Big Picture Thinking: Where Does the Business Analyst Fit In?
Recently my manager and I were having an in-depth discussion about the different levels of a Business Analyst (BA).
How do you figure out a BA to be junior, intermediate, senior and in some cases, principal/lead? Surely an analyst’s thought process and ability to understand plays a critical role when defining what level that BA is at.
During the discussion, we went to a boardroom, where my manager drew to circles on either end of a white board with a dotted line in between. On one side he wrote ‘shareholders’ and on the other, he wrote ’data captures.’ He then asked me to fill in the dotted lines with how the data captures affect the shareholders and show him where the BA fit between the two sides. The ability for you as a Business Analyst to build an end-to-end picture in your mind of the business you service will directly show in the detail and quality of the output you provide as a Business Analyst.
In this article, I fill in the blanks and show you what else fills in the ‘moonshot’ as I call it.
Data captures in business are, generally, at the very end of the organization’s value chain, while shareholders, on the other hand, are those who have their money (value) in the game. How does a business give the shareholders more value? Generally through innovation, process improvements and doing things better.
Thus a board of directors (BOD) or executive committee (EXCO) will decide on the best strategy to increase value for their shareholders. In this article, we can assume that the executive committee has decided to offer a product via a mechanism that has given them an excellent reputation in the market, which would differentiate themselves from their competitors; make it easier for customers and reduce operational costs.
EXCO or the BOD have communicated this strategy to the senior management team in the organization and have made it a high priority as they believe this will allow them to attract a big percentage of the target market.
With the senior management team, EXCO has determined that to achieve their strategic objective, a mechanism in the business has to be rebuilt. EXCO and the senior management team then pull in the projects/IT team to help achieve this objective.
EXCO, senior management and the Projects/IT team defines the objective; the business owner of the project; the stakeholders; the scope, and the deliverables required by the project/IT team.
Furthermore, SME’s and specific employees are identified to ensure the rebuilding process delivers the relevant functionality.
You might ask, why is the projects/IT team out of line and where is the BA? The BA falls between the strategy and the users. I say it in this manner because the BA has to know why a project is being initiated and ensure the deliverables of the project/IT team align to the users/employees who will be directly affected.
The BA should understand the strategy; the purpose; the moonshot or the reason as to why a project has been initiated. Yes, some stakeholders will push their agenda, but it lies upon the BA to filter/manage requirements/instructions and ensure the project/IT team deliver according to the strategy/purpose of the project. The BA has to align the requirements of the end users to the strategy of the business and communicate this back to the project/IT team for them to deliver.
The better you understand requirements about the strategy/moonshot, the more value you can provide. You can challenge certain requirements/changes, or you can propose requirements/changes that better align to the users need and strategy of the project. You can better determine solutions or realize requirements missed by the end user, thus ensuring a more accurate deliverable by the project/ IT team.
Producing a deliverable that does not align with the strategy or provide value to an end user can directly result in zero value for business and zero value for shareholders. Thus move away from being a note taker and move towards becoming a Business Analyst!