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Strategy Spotlight: 7 Reminders from an Unlikely Place, What Makes for Great Business Analysis

Often when working with clients on a strategic business analysis, planning or roadmap engagement I look to see if they are teaming with success.

I learned the importance of this from my time at PricewaterhouseCoopers and then later working with clients across various industries. This was recently reaffirmed, not by a business engagement, but through working with a group of songwriters and musicians. The engagement was to facilitate (share), document (write), integrate (edit), and present (perform) a song to be video recorded for a major sponsor (influencer). The outcome (song) was a tribute to a lawyer, business leader, and musician, whose struggle with cancer became a catalyst for people engagement and a reminder, we all serve somebody. In some way, I believe we can all relate.

Here are the 7 reminders from an unlikely place that makes for great business analysis:

1. Never be the Lone Ranger

I am guilty of this one. Love my independents and autonomy. As someone who is into senior business analysis type work, it is easy to become the lone ranger, trying to do everything yourself. The interesting thing you learn when hanging out with a group of musicians (who are sincere) is everyone has different talents and a contribution to be made. The best part is you are not alone. So don’t be. There is always someone available to help. All you need to do is belong.

2. It Takes a Community

It takes a community to be successful. That means a team. I learned this when I wrote my first book. You think I would have learned it with all the teams I worked on throughout my career. However, no I did not. You see, in my mind, writing a book meant you went off somewhere, in isolation at some remote cabin and the book was magically created. Pouf! When you write a song or a book, you need a team to succeed. It turns out to be the same way for when you write a requirements document. It should become a team effort to make sure it is great. Within the Business Analysis career, we need to break down the barriers of work competition and work together to create successful communities, teams.

3. ‘Cheers’ Had an Important Message

Now, I do not expect you remember the TV show, Cheers. The opening song, Where Everybody Knows Your Name, by Gary Portnoy (, serves as a good reminder for something we all secretly desire. Most people will recall Norm, one of the main characters. When he walked into the establishment, everyone would yell, NORM. In our profession, there is an opportunity make like everyone welcome. As a professional leader who facilitates sessions, you can create your own ‘Cheers’ opportunities. I have seen it in other businesses, and I experienced it myself.

4. Acknowledgeable Goes a Long Way

During my experience with the group of musicians, the song written was presented. I was just one person among a larger group of people and was asked for my feedback. As an analyst and writer, I cannot help myself but analyze the written words. I had marked up the paper and reluctantly shared with the group. To my surprise, my remarks were well received. Several days later, at another professional event, the writer sat down beside me, leaned over and said he had incorporated my suggestions and the song was better. I was shocked and humbly thankful. My point is being willing to share your thoughts can be intimidating.

Maybe you are concerned about what people think. In business analysis, we are leaders. It is important to acknowledge people on your team for their contribution. Great communities share and acknowledge one another’s contributions.

5. Know What You are Working Towards

This is something I have learned to be extremely important. In business analysis we generally refer to having a clear definition of the problem or opportunity. Ideally, we get this from leadership. However, that is not always the case. The ability to clearly articulate the challenge/opportunity is 150 words or less is not a gift or a skill most people have developed. My Dad had an expression; I have more years behind me than in front of me. He is 95. He has been saying this for a long time. Something I noticed though everything he did was based on not knowing what tomorrow will bring. So he would work towards something. It was the innate understanding and answer to what ‘what’ and ‘why’ (what is the focus, why is it important). Business analysis needs to be focused the same way. It is important to treat things as if there is no tomorrow, so you need to know what you are working towards, why and get it done. It could be your last chance. So don’t have regrets.

6. Believe in Yourself

This last twelve months I had the opportunity to get to know and work with someone who I am sure their tag line is ‘let’s do it.’ We would be discussing an idea and if it made sense, he would say, let’s do it. When I am wearing my business analysis hat, I can be critical, skeptical and candid. Not because I am a negative person but because I am engaged to ‘question everything,’ be factual and present ideas for decision making. There are times I do wonder though if within business analysis we (you) can hide behind our (your) insecurities. Working with this musical group, I was sometimes reminded you need just to put yourself out there, to believe in yourself and allow others to support you. In management consulting I use to have a sponsor who would say, do first and ask for forgiveness later. Sometimes that is all we need to do. It is great lesson learned.

7. Communications is Key

Recently I was in a meeting with a sponsor of a large financial investment organization regarding a senior business analysis contract opportunity. Like anyone else I have to make a living. They asked me what makes a professional successful in business analysis. I told them the story about the former Australia Business Analysis Association now part of the IIBA. They had this door lock diagram I always liked. I still reference it in my business analysis training programs today. The diagram was of a lockset with all the tumblers around it. Each tumbler represented a skill set; facilitation, modeling, financials, decision making, etc. In the middle, where the key is placed to unlock the business analysis magic kingdom, was one word, communications. Whether verbal or written, formal or informal, the key to success is mastering your communications skills. Something I think we can all do better.

Final Thoughts

No doubt the musicians applied the hard and soft skills of business analysis; the facilitation, documenting, integrating, and presenting requirements with a final outcome, video recorded song. In this case, a tribute to an important sponsor (Pearl River), someone who is a connector of people, a supporter, who influenced the lives of many people professionally and personally, and knows how to get things done. A dream sponsor.

It is easy to talk or write about tools and techniques you can use in business analysis. It is harder to communicate those professional and life experiences that make you a better professionally and personally. I love the business analysis career, people development and diversified initiatives with opportunities to incorporate what you learned in all you do. Working with a group of creative people from all walks of life and professions reminded me of the things that make teams great.

When you know what you are doing and why you are doing it, there is an endless opportunity to build your skills. You just never know when you are going to learn something you can apply to your business, career, and life to serve others. In the end, I think that is what it is all about.
Remember, do you best, invest in the success of others, make your journey count, Richard.