If you are your company’s only Business Analyst, you might have it easier than the rest of us.
Imagine that a business analyst has been assigned to write the requirements for a new system replacing the company’s legacy CRM (customer relationship management application).
After mapping out the as-is process at a high-level, the BA’s stress level starts to go up. “There are three complex modules in this system, and so many details about the as-is state that I still don’t understand! The legacy system barely has the original requirements documented, with plenty of change requests implemented later without proper documentation. How am I supposed to finish my deliverables on schedule and without mistakes given my limited knowledge of how the system being replaced works?”
Release management is still critical in a DevOps environment. You likely will just have to change your current process. You will no longer need to track implementation or back-out plans as part of change orders; you just need to be able to track the application, its components, and its promotion schedule. The key to maintaining these change orders is automation.
A BA walks into an elevator, is joined by an executive, and suddenly the executive asks the BA, “So, what are you working on these days?” (Sounds like the start of a joke …) Most business analysts, due to their project success focus, think of requirements management when questioned about their work. So the BA responds by describing the features of a business solution that the BA is currently working. The BA seldom mentions the associated business benefits with the work (i.e. why the work is vital to the business). Unfortunately, the BA ignores the first rule of conversation: know your audience. The executive asking the question is more likely to understand and be interested in the business value provided by the work, rather than the solution features.
Because we know how to analyze so well, we can analyze and criticize the work we do, and not really appreciate the skills we have.
Are you really a business analyst? Yes, you are.
Learn why today.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
Today, I want to talk about a topic really close to my heart. It’s about the self-doubt and self-criticism, and the diminishing of our own value that I see in our profession as business analysts. We don’t appreciate ourselves and then we get upset when other people don’t appreciate us. This happens because we are analyzers and we can analyze our own value until we can’t actually see the good, the positive change, and all the great work that we do.
Today’s video is prompted by a question from one of our readers. I’m going to read that and then I’m going to talk about the answer that I have to this person’s question.
“I’ve been a BA for six years now and I still don’t consider myself as a BA. Why? Well, there is a reason for this and it’s based on my personality.
You see, I’m one of those people that always looks at just how much more there is to learn. Because that sea of knowledge is so vast, I consider it to mean that I don’t necessarily know very much at all.
I have seen people come, do something once, promote themselves as an expert, get promoted, and then move on. This is something that I fundamentally cannot do, no matter how much I may want to be able to do so. Taking the above into account, my question is not about learning to be a BA, it is about being able to recognize when you are a BA.
So, without further ado, my question is as follows, are there three to five universal things that you believe if someone can identify these things in their day-to-day activity, then regardless of how they may feel about their skills, they are a BA?”
Now, I can answer this question, the direct part of the question head-on, and I will. I will talk about the three things that I think you need to be able to check off to say that you are a business analyst. But that’s not the fundamental challenge here. This question comes up in a variety of different ways from all kinds of people in our community. That fundamental challenge is that we’re looking outside of ourselves for somebody else to say,
“Hey, you, you are a business analyst. You are good enough, or skilled enough, or experienced enough to be a business analyst.”
It just doesn’t happen that way.
Yes, sometimes, there will be a point where someone will give you the job title of business analyst, and then you’ll be like, okay, I guess I’ve arrived. That will happen, but then you’ll go back to work the next day and you’ll be like, “Am I really enough?”
Until you take that inside and say, “Yes, I’m a business analyst,” it doesn’t matter what I or anybody else tells you about your business analyst skills. That’s what I think drives a lot of the certifications in our professions, it drives this learning, learning, learning, learning more in our profession.
It’s why at Bridging the Gap, all of our virtual training comes with a ‘doing’ component. You learn, and you do, because the confidence comes from the doing, and from getting the external feedback from an instructor that says,
“Yes, you did business analysis work. You did good quality business analysis work that passes the standards for this particular program.”
That is about the certificate of completion. It is about the finishing of the course, but it’s more about that confidence building that I think we need so much in our profession. We need more BAs to be more confident. Because when you’re more confident, you show up more fully.
The more confident we can make you, the better your projects are going to be, the greater your organization is going to be overall. It’s important to be able to say,
“Yes, I’m a business analyst.”
What would those three things be?
For me, it’s:
Simple, but not simple…
This is what, I think, creates this “I never know enough,” because discovering requirements, there’s so much to know. You’re always going to get better at discovering requirements. Interviews, observations, modeling sessions, brainstorming sessions – these are all different techniques that we use to discover the requirements.
The question is, can you sit down with one stakeholder and ask them questions and figure out a better way of doing things? Can you figure out what they really want? What they really need? Then, yes, you’ve met that criteria for being a business analyst.
Will you always be able to learn new techniques, new ways to handle new stakeholders with more finesse, more challenging situations, and how to deal with them with ease and grace? For sure. You’ll always be improving in this area. I’m always improving in this area. Every senior business analyst who cares about their work is improving in how well they can deal with stakeholders and discover requirements.
If you can sit down with one stakeholder and figure things out, then check [it off the list].
This is when you take what you learn, and put it into some sort of a model. Put some structure around it so that you can discover gaps so you can go back and do more discovery. This might be a business requirements document, a workflow diagram, a use case, a business process model, an entity relationship diagram. These are all examples. The list goes on and on, and on, and on, and on.
This is where we get tripped up because how can we ever know whatever there is to know? You can’t. There’s always going to be more tools to add to your BA toolbox. The important thing is that you have a toolbox. A set of techniques that you feel confident in, and that help you figure out the requirements for a project, and then check off that box, and say,
“Yes, I’m a business analyst.”
Yes, there will always be a new tool to learn. I’m still learning tools. I’m still bringing new tools into our training programs. It’s not about ever being done or ever learning enough. It’s about learning about saying, “Yes, I’m a business analyst,” because I can do these things.
Now, this is the one that trips a lot of us up because we might be able to have the conversations, might be able to analyze the requirements. Are we creating positive change in our organizations?
Are we seeing through that change to the next step? A lot of times, this is where we have this weird, not weird but, just, we step back to step forward as business analysts. We’re not the project manager (unless we are). We’re driving forward that change. We’re not stepping back at that point.
For a true business analyst, driving change might involve activities like facilitating UAT, or being a sounding board as your developers figure out the implementation solution, or walking through the new process with your stakeholders as the technology, or as the shifts happen.
You are less on the driving, and more on the facilitating and supporting at this stage. It’s so important because if we’re not creating positive change, all the discovery we’ve done, all the requirements we’ve written don’t have the impact that we want to have.
Those are the three things.
I want you to take a moment if you feel, “but, but, but,” or self-doubt or self-criticism, or “I’m not enough.”
“I’m a business analyst.”
Say, “This is the face of a business analyst.” (Not me. I know I’m a business analyst.) You. I want you to point at your face. “I am a business analyst.” Yes. Write it down if you must every day. Say it aloud in the car. I give you permission to start calling yourself a business analyst today, and not to let these other stories about other people who’ve done more or learned more, or have more expertise than you, hold you back.
The better that you can show up, the more confident you can be in your skills, the better the work that you’re going to be able to do, the more job opportunities that will come to you, and the better the impact, the bigger the impact that you’re going to have in your organization.
That’s my challenge to you.
Thank you for this question. Thank you for being a business analyst. We are here for you at Bridging the Gap to take your skills to the next level.
In How to Start a Business Analyst Career, you’ll learn how to assess and expand your business analysis skills and experience.
This book will help you find your best path forward into a business analyst career. More than that, you will know exactly what to do next to expand your business analysis opportunities.