business analysis; metaphor; mental model; GPS; Project GPS;

The Community Blog for Business Analysts

Ronak Sanghavi
Ronak Sanghavi

A New Metaphor for Business Analysis

Current State

For many years now, the most commonly used metaphor on Business Analysis has been the “Bridge”. However, in recent past, some in the BA community have started revisiting the metaphor resulting in a debate on how relevant it is. Of course, the value business analysis can provide for an organization does not depend on how it is described. So does that mean we should ignore this debate? I don’t think so. A metaphor is a powerful tool to develop useful mental models, and efficiently create possibilities for value-creation.

My take on this debate is that both sides are right. This is so, because the state of business analysis is not uniformly mature across countries and work cultures. For instance, BAs in North America are more likely to find the “Bridge” metaphor limiting/restrictive because of how the role has matured in the past decades. On the other side, for most BAs in emerging economies the “Bridge” metaphor still provides aspirational value.

So, what is behind my ambivalence? Most common interpretation of the metaphor is that it connects business and IT stakeholders. My take is that it is a bridge between the problem domain (current state) and the solution domain (future state). This take on the “Bridge” metaphor is not limiting, because it includes all levels of business analysis maturity - from strategy analysis to solution evaluation, and everything in between.

A New Metaphor

Not that there is anything wrong with a debate, but it is time for a new metaphor. I would like to share with the BA community a metaphor which has shaped my business analysis journey, especially in the past 5 years since I co-founded a business analysis startup. I look at business analysis as a “GPS” to move from the current state to the desired state. In other words, it guides stakeholders to achieve project success and organization goals. This metaphor is more inclusive (represents all flavors of BA role) and accurate (represents full potential of the discipline).

Let us look at the elements (features) of the conventional GPS system, which make it so useful; and how business analysis aligns with them.


#

GPS Feature

How Business Analysis aligns with GPS Feature in Projects

0

MAP – a useful representation of the landscape

· Build a representation of the business and IT landscape through research and analysis of industry; market forces, including competition; organization; operations; and current IT systems

1

CURRENT LOCATION – ability to determine current location in the context of the MAP

· Provide appropriate context for a project by customizing and sharing with stakeholders the relevant business and IT landscape

· Define current state of the problem domain, and frame the problem statement

2

DESTINATION – assistance to select destination, e.g. a highly rated Point of Interest

· Help organizations prioritize IT investments through business cases

· Facilitate definition of the desired state through solution scope and requirements specifications

3

NAVIGATION – real-time navigation to help reach destination most efficiently

· Facilitate selection of the best solution to meet requirements

· Facilitate shared understanding of requirements through requirements transition, continuous communication, traceability and change management

· Identify, engage, collaborate and coordinate with stakeholders; and support them to achieve desired solution

 

Any single feature, from the list above, is useful by itself. The “GPS” metaphor on business analysis is inclusive and aspirational enough regardless of the maturity of the BA role in a country, work culture, organization, or even an individual project. Furthermore, by symbolizing the positive global impact GPS has had on humanity, this metaphor helps us quickly and robustly communicate the power and value of the business analysis discipline.

My Experiments with this Metaphor

The “GPS” metaphor is not just a concept, which I made up for the purpose of writing this article. This mental model has fueled my passion, and shaped how I have approached business analysis in the latter part of my career. In fact, all service and solution offerings of my company are built on this mental model. I have received favorable and instant acceptance of this metaphor every time I have pitched my company’s solution portfolio to potential clients. I have also received positive feedback in training and coaching interactions from individuals when I have used this metaphor to provide more clarity about business analysis.

Your turn

I would love to hear your views on this. I hope that your active and constructive participation in this dialogue will not only help me crystallize my thoughts on this topic, but also give the BA community a new metaphor to actuate and communicate the potential of our profession.


This entry was published on Jun 25, 2017 / Ronak Sanghavi. Posted in Business Analysis, Roles and Responsibilities. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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COMMENTS

Jijo posted on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 12:49 AM
I absolutely agree with you! The GPS metaphor basically takes one through all the Steps of a BA. As a Business Systems Analyst just starting out in this field, I really appreciate this. Thank you for Sharing.
sambhav posted on Thursday, September 7, 2017 6:12 AM
nice post
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sambhav posted on Thursday, September 7, 2017 6:12 AM
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flipdiving posted on Monday, September 25, 2017 3:14 AM
Thank you for your sharing. Thanks to this article I can learn more things. Expand your knowledge and abilities. Actually the article is very practical. Thank you!
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