From business analyst to delivery lead with…Paul Cardiff

Following on from the moving from being a software engineer to data engineer blog series, I thought it would be useful to follow a similar pattern looking at how business analysts migrate to the role of delivery lead.

The hope is that people who are considering becoming a delivery lead to use these blog posts to make a more informed choice, by identifying the skills required to make the transition, and highlighting the similarities in the two roles. 

Today I am interviewing Paul Cardiff.

What inspired you to make the move from a business analyst to a delivery lead?

I have been a business analyst for over fifteen years within both traditional, waterfall teams and within cross functional, collaborative agile teams. Throughout that time I have always taken on aspects of the project management/scrum master/delivery lead roles, whether that be covering for sickness, holidays or just supporting the team in achieving their goals. I have taken on the delivery lead role on a number of occasions, but always came back to the role of the BA. I suppose a catalyst to make the move more permanent was completing my MSc in Agile Leadership in 2020. Then early in 2021, whilst working as a BA within HMRC’s DPS platform team, there was a requirement for a new delivery lead. I had been covering aspects of that role for a while so I thought I would try and make the transition permanent. I successfully passed the delivery lead interview process, and so took on the opportunity to lead the CDS Platform team.

What are the key skills you have gained as a business analyst that has helped you as a delivery lead?

I believe that there are a number of skills that cross both roles, and it is utilising these skills that has helped with a smooth transition. A couple of key ones are:

  • Facilitation skills – a key skill of a good business analyst is being able to facilitate workshops and effectively draw out user needs or requirements and helping to encourage problem solving within a workshop or collaborative session. Utilising these skills has helped in facilitating our end of sprint retrospectives, and sprint planning sessions to ensure effective participation of the whole team.
  • Relationship building – a key strength of a BA is building relationships with both the team and stakeholders external to the team to try and create a shared vision of what is being built. I feel that as a delivery lead this is even more critical, as delivery, first and foremost, is about people. Encouraging collaboration, helping people to build relationships, and having those key conversations with all those involved.

What do you see as the major differences in the two roles?

The softer skills aspects take more of a front seat as a DL, with your focus shifting to the needs of the team, along with the needs of the project/product. You are now the person that the team comes to with their problems, and you have a responsibility to protect the team as well as removing any blockers that might be impacting delivery. Not only that but you are now responsible for ensuring you get the correct balance within the team, including identifying what skills shortage you may have, assisting with getting those skills in the team, and onboarding any new team members.

As I have a keen interest in agile and lean ways of working, as a BA I was always proactive in helping the team apply these principles.  However, since I have made the transition, encouraging continuous improvement and trying to improve the flow of work is always at the forefront of my mind.

Also, be prepared to be involved in a few more meetings

Any advice for prospective delivery leads out there?

I would say go for it. There are plenty of people in the network that have made the transition so speak to them to get their thoughts. 

From a personal perspective, I would say ‘remember you aren’t a BA anymore’. I have sometimes felt it difficult to leave that role behind, which can be a help but can also be a hindrance. When making the move it might be best to start fresh in a new team rather than making the transition in the same team, as you can start to be viewed with both hats on.

Most importantly, I would say always be there for the team to help support them and continually improve together.

Do you have any regrets about making the move?

There is a little more time commitment required but I don’t have any regrets in making the move as there are plenty of benefits in accepting a new challenge and expanding on your skillset.