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Author: Tim Ward

All That Really Matters

I recently came across the following quotation that I thought was very profound:

“People will forget what you said.
People will even forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In your business life, as in your personal life, success can be measured in a lot of ways. Acquiring wealth and material possessions, and moving up the corporate ladder, are two examples. But in the end, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What is the true measure of my success?
  2. How do I want people to remember me? 

As business analysts and project managers, a primary focus should be continual interaction with people. When I first started as a BA long ago, more often than not it was face to face. Times have changed and technology has allowed human interaction to occur instantly across the vastness of space.

Regardless of how we interact with people every day, whether sitting across the table from each other or participating in a video conference call with people halfway around the world, there are countless opportunities to leave a lasting impression. Many times these impressions are minute and may be perceived by you as trivial. Yet, in the end, they can be very important in terms of how people remember you.

Here are some examples of situations I have been in. 

There have been countless times people have called upon me for help because they think I know the answer to their question. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

When I do know the answer, I don’t just give it to them and then they walk away. I make sure they really understand what I’m telling them. I take the time to educate them so they can become independent thinkers and hopefully learn how to solve similar problems in the future. 

I take a personal interest in them. I demonstrate to them that I care about them and their problem. I don’t take ownership of their problem. Instead, I give them confidence, encouragement, enlightenment and knowledge to solve the issue on their own. I develop and create a bond with them as a fellow human being because someday the roles may be reversed and I may have to seek their help. I know I can count on them for help because they know they can count on me. 

When I don’t know the answer, I provide contacts I think they can go to for help. I then ask the questioner to tell my contact that I sent them. That way the person seeking answers will hopefully feel more comfortable asking the other person for help. Knowing that they come with “credentials” also makes the other person more willing to help. They know I sent them and in the contact’s eyes that adds to the questioner’s credibility.

This sharing of one’s time and knowledge is a long-term investment. It grows and multiplies and it pays back over and over exponentially.

When we all go through the annual ritual of performance reviews, I feel very comfortable asking people for their feedback. I know they will take the time to provide honest feedback. They know me because of how I made them feel about me. 

How many times have you been in meetings and it becomes evident that the group is struggling to reach an objective. It’s not your meeting. The person facilitating is having a difficult time maintaining control of the meeting or someone in the meeting is being put on the spot and is clearly in distress. Both are in need of help.

In these situations it’s easy to let the person swing in the wind =and not get involved. But when this happens I remember the times someone came to my defense and stood with me to help me overcome my adversity.

You may have nothing to gain by sticking your head out in a situation like that, and might have something to lose. However, you don’t need to be a lifeguard to save someone from drowning. Someday you may need saving from drowning and that person you helped will remember how you made them feel and will be more inclined to extend you a helping hand when you need it most.

Sometimes it’s not what you know or what you do for someone that makes a lasting effect in terms of how they feel about you. Sometimes it’s just showing the other person you care by listening and being empathetic. Those chance and brief encounters tend to multiply over time and people’s feelings toward you grow deeper because there is a bond and kinship. 

Making a small investment of your time by getting to know others and enabling them to know you better will pay handsome dividends in the long run. Mutually, you become can count on one another to be trustworthy and reliable.

So for all you BAs and project managers out there, please keep the quote at the beginning of the article in mind as you go about your daily tasks. Every interaction you have with others, especially your stakeholders, business owners, project managers, teammates and peers, is an opportunity to build a wonderfully lasting positive impression of you. That should give you a great deal of personal satisfaction knowing how much you’re thought of by others and the positive difference you made in someone else’s life.

After all, isn’t that what life is all about? 

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The Business Analyst Commandments


  1. Eliminate ambiguity. If you can arrive at more than one understanding or conclusion, chances are so can a developer or tester.
  2. When using terminology, don’t assume everyone has the same understanding. Get immediate confirmation to avoid misunderstandings. A glossary of terms and related aliases are very helpful.
  3. Promote “plainspeak”, the use of common (English) language when describing business facts, rules, regulations, processes, data, etc. If it is necessary to document something in business or IT jargon then paraphrase its true meaning in plain English.
  4. When business or IT terms are used to describe something, always confirm the definition (e.g., when we say “transfer” we mean …).
  5. Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.
  6. Understand cultural differences within or between business organization entities and IT. It will help in following other commandments.
  7. Requirements should describe what something isn’t as well as what it is.
  8. When eliciting requirements, ask clarifying questions to confirm the requirements are being clearly captured.
  9. When eliciting requirements, it is important to identify the audience affected (e.g., line of business, products, plan types, etc.).
  10. When documenting requirements, decisions or issue resolutions, it is equally important to document the “why” as much as the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “how”. If you don’t, it is more likely that no one will remember later why we went down a certain path.
  11. When defining requirements, remember that it has to be testable. If you can’t adequately test it then the requirement is not adequately defined.
  12. There are no assumptions, only a current understanding of the facts. Use of assumptions only promotes growth of undesirable anatomical features.
  13. When writing (or speaking), put yourself in the reader’s (or listener’s) shoes. Would they really understand what I’m trying to convey based solely on the words I’ve written or spoken? Is there an unrealized expectation that they audience has some level of implicit knowledge in order to understand the subject matter?
  14. Treat your developers and technical support staff as you would like to be treated: as a trusted ally and good friend.
  15. Understand that people requiring your services as a BA don’t always know what they want and/or are unable to effectively articulate their needs. That’s why God invented BAs.
  16. As a trusted subject matter expert, people will usually believe what you say as fact, especially if you are good at clear communication. Being in this position of trust, there is an inherent risk that sometimes you may be wrong in your understanding (and are unaware[RC1] ). However, you are persuasive enough to convince everyone of this truth. You need to rely on others to be able to detect the conveyance of false truths before it’s too late.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Tim Ward is a Business Analyst with over 30 years of experience in the financial services market dealing with group retirement plans. He is also a member of the IIBA and received his CBAP certification in 2009.