Monday, 18 August 2014 00:00

Good Business Analyst, Bad Business Analyst

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A Good BA has a product management approach to their role, partnering with stakeholders to define the very best solution. A Good BA is the subject matter expert of the project requirements. They are viewed by both Creative and Tech teams as one of their own while in reality serving neither, only the client’s project goals. A Good BA has patience to learn from the client, educate the client, and push back when needed.

A Bad BA acts as a note taker, documenting what other people tell them with no vested interest in the quality of the product being built. A Bad BA is a gofer and assistant for the tech team. They document just enough for client sign off.

A Good BA pushes decisions and detailed design understanding early. They focus clients away from bells & whistles and back onto solutions that drive project goals, and when necessary are not afraid to remind the client of agreed upon scope. A Good BA communicates as well in written form as they do verbally. They create great requirements documentation that tells the story of the product. Their documents flow in a logical way from feature to feature, big idea to detailed specifications. A Bad BA is distracted by other people’s jobs (user experience or tech solutions) losing focus on their own (documenting the What).

Business analysts have plenty to learn from “The Godfather.” Whether you’re the head of the Corleone crime family or leading an IT project, analysts and mobsters have a lot in common. Don Vito Corleone may not have used Excel and Microsoft Project, but he knew a lot about delivering projects and getting results.

Read on to learn important career lessons from The Godfather. I will be sharing key points of the story, so stop right now if you are concerned about spoilers from the movie!

1 – Why You Need To Build Your Reputation For Results

When you first think about the mafia and organized crime, you probably think about violence. Certainly, violence is part of the mafia toolbox. Interestingly, violence was not the ONLY tool that the Godfather employed.

As The Godfather went through his career, he built up a reputation for results. Whether it meant helping out the local grocer or a tenant, the Godfather delivered. His reputation gradually grew to the point where violence was rarely needed.

Persuasion and diplomatic tactics were enough for him to reach his goals.

In my travels one of the more common questions from new and experienced business analysts is “how do I ask the Right Questions?” There seems to be a belief that expert business analysts have a knack for choosing just the Right Question that will produce the answers that will solve the problem. So I thought I'd write a short piece about asking the Right Question, primarily to remove the anxiety and concern business analysts seem to have about asking the right question. I discussed the concept with a couple of business analysts and during the conversation I realized that the problem was not in knowing what to ask, but rather in how to ask it. My short piece blossomed into a four-part article, first discussing the paradox of trying to determine the Right Question to ask, and tips on asking the right question. The second part addresses what questions to ask to make sure you ask the Right Question. The third part focuses on how to ask the Right Question to get the right answer. And the fourth part deals with avoiding asking the wrong questions, or more specifically asking the Right Questions in the wrong way.

The Right Question. It conjures up a image of the business analyst spends time preparing a list of questions, and agonizing over each one to determine whether this one question is the Right Question for this particular stakeholder at this time in this specific situation.

With that kind of pressure on the business analyst to be sure to ask the Right Question, no wonder one of the business analyst’s more frequent questions is “how do I ask the Right Questions?” The issue is never “how do I ask questions?” but always about the “Right Question“. So let us talk about the Right Question and how to track it down and ask it.