In an earlier post I made the case for Business-Analysis-as-a-Service (BAaaS) as a way to outsource business analysis. But the reality is that it’s not that simple. Handing over your IP to an external party, especially in such a critical area, requires a huge amount of trust and the certainty that the outsource partner will deliver.
Any professional services firm that walks into a meeting with as prospective client and proposes that the business analysis function is outsourced will be shown the door very quickly. Selling BAaaS will be difficult and in order to do it successfully, you need to find a level of engagement that the client is comfortable with and true outsourcing will only be possible once the outsource partner has proven the ability to deliver successfully.
So, why even broach the subject of BAaaS, if it is such a difficult sell?
In her book, Managing Business Analysis Services: A Framework for Sustainable Projects and Corporate Strategy Success, Barbara Davis explains that the BA role is inherently an ad-hoc, temporary role. She describes the business analysts therefore as “homeless”, but because they always dress nicely and show up on time, no-one notices that they are homeless.
I see a disconnect in the application of the first of the BABOK’s knowledge areas, Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring. Because of this temporary nature of business analysis, very few companies really focus on how business analysis is done, focusing instead only on the results of the business analysis. Partly that is because most companies (yes, there are a few notable exceptions) simply do not have the expertise to deliver business analysis effectively.
And as always, the Standish Group was kind enough to provide us with various examples of the effectiveness of business analysis. Here’s one:
If 45% of features and functions developed for the typical system are never used, surely business analysts can be used much more effectively on those features that are actually used. But to identify these you need a level of expertise in business analysis that can be quite rare.
Typically this expertise in managing business analysis sits in the professional services firms or software houses that provide business analysis as a profitable service and this expertise is used to manage their own service delivery.
So, the end result is a professional services firm with a scare skill and potential clients that need this skill. Actually doesn’t sound that complicated, does it?
BAaaS Engagement Model
The engagement model that I propose is based on a partnership between the outsourced partner and the client and focuses not on the delivery of business analysis, but on the management and planning of business analysis. It is a four tiered service model, with each tier focusing on a different aspect of Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring. These tiers are spread across 5 different engagement levels, based on the client’s needs and the maturity of the relationship:
The tiers are:
Tier 1- BA Discovery: This tier is based on the business model that IAG Consulting has implemented so successfully in North America. I’ve described this in an earlier post. Yes, it may be a bit of a leap of faith and having a foot in the door with existing supplementary resources will help, but in essence this tier is used to demonstrate a superior requirements elicitation capability.
Tier 2- BA Competency Development and Tier 3- BA Practice Development: Where clients want to retain their BA practice, offer them a range of services, from:
- developing the competency of their BA’s,
- providing a mentoring service for junior BA’s,
- an informal maturity assessment with recommendations,
- up to a formal maturity assessment with a maturity roadmap, increasing the scope up to putting a BA practice in place for them/
This would include mentoring their BA manager, recruiting staff for them as well as putting tools, template and process in place. Some of these concepts are discussed in detail in my earlier post on BA Practice Maturity, and there are a few consultancies that have successfully started to offer this service, most notably Kathleen Hass and Associates in the US.
Tier 4- BA Shared Service: Like the other three tiers, I’ve based this tier on a business model that has been implemented successfully somewhere. In this case Rohit Shawarikar of Infosys described in an article in Business Analysis Times how they successfully implemented such a shared service model for a client:
The on-site team would be a combination of client staff and outsource partner staff, but the management and best practice aspects are owned by the outsource partner. Together they decide which of these blocks will be owned by the outsource partner and which by the client. This creates a partnership in the management and execution of the business analysis shared service.
I think the traditional “bums in seats” service that is most popular at the moment will still be with us for quite a while. But instead of ending there, this should be the starting point of the engagement with the client, the virtual “foot in the door.” Once the relationship with the client is established, the level of engagement can increase as a trust relationship is developed with the client.
The initial focus would probably be on competency development rather than requirements discovery outsourcing, but I think that these two engagement levels should be pursued in parallel, as demonstrating your analysis capability is an essential step in the journey to a shared BA service.
What is important, is to develop an engagement level that shows an improvement in business analysis for the client AND is profitable for the outsource partner. A true partnership always results in a win for both parties.
IAG Consulting measures the success of requirements outsourcing with three, simple measures that can be applied in order to make BAaaS a success:
BAaaS must make business analysis in an organisation better, faster and cheaper! That’s all…