This is the first entry in Marcos Ferrer’s blog, BA Rising, an an ongoing series where Marcos shares his views, observations and thoughts on business analysis – and would like you to share yours.
When I was young, I asked my dad what he did at work. “I’m an analyst”, he responded.
In the course of my career I have run into (and sometimes been grouped with) systems analysts, financial analysts, organizational analysts, sales analysts, marketing analysts, computer analysts, network analysts, security analysts, user interface analysts, software analysts, investment analysts, business analysts, enterprise analysts, quality assurance, analysts who analyze analysis, psycho-analysts, and probably others.
Needless to say, my father’s answer, back then, didn’t provide much insight as to what he did to keep the family going. In fact, at the time, I didn’t give it any thought at all. Most of the analysts seemed like people who knew some stuff about some specialty, that’s all. Most were pretty smart, but not all.
Nor did it make sense that in my time there, IBM called me a Systems Engineer. Yet, It didn’t bother me; I figured they knew what to call it. Still, it didn’t feel like engineering. To me if just seemed like a bunch of things to know about computers – and the world – that let you help your customers. Some of it was just knowing that large inventories at year-end were financially punishing to businesses that had them. Some of it (e.g., correct balanced systems and network configuration) was stuff that customers could have figured out for themselves, if IBM had provided the means on-line. Instead, IBM’s engineering support systems gave me information power with my customers, and I used it to leverage information out of them concerning their business interests, becoming an analyst without knowing it.
When Mendes Worldwide (high tech bowling company) called me an Industry Rep, again, it didn’t bother me. They must know! When a client of mine installed the world’s first fully automated duckpin bowling center, after a year of negotiations and Excel “what ifs” with Duckpin industry officials, Duckpin Bowling Center proprietors and potential investors, someone said to me that I must really know the business. Again, I was operating as an analyst, without even knowing to call it that.
What I figured out later (when I found IIBA) was that I was practicing business analysis the whole time. I just didn’t know it was business analysis. I know I didn’t know, because every boss I ever had (except one) challenged me by spluttering “What are you doing, why are you doing that?” And with comments like, “don’t let me catch you doing that ever again!” And I never knew what to say except “But, it’s working!” and “I promise you‘ll never catch me doing that again!”
Over time, I met other people who made things work. They made them work well. They were different from the ones who made things look good. The “look-gooders” made things look good just long enough to get promoted, so someone else would actually have to fix the mess. A small number of people seemed to be able to make things look good AND make them work. All these people seemed to be CEOs; high-level executives, but certainly not business analysts.
What the “make things work” people did, always made sense, got results, and allowed energy time and resources to complete tasks and quickly focus on new opportunities,
In a word, these people left things better than they found them.
That was not easy at IBM, nor is it easy in organizations of any size larger than, say, one person. None of this was identified with business analysis, or analysis of any kind – at least not by my bosses at IBM in 1983 – this changed later.
The Eureka moment for me came while I was consulting with DOL as a client/server analyst. Peter Gordon introduced me to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA, www.theiiba.org). I read their material, and then their Book of Knowledge (if that sounds pretentious, remember that it is really the Business Analysis Book of Knowledge – BABOK – the name adds a little humility, in my opinion, and all to the good).
The IIBA BABOK had summarized (it is still a work in progress) all my knowledge and more techniques than I had ever heard of, but it all made sense – anyone trying to “git ‘er to work” instead of just “git ‘er done”, might do exactly the things listed in the BABOK.
Business analysis meant thinking/being thoughtful! That’s what first attracted me to IBM – the motto – “Think” – and what chased me away later – the lack of actual thinking. Business analysis is what one does, if one really cares about achieving the outcome! Risk analysis doesn’t pay if you will get promoted regardless of project outcome. It only pays if you care, AND if you use it wisely, for issues that the project can truly affect. Anyone with major meteor (>50km diameter) strikes in their risk plan is obsessive, not thorough, and not to be admired, as they have no concept of risk vs. cost. Anyone considering small (<.0.1m diameter) micrometeor strikes, is working on space travel, or is also (frankly) screwy.
Now that I realize my “common sense” skills, that I took for granted and have used during my career, really consisted of BA practices and CBAP standards, I’m hooked. Stay tuned. It will hook you too. Imagine a world where stuff worked better – stuff like medical care, flight safety, telecommuting, war plans, credit protection, law enforcement, more.
Remember, there is strength in numbers – the more CBAPs there are, the better our chances of being heard, and making the difference that is so needed. Join us, or give up and be a spectator. I know you will join, because if you could help it, you would have quit this complex and difficult career long ago.
Again, welcome, and please share your thoughts with us.
, is an experienced teacher, public speaker, and instructor with ESI International. He has over 20 years of experience in the practice of business analysis and the application of Information Technology for process improvement. Mr. Ferrer began his BA career in 1982, while still a student at the University of Chicago, when he developed a consulting practice (he didn’t know it was BA then) with local property management and accounting firms. After graduating in 1983, Mr. Ferrer joined IBM in Chicago, where he worked on requirements and systems implementations in a number of different fields. In 1990 Mr. Ferrer became an independent consultant, again working with a variety of customers, most notably in the Family Entertainment industry. He has also worked on multiple government systems projects and “business” projects, including A-76 work.
In November of 2006 Mr. Ferrer became one of the first 16 CBAPs certified by the IIBA. He has served as VP for Certification at theDC-Metro chapter of the IIBA, and is speaking publicly and promoting certification (CBAP) on behalf of that chapter (www.iibadc.org).
Copyright 2007, Marcos Ferrer. All rights reserved.
Marcos Ferrer, CBAP