Wednesday, 22 August 2018 06:45

Calling All Business Analysts: You are the Wave

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Sort of like the straw that stirs the drink. Stealing a line from one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands... "In the middle of the world on a fish hook, you're the wave.".

Interesting twist, I always think. Gavin Rossdale, the main song writer and the frontman of the band Bush, is the writer and singer of these lyrics from the song “Swallowed” and he only talks about the world and the fish hook, yet he doesn't call the subject of the song any of either of these. He refers to her as the wave that makes the world and fish hook bob erratically. Interesting way of thinking outside the box for these lyrics and the perfect way of expressing this concept.

A basic, boring definition of a business analyst is this... “A business analyst (BA) is someone who analyzes an organization or business domain (real or hypothetical) and documents its business or processes or systems, assessing the business model or its integration with technology.” But does that really sum up what you're doing if you are a business analyst? Is this what you tell your friends or is it go a lot deeper than that. I've been a project manager for many years and my business analysts certainly juggle more than can be described or extracted from that generic definition.

Let's wrap this up so my point becomes clearer. The business analyst is not the people in the middle – that's the project manager, the project customer, the team. The great business analyst is really doing much more and in a way is “directing” the project – or being “the wave” that causes some of the most important tasks and processes on the project to connect and actually happen. They cause them to move forward. They do this mainly through these focused activities or project responsibilities...

Daily team touch base.

The business analyst is going to be the main touchpoint or contact for the individual project team members. It won't be like that on every project and that can vary from organization to organization, but certainly a solid business analyst is expected to be the main contact on a team level throughout the engagement. It doesn't have to be formal meetings, but checking in with the entire team is common and even providing the team with a daily status update for the project. The project manager should also be doing this – likely at a higher level and this business analyst daily call out could just be an add-on or resend with more detail or updates to that daily PM communication.

Liaison between project manager and team. 

Certainly this is probably the most common overall activity that people think of when they consider especially the communication duties of the business analyst. On a tech project that business analyst will be the one throughout who is seeking out any further necessary discussions of or detailed definitions or clarifications of specific project requirements, getting and giving project status updates to the project manager and team and ensuring that smaller details aren't falling through the cracks.


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Frequent customer interfacing.

Likely no one on the project will interface with the customer as much or as often as the business analyst – even more than the project manager. While the project manager will focus more on organizational and status activities with the project customer, the business analyst focuses more on project dynamics and what's going on at this instance sort of material and communication on the project. Requirements questions and clarifications, business process details, and anything that the tech team comes up with that needs to be asked of or passed along to the project customer.

Help the project team interface with the project customer.

To go a step further in clarifying part of the responsibility in that last item, the business analyst is going to be the primary point of contact between the customer and the individual project team members. Too much team communication between the customer and each individual project team member can lead to miscommunications, ever changing requirements, gold platting by a tech team member in over developing the project solution and an overall lack of focus for the team doing the daily project work. There needs to be a central point of contact – especially on tech projects – and the business analyst is that central contact point.

Daily touch base with the project manager.

Likewise, the business analyst will be in frequent communication with the project manager as each will likely serve as the other's go to project person. Overall project communication responsibility will always be Job One for the project manager, but it isn't far off the mark for the business analyst as well – both must be excellent and efficient project communicators, master project meeting facilitators, and great customer interfacers. Planning project next steps, key project communications and making joint decisions will always be part of the collaborative interactions that happen between the project manager and the business analyst on the engagement.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this – while the project manager is the person with the big red target on their head and holder of overall project responsibility and communication duties, the business analyst is at least their equal in all that – albeit often at a more daily, casual and even more frequent level. It is a more common situation to see a business analyst onsite with the customer 80-100% of the time than it is the project manager, who's duties can mostly be performed from a distance. Often the business analyst is going to be in more daily contact with the customer and team and probably making even more key decisions over the life of the project than even the project manager is making. They are the “straw that stirs the drink,” or in this case they are “the wave.”

Readers – how do you feel about this concept? Do you agree? If you are a business analyst, do you feel like “the wave” in the middle of a world on a fish hook? Please share your thoughts and discuss.

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Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 10, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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