The power of the BA

26 February

I was doing some spring cleaning recently and I started reading some old material I was meant to be filing (I am not a very efficient spring cleaner).

I came across some of my notes on power, politics and negotiation in organisations.  Some of the main sources of power were:

  • Being the “locus of communication”.  In other words being the person between multiple teams that handles a lot of the inter-team communication;
  • The ability to set the agenda in discussions (generally meetings and workshops by also interviews); and
  • The one framing the questions for discussion (apparently the way you word the question often dictates the answer, which dictates what will happen next in the organisation).

As I read through the list, these and several other sources of power seemed almost like a job description for a BA.

Then I read another old paper which I sometimes quote in courses.  It talked about who survives, thrives and gains power in tumultuous times in organisations.  This paper concluded that the power brokers (survivors) were the:

  • Boundary spanners (those who communicate between teams);
  • People who understand their own knowledge needs and the knowledge needs of others; and
  • Those good a team facilitation (workshops, meetings and BA stuff).

I pondered these papers (which still need filing) and I began to think about the book “Bargaining for advantage” by Richard G Shell.

This is my favourite guide to negotiation.  Among other things the book stresses the importance:

  • Information gathering and understanding in the negotiation process (ie what BAs do);
  • The importance of knowing who the influencers are in a negotiation (often the BAs); and
  • Knowing where to go to bring outside (but maybe biased) views to the table to influence the discussion.

I began pondering the idea of finishing my filing, but instead drifted off to wondering how much power BAs have.  It seems to me that they wield vast organisational and political power on projects, in their teams and in their organisations.

Yet, one of the gripes I hear from BAs is that they don’t have any power to make things happen on their projects.  All power rests with the PM and the BA is mere a pawn in the mighty game of organisational politics.

I have concluded that in fact business analysts DO wield vast power.  They just claim that they don’t.  I’d be interested to know if you agree.

I’d also be interested to know the answer to my new question – If, indeed, the BA does wield vast power and yet claims not to …. is this because he or she is unaware of the power of the BA, or is it a conspiracy, where they are controlling the information to keep everyone else ignorant of the impact they are really having on the world?