BA Anti-Patterns in Govt

“Not sure this is complete but a good starter for ten if you are looking at business analyst skills here is the GDS view.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-analyst-skills-they-need/business-analyst-skills-they-need

Andrew Sandford (original linked in post)

This was an interesting comment I saw on LinkedIn the other day, and having worked in many large scale, UK public sector digital transformation programmes as a BA, supposedly under the guidance of the “GDS way”, I felt obliged to comment.

My personal experience is that the BA role is often maligned, not understood properly, and often exploited in ways that self serve individual agendas in the said transformation programme rather than following the true intention of the GDS guidance.

Anti-Pattern 1: “BA isn’t allowed to speak to real users”

I personally think the GDS requirement (as interpreted by those trying to implement the GDS ‘way’) as to requiring a user researcher, UI designer, and a BA all on the same discovery team ‘collaborating’ together has often, and significantly sidelined the BA in what they can do and what they have to offer.

Not long ago before the GDS way, many many BAs were skilled and experienced in interacting with users, doing research, designing mockups etc etc. Recently in a BA role I clarified with the Delivery Manager and individual team members what a BA does in this multi-disciplinary setup – the answer was “map backend systems, get API details, write JIRA tickets”. IMHO, that is a terrible, terrible waste of a good role, and something most experienced BAs would think twice about being boxed into.

Plus it’s just plain boring doing that kind of work all day, every day.

Anti-Pattern 2: “BA does everything the PO or project sponsors should do”

There’s another situation I have been in, and seen others placed in as a BA in Government, and that is where the BA has been hired to work on a programme / project / workstream, then finds out that whilst it has been approved “in principle”, the funding has not yet been released.

Then they find out the PO is absent, not engaged, or simply does not even exist – and the request is made of the BA to “draft a quick and simple” 1 page outline business case to get funds for ‘your team’. That draft is then requested to become more formalised after a management review (ie. not enough details to satisfy the CFO) and the BA is then asked to do some 5 year forward projections, VAT calcs on staff costs, and some detailed financial modelling of ROI for the programme in order to release funds etc. (which the BA’s manager needs to justify hiring the BA in the first place…)

I was once asked to even write a Treasury investment case, and on this occasion, requested to then proceed to hire a full consultancy team to write the final business case for the government department to consider (Public Health England). nb. I don’t believe it was even approved.

I believe this kind of situation arises because senior programme management effectively abdicate their responsibility and willingly allow it to fall to / push it on to the most able members of the team, often the poor BA.


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