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Strategy Spotlight: 6 Ways the Business Analyst is a Management Consultant

I make no bones about it. Over 27 years ago, as I prepared to leave university, I wanted a career where I could do the stuff I did in post-secondary school but in the private sector.

Read, research, write, chat with people, create relationships, share ideas, improve organizations and occasionally attend beer and pizza events that were an opportunity to network or have fun, if you know what I mean, right.

As I skimmed my career horizon, talked to people, and took the time to work through the book, “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard N. Bolles (recommend if changing careers), I realized I did not fit the normal get-a-job world. I learned that I needed to feed my entrepreneurial spirit, analytic abilities, and strategic thinking to make business better. Somewhere I learned about, ‘the management consultant’ (place dramatic music here, please) and started reading everything I could about the profession.

Related Article: The BA Competency Consultant Role

This week I did a career audit and review – something I recommend everyone should do from time to time. This brought me to 6 Ways in which the Business Analyst is a Management Consultant.

It’s a Problem to Solve: Many professionals work their whole lives to become a project manager or an executive. They want to climb the corporate ladder so to speak. Some professionals prefer to skip all that implementation and operational management stuff and get to solving business problems now. As a business analyst, while helping to expose challenges and opportunities, you get to work with all levels of the organization and develop your executive thinking and strategic abilities. You get to define the problem, ask the important what and why questions to unravel issues and develop solutions.

Do Many Things: This is something I love about the overall consulting field, being able to do many things, see many things, and be many things. I was once asked, by a CEO, what would a perfect week look like for me. I laughed and said, on Monday I write, connect with people and prepare, Tuesday, I attend a few meetings, do a breakout session and coach/mentor clients, by Wednesday I am keynoting at an event, updating key stakeholder status and designing a new system, Thursday and Friday are spent training and/or facilitating a session and then back to the office to debrief and prepare for the next week. Best part, many interactions, many cultures, helping many people and doing many things. You can specialize in an industry or a niche, even ride the wave of the next best thing. The business analyst and consultant do this. The choice is yours.

Many Hats to Wear: Recently I experienced the perfect fortuitous juxtaposition of interests. I was invited to a 1920’s themed volunteer appreciation dinner being sponsored and hosted by a client. I ended up sitting next to a university Associate Dean, senior board member, and business person. He asked the magical question, what do you do? Sitting there, in my 1920’s time period attire, wearing my fedora, with my strategic business analyst/consultant’s smile, I delivered my elevator speech. He looked at me and said, you are a man of many hats. I think he is correct, if you get to wear many hats and like it, you may be a business analyst turning consultant. You get to be many things, play many roles and with many responsibilities.

An Instant Business Network: You may not like to network, I get that. But as a business analyst/consultant just by the nature of the work you do you get to build a vast and valuable network. Just think about it. You get to work with internal and external clients due to the different projects you are engaged in. Your stakeholder list includes all levels in your organization. Externally you make connections with vendors of all sorts.

Recently a business associate of mine lost his job as a strategic business analyst at a major corporation. He was right sized. A week later, a vendor called him and asked if he would join their team. He would be working for a company with an office in Pal-Alto, California. He went from commuting to work every day to working virtually and going to California for meetings during Canada’s winters. The key point, you get to build relationships. That’s important.

You are Seen as an Expert: I learned this when I was with one of the big consulting firms. Consulting firms and the profession is about rapid learning. Even independently, you can focus on a key expertise and grow your abilities. The best part, you get to learn on the job. I have often said the business analyst is paid to learn and develop their expertise. This often happens due to the fast pace of projects and the teams you are working with. If you are with a firm, they will send you to training and develop your expertise for the various engagement/projects you work on. You learn to leverage and build your expertise. That is exciting!

Flexibility is a Survival Tactic: Years ago I worked for a very operational company (for a short bit). It was a good experience as it helped me understand the day-to-day needs of clients. I could plan my day and for the most part, I could do the things that were required.

For the business analysts as a consultant this might be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes your day ‘changes on a dime’. For example, a client calls and says “I have two people flying in today can you meet with them to get the new systems requirements from them? They are available this afternoon.” Your day just changed, and you need to adjust everything fast. The reality is as a BA you may be working on several initiatives (an IT assessment, a policy review, maturity audit, risk assessment or a process model) and you need to manage everything and adjust.

Final Thoughts: As I write this piece I find that I am becoming even more excited about the work a business analyst as the consultant does. I feel as if I want to share all the projects I worked on over 3 decades and the many lessons learned. But I can’t do it all at once.

Recently, during a podcast interview, I hosted (BA Times Podcast airs September 2016), my business colleague and guest, Bob Prentiss (Bob the BA), reminded me that not all business analysts become project managers. There are now many career avenues to pursue.

I am excited for you, the professional business analyst, about the future projects and initiatives you will work on. The ones you can’t even see coming yet. But they are there. Interestingly being a business analyst and consultant (internal or external) provides you a platform on which to develop many skills, to try new things and to boldly go with no-one has gone before. Good luck.

Do your best,
Invest in the success of others,
Make your journey count.