The role of the business analyst (BA) is defined in a variety of ways. The BA, in the broadest sense, analyzes the processes of a business, how those processes might be enhanced by technology and/or systems, and makes recommendations for the integration of those processes with technology. The BA, in the course of his duties, serves as an intermediate among those with a horse in the race, ensuring that all relevant parties understand how all the elements of the analysis come together to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to resolve the problem.
All too frequently, the business analyst is defined by the company he works for, rather than the other way around. Many organizations perceive the business analyst as having very little business knowledge, but a wealth of technical expertise in IT systems or architecture. Other companies share the opposite view, seeing the analyst as business savvy but IT illiterate.
The successful business analyst is the analyst that defines himself rather than allowing the company to define him and limit his role. For the business analyst to achieve his maximum potential, he must become a generalist, competent in a variety of roles.
Defining Your Value
This is best accomplished by honing a variety of skills and broadening your educational background, then augmenting your skills and education with a wide range of work experience in various jobs and diverse industries.
This triple threat … proven skills, a broad educational background and a diverse work history, will enable you to see what is commonly referred to as the “big picture”. In other words, define your value via a demonstrable ability to understand the company you work for from various angles.
All your efforts to add value—your enhanced skills, your broad education, and your diverse job history, will be for naught if you allow management to perceive you as nothing more than a bridge! Yes, you know it’s true! Management often views the BA as little more than an intermediary, an information highway or worse yet, a referee. It is your job to alter this paradigm or be consigned forever to the tired old management view of your role.
What Can I Do?
Here are 3 commandments you need to follow. These will add value and alter management’s image of the business analyst’s role.
- You shall not covet your territory — instead … enlist others in the pursuit of information needed relative to the task at hand. Assume a role that more closely approximates that of a mentor or coach by offering guidance on what questions need to be asked. Share your knowledge of how to elicit the information necessary by including your team in any elicitation sessions you are conducting.
- You shall make analysis your first priority — by allowing the information to flow from a variety of sources; you will have more time to focus your analytical skills on determining your project’s genuine needs. You will place yourself in a better position to see what additional information is required to close any gaps. From your new vantage point, you will have a clearer vision of how your project may overlap or impact other projects. Spend more time considering the possible barriers to a successful rollout and find the appropriate solutions to overcome those barriers.
- You shall assume a vanguard position — in any discussions regarding potential solutions, be prepared to offer yours. Abandon the notion that your role is a simple focus on requirements. It is paramount that you make your involvement in determining solutions an integral part of your role. Never lose sight of the fact that in the final analysis (no pun intended), management is looking for solutions. Logically, if you are not participating in developing solutions, you are not adding value to your role and, more to the point; you are not raising your profile. Think about this in the context of a doctor visit. Do you want a doctor that just tells you that you have pneumonia, or do you want a doctor that tells you that you have pneumonia and provides you with a prescription for the cure? Naturally, you want the latter and management will appreciate a similar approach in your BA role.
The role of the business analyst continues to evolve. It is in your best interests and, the best interests of the firm you serve, to aid and abet the evolution. As long as you continue to view your role as a “bridge” or liaison, so will management. Of course, there will still be times that you will need to act as a bridge, but never allow this to become your dominant role.
It is important to understand that none of the “commandments” offered earlier are intended to displace or minimize the BA’s responsibility for elicitation, as well as analyzing, specifying and validating requirements.
Enhance your value by demonstrating your competencies as an analyst and an advisor.
For example: Leverage any lull in activity by
- Exploring ways to save your company money
- Reevaluating vendor contracts to be better prepared for negotiations when they are up for renewal
- Ensuring that your existing business processes are documented
- Creating a company-wide project list to serve as an inventory of all initiatives in progress
- Exploring the possibility of assisting in other company initiatives (sales, for example)
- Putting a system in place to prioritize new projects based on return on investment or other relevant criteria
- Evaluating and comparing your competitor’s product or service to your company’s product or service can yield a cornucopia of new project ideas
- Evaluating and defining your business architecture
- Updating or creating your requirements template
- Conducting a comprehensive evaluation of current capabilities can reveal new opportunities for cost savings or for revenue generation … or both
Management is almost certain to appreciate your proactive approach which will further serve to raise the business analyst’s profile.
Finally, you must never lose sight of the core objective for any BA: solving problems for your company.
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