government) roles.