January 01, 2007

Finding Qualified Talent

With so much responsibility, finding the right business analysts and program managers is critical. According to Chip Greenlee, director of marketing and solutions for HP Americas (Palo Alto, Calif.), business analysts come from the front lines of the business side. They need to understand all aspects of the business, he stresses, so often it's better to start with an understanding of the business requirement and then fit into the IT role. On the other hand, Greenlee says, program managers usually come from an IT organization rather than the business side.

Business analysts "are problem solvers who cannot be intimidated by some challenge or opportunity -- every problem is solvable," the IIBA's Barret adds. According to Barret, business analysts should be highly analytic and function as relationship managers -- focused on making sure stakeholders are satisfied with the work that is being done -- as well as facilitators, negotiators, technicians, planners and writers. They also should be well versed in project management and, of course, have an understanding of the business. Further, they need to be able to cross lines of business and manage change, she says.

Business analysts need to know or become familiar with the business processes that they are to support, says Joe Robinson, director of central operations for Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank ($58.5 billion in assets). "They should have an understanding of how the process or the platform works. It's important that they have Six Sigma or change-management skills where they can do some analysis on the process, work to simplify it, standardize it, automate it -- process-oriented skills," Robinson says. "There is a need for the individual to be intimately involved in the testing and implementation of new applications," he adds.

Every member of Pang's 30-person PMO group at The Bank of New York has obtained training and certification from the Newtown Square, Pa.-based Project Management Institute (PMI), and new members go through the same process, she says. The project management profession certification requires recertification every three years, Pang notes, so her team is up to date with the latest industry training and trends. Pang's own background, however, is strictly in IT -- she holds a bachelor's in engineering and a master's in computer science. Her team averages about 15 years experience working in the IT industry, she relates.

"There's the art and the science of project management," Pang says. The art is the ability to manage conflict and motivate others, she explains. The science is the formal training and application of a universal framework, including the nine knowledge areas as defined by the PMI: project integration, project scope, project time, project cost, project quality, project human resources, project communications, project risk management and project procurement.