Christina Lovelock MBCS explores strengths, specialisms and avoiding silos when crafting job roles.
Many job titles and roles that are now mainstream in the tech sector were almost unheard of 10 years ago.
Disciplines which are adjacent and complementary to business analysis now flourish in many organisations, including business architecture, user research, service design and product ownership. This expansion of specialised roles brings great opportunities for collaboration and shared learning, but it can also breed misunderstandings and friction.
Assumptions and expectations
The tenure of digital roles is getting shorter. As we move from team to team, organisation to organisation, we take with us preconceptions of roles and remits.
Teams often neglect to discuss the remit of individual members, gaps and overlaps between roles, strengths and areas of interest. We operate instead on the precarious ground of assumptions and expectations.
We need to know more than someone’s job title to understand what they do, what they are capable of doing and what they want to do.
There are many ways organisations encourage and even enforce specialisation of business analysts. ‘CRM Business Analyst’ and ‘Agile Business Analyst’ are current examples of this. Business analysis is a holistic discipline and when the role is confined by systems, methods or knowledge, it narrows the focus and generates siloed thinking.
A good business analyst can develop the knowledge they need for a given situation quickly, by deploying the right approaches and engaging with the right subject matter experts. When BAs become the subject matter experts, for a system or business area, the organisation has taken on a significant (and generally unrecognised) risk.
Business analysis skills are in demand, and organisations have created a situation where they can lose both the business analysis skills and a key source of business knowledge. In fact, constraining a business analyst to know more and more about less and less increases the likelihood they will look for new challenges elsewhere.
The concept of the ‘T-shaped’ digital professional is very helpful. The horizontal bar represents the breadth of the role, areas of knowledge and high-level skills needed for a role. These will be common across a range of roles. The vertical bar describes the depth of skills and knowledge in a particular professional discipline.
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Taking the time to discuss and understand the skills and previous experience of team members, as well as their hopes and desires to develop particular skills further can help the team use everyone’s strengths and allows people to make their best contribution. Running a T-shaped exercise with a multi-disciplinary team builds bonds and understanding, but beware the opposing influences of impostor syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Job crafting for digital roles
The emerging practice of job crafting has a key contribution to make to the future of fulfilling digital roles. Job crafting allows people to consider their strengths and create a role which is both motivating and enjoyable.
This may seem like a big risk for organisations, but in reality, even minor adaptions/extensions to roles can make a huge difference. This typically entails adjusting work in one of three ways: people (who we work with), process, (what we do and how we do it) or purpose (why we do it).
It was once very common to see individuals describing themselves as BA/PM (project manager). This implies that they perform both roles simultaneously for an organisation, or are capable of doing either role given the opportunity. This has slowly transitioned to ‘BA/PO (product owner) emerging as one of the most prevalent BA/XXX combinations.
It is important to distinguish if this means ‘I am doing both roles’ or ‘I am capable of doing either role’, as these are very different propositions and can cause a great deal of confusion, disharmony and disappointment on all sides.
Digital professionals should be given the opportunity to progress their careers in a variety of ways. Rigid job descriptions and restrictive job titles do not facilitate organisational flexibility or personal growth.
The roles and job titles of the future will continue to develop, emerge and merge. Encouraging conversations about T-Shaped professionals and exploring job crafting for digital roles underpins business agility and contributes to a happy and engaged digital workforce.
About the author
Christina Lovelock is a change leader and author. She is active in the business analysis professional community and champions entry level roles. She is the co-author of the BCS book Delivering Business Analysis: The BA Service Handbook.