Are You Really a Business Analyst?

From the Bridging the Gap blog

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?”

Analysis plants the seeds of self-doubt

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.

  • You ask the tougher questions.
  • You show up as a leader on your project instead of a reactor.
  • You are going to be the one leading positive change in your organization.

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.”

3 criteria for being a business analyst

What would those three things be?

For me, it’s:

  1. Discover requirements,
  2. Analyze requirements, and
  3. Create positive change.

Pretty simple.

Simple, but not simple…

Criteria #1 – Discover requirements

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].

Criteria #2 – Analyze requirements

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.

Criteria #3 – Create positive change

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.

  • If you’ve done these on a project in the past, you are a business analyst.
  • Can you do these on project now? You are a business analyst.

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.

Get the Book

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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.

Click here to learn more about How to Start a Business Analyst Career



Real Business Analysts Don’t Play Ping Pong at Work

From the BA Times blog

real-business-analysts-don-t-play-ping-pong-at-workWritten by: Brad Egeland

I recently saw an Argentina-based ad about a non-millennial who was hired to work in a creative company with lots of ping pong and alternative work arrangements going on and he was having trouble fitting in – and oddly an adorable pug dog kept showing up in the ad and staring at him.

Knowing our Customers: Stop Icing the “Non-Cake”!

From the Adrian Reed blog

Iced cake with fruits and cream
Image Credit: © olhaafanasieva – #101935485

As regular readers of this blog will know, I travel a lot with my work. Travel inevitably involves living out of a suitcase, and staying in hotels a lot. Or rather, returning to a hotel after a long day at a client site ready to fall in to bed to recharge for the next day.


Now, the curious thing about hotels is how many seem to have been designed based on what the hotel industry thinks travellers want, as opposed to what they actually want. Plenty of very logical and plausible sounding ideas have been implemented presumably in order to enhance the customer experience. In recent years, it’s all about the scatter cushions; I lose count of the time I’ve checked in to find the bed adorned with a range of pillows and approximately 27 scatter cushions that have been thrown on the bed like confetti.


OK—perhaps I’m exaggerating (maybe it was only 17 cushions), but I’m sure I’m not alone in putting scatter cushions very low on my priority list. Yet, someone somewhere presumably thinks travellers want them—and have made the assumption that they are the priority list.   It isn’t just cushions, there are many other aesthetic items that most travellers probably won’t even notice that hotels seem to fixate on.


It seems ironic that the same hotels often fail on seemingly basic and pedestrian but very important items. One example: many hotels have a distinct lack of accessible plug sockets.  If you’re lucky there might be an isolated socket that you can just about reach if you pull out the desk (trying not to break the furniture as you do so). Now, I suspect most guests have something to charge overnight (e.g. a phone)—and with no or few sockets it is a game of plug socket roulette (I’ll unplug this one… oh no, that’s the side light. Doh!), which is never fun after a long day travelling.  It’s not just sockets—you may well have your own example or frustration from a stay at a hotel.  Aesthetics are great, but if the basic needs aren’t met they aren’t “the icing on the cake”; they are more like “icing…. with a severe absence of cake!”.  That can only lead to frustration for the customer.


I realise, of course that scatter cushions look great on the photoshopped picture that goes on the website. They look lovely on they stylised pic that goes on the corporate Instagram feed. They help sell the room.  However, if the basics aren’t up to scratch the customer will be frustrated when they visit.


What This Means for Business and Business Analysis

As BAs we act as trusted advisors to our sponsors and stakeholders.  We have a duty to facilitate and challenge, to deliver and remain curious. We are empowered to tactfully ask questions and ensure that change initiatives are strategically aligned and will enable the creation of both customer and business value.  In doing this, we need to know what customers actually value. We need to understand their priorities, what drives them, what motivates them and what frustrates them.  Accepting of course that there might be different types of customer (a family on holiday staying at a hotel will have different priorities to a business traveller), and it is important that we understand this variety and how our organisation intends to manage it (which might, sometimes, involve targeting only certain types of clients).  We do this whilst analysing and understanding a whole range of stakeholder perspectives.


It is crucial that we advocate the customer, and work with our stakeholders to understand what types of research have been conducted (or need to be conducted).  Great questions to ask can be “is this a priority for the customer?” and “what would the customer say if they knew we were doing this?”. Kano analysis can be useful and illuminating.  It’s also important that we are bold enough to surface the cold hard facts and focus on exposing root causes.  Yes a “customer loyalty card” scheme might sound a plausible way of driving up retention—but if customers are complaining about poor service, let’s address that first.  Getting the basics right is an underrated improvement opportunity that is often tricky but immensely valuable to both the customer and the business.


So, by all means, ice the cake. But only if there a cake there in the first place!


What are your views on the topics in this post? Do you have any tips, perspectives or anything to add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.   Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing! 

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About the author:

Adrian ReedAdrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

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