Measuring Business Analysts; Don’t KPI Me

Good managers often ask, “How do I know my team is performing well? How can I spot which folks need help? Who should I reward for a job well done?” In today’s busy world, where managers have significant responsibilities in addition to nurturing their team, measurements and metrics can be a a help.

Unfortunately, it is really easy to measure analysts poorly. Bad managers like metrics too. They are easy. They are defensible. They let you think you know what’s going on, even if they don’t provide insight or even actionable information. They can be a substitute for getting to know your people, their challenges, their needs, and their successes.

One of my international colleagues recently asked,

My client is seeking guidance on how to measure and understand the performance of the Analysts reporting to her. The phrase “Individual KPIs” kept rearing it’s head. Initial cold shiver aside, how would you answer this question?

I have already written about requirements metrics and how it can lead to bad behavior, but this question and time led me to think down a different track.

First, I am hesitant to say, “Let’s measure BAs” in any way. I realize my hesitancy is partially personal; I don’t want to be measured and then found wanting.

Second, I have never seen the objective measure do as much good as subjective measure for BA teams. I know this seems wrong, but I’ve worked with many teams trying to measure BAs and it’s very easy to find your measurements indicating the need to reward B and C players while the A player is left scratching their head. On a good team this leads to morale problems, on a bad team it leads to ever-increasing mediocracy.

My simplistic answer is to look at the teams the BAs work with. Those teams solving tougher problems and working smoothly typically have a better BA. When a team member changes teams and requests the BA to change with them, it typically means a better BA. Also, the very best BAs are known to be good by their peers and will have the respect of other BAs. Who do they turn towards or avoid?

More formally, the manager can perform 360-degree reviews. It’s not a measure of stories produced or quantity of acceptance criteria missed, but it is a measure.

Surprisingly enough, in an enterprise environment I often do not give deep consideration if the client / business partner is “happy.” I know this is sacrilege, but great BAs often push their partners and customers to do and think more. This causes more friction, often for months and maybe more than a year, despite delivering better software and solutions. On the flip side, I have seen very poor BAs do a great job listening to their partners and taking notes. The clients feels happy because they are finally being heard(!), but unfortunately this BA is acting like an overpaid stenographer and offering little value to the team. Being a good Business Analyst means understanding value much more than it means saying, “Yes, we can do that for you.” Please, reward the right kind of behavior.


Now available: Part one in the series on measuring requirements, business analysts, and part three on measuring the analysis process.