A new project is an exciting challenge. Sometimes it is an opportunity to gain experience, meet new people, adapt to a new and previously unknown business domain. Business analysts have a significant and demanding role to play. Therefore, they need to be active and alert not to overlook a chance of establishing positive relations with business representatives from the very beginning. A relation that should be reinforced and taken care of during a project.

How to do so, and where to start from?

First steps of an analyst in a new project

Usually, before an opportunity to have a conversation with stakeholders arises, the project team gets familiarized with materials, prepares a framework action plan, and even an initial analysis. It is essential the BA keeps diligence and squeezes the most information out of this phase. It may be crucial during the first contact with a business. Everything must be done in order to be seen as a conversation partner.

Then, in my opinion, there’s a breakthrough – an event that may really help or harm the BA: the first appointment of the project team with stakeholders. It may seem like a routine meeting, one of many. Nothing could be more wrong. This event is a great opportunity to put one’s best foot forward. Typically, it starts from the so-called get-to-know round during which meeting’s participants should say a few words about themselves and their project roles. At this moment, the process of building relations with stakeholders starts.

What the BA says while such a round should be well-thought-out and prepared in advance. It needs to be said fluently and with great conviction; the entire impression should be strengthened with a flawless look and outfit. Drawing attention to the BA’s role in the project is a necessity. I have a proven way to do so: when I talk about my role, I emphasize that I can be called “the best friend of the business.” “I’m here to listen to you and efficiently pass your needs to the project team,” I point it out. In conclusion, I add that stakeholders can get in touch with me whenever it is the most comfortable for them in case of any questions, doubts, or ideas.

You can bet with me or not, but several pens and keyboards have gone into action to write down my name and point out that I’m the contact person in the project.

 

How not ruin a good start?

Well begun, the goal is reached: we are not anonymous anymore. What should you pay attention to not to damage your own credibility?

If you promised availability, then follow the below rules:

  • Do not leave emails with no reply.
  • Do not switch on the away status in a communication device.
  • Do not reject phone calls unless you really need to.
  • Call back if someone leaves you a voice message.
  • Do not belittle stakeholders’ issues. For you, some things may be of a small matter, but for them – a big deal.
  • If you are not able to solve an issue, pass it to someone else. Do it by yourself. Do not say, “It’s not my task. Please, call my colleague.”

You cannot build a lasting relationship on lies or an illusion. If you are about to promise something, like the above-mentioned availability, be sure you can fulfill it.

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day

It needs to be said honestly – in the discussed process, a lot depends on BA’s intuition. There’s a right time and place for everything, and the decision of whether it is really relevant is up to us. I’m talking about the process, and that’s how you should approach building relationships – step by step. We start relations with caution and formality. One might say – a reactive approach. We get into the atmosphere of meetings, organizational culture; we identify the personalities and habits of people with whom we talk or correspond. We build trust and authenticate ourselves in the stakeholders’ eyes.

How to do that?

  • Do not make empty promises (yes, I repeat myself on purpose).
  • Do not talk about your competencies; prove them in your everyday work.
  • Make jokes only if you are sure that your audience will not be offended or if you already feel that your relation allows you to do so.
  • Be transparent, do not sweep issues under the rug. You do not build a permanent relationship if you must fight with keeping all the skeletons in the closet so that they do not fall out.
  • Do not look for someone to blame; look for solutions.
  • Always be polite and diplomatic. Express your doubts referencing facts, not people. Do not resent a particular person as it builds a barrier between you and stakeholders. Avoid it like the plague!
  • Accustom stakeholders to the fixed reference points: periodic meetings, minutes of meetings, frequent presentations of the implemented solutions, an appropriate response to urgent problems.
  • Use your experience and give advice when you can.
  • Supremely, be brave. Be courageous in suggesting solutions in which you believe.
  • Take a deep breath when you feel nervous. Communicating when you’re emotional, in most cases, won’t do any good. I recommend you, for example, the method of three emails: the first is written for myself, the second is the way I want to write it, and then the third – written the way I feel it should be.
  • Be proactive. “Hi, John, I haven’t heard from you in a while. Do you need some help in any area?”
  • Do not avoid difficult topics; they’ll get to you anyway. In a worst-case scenario, through an escalation.

Build a model of cooperation you are capable of maintaining. A consequence is a keyword in relationships with business.

 

To sum up

Awfully a lot to memorize! How to remember everything? Against all odds, it’s nothing insightful. Think of how you build relationships in your personal life with family, friends, neighbors, and so on. It’s not far different from what this article is about. The rules of communication and building interpersonal relations are universal. “Do as you would be done by” is one of them.

A permanent lasting relationship with stakeholders is not built in one day, week, or month. It’s a long, demanding, and time-consuming process at the end of which there are benefits hard to underestimate, such as the following:

  • trust;
  • predictability;
  • reduced probability of surprising escalation;
  • favorability in conflict situations;
  • certainty that your opinion will be at least heard;
  • reduced level of stress;
  • casual work environment.

And many, many more.

Finally, the last piece of advice, “ It’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.” Let yourself make mistakes. With time, your ability to work out relations will be improved and based on the experience from previous projects and individual events.

Author

  • Paweł Sidorowicz
  • Business and System Analyst
  • An analyst with extensive experience. He has been involved in the IT industry for 7 years, he has participated in projects for Polish and international clients operating in financial, healthcare, car audio, and pharma industries. For nearly 3 years, he has been carrying out projects based on the Salesforce platform. An enthusiast of Agile and optimization projects, a team player, motivator, and smile bringer.

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