You Have Got to Be Lazy to Be an Effective Business Analyst


Before I get into trouble with the title, let me qualify the word lazy. In my mind, lazy has both a positive and negative connotation.

Negative: - Avoid all work where possible.


Positive: - Avoid all unnecessary work needed but still complete the task successfully.


And before your boss starts baying for my blood let me assure you that my title refers to the latter.


We are nothing if not sedentary creatures, notwithstanding the fact that our biochemistry and physiology have been specifically evolved on the basis of obligatory and daily physical exertion in order to survive. However, we have learned, through intellect and skill, to create a highly mechanized and technologically advanced civilization. It was by flexing our brains, arguably the ultimate human muscle, that we arrived at a point where we no longer need exert ourselves as our ancestors did. A small detour, on the way home to the supermarket to get our daily ration of calories, has replaced the need to chase down a fleet-footed antelope. And so it is, while some people are out training to compete in ultra-marathons of horrifying distances exceeding even 100 meters or more, I am at home attempting to lasso the TV remote using nothing but my headphone cable. (I jest, but not entirely.)


You see, I am a business analyst (BA), and more precisely the lesser-spotted, lazy beta alpha, the evolutionary pinnacle of my profession, at the tip of the BA spear. While the work of throwing or stabbing with the spear requires an effort by the arm that wields it, I prefer the sharp bit to do the work for me. In other words, doing as little as possible apart from…well, being sharp. While the sharp bit does all the work I am able to still the get the glory and recognition of a job well done. While the spear tossers return with painful shoulders, weary and, hopefully sometimes with a degree of success.


The first and most powerful weapon in the lazy BA’s arsenal is verbal communication. And the most productive form is face-to-face. I do not mean use one-on-one interviews to elicit requirements. Unlike predatory animals that must work terribly hard for a bite, you want people in herds. Interviews take too much documenting and running between individuals to gain mutual consent. That’s lots of hard work. Put all the people in one room and facilitate the discussion. That way you can get their mutual consent in one session and if necessary you only need to document the results once – and only once. It saves you having to regularly write stuff down which can become ever so tedious.


They didn’t teach me in BA school to be as lazy as I am today. It was only through hard work, dedication and focus that I realized, after progressing through the evolutionary phases of becoming a BA, that laziness was, in fact, its crowning glory.


And all of this made me realize what it is we’re really striving towards: doing as little as possible for as much as possible. You may say that is, in essence, the fundamental philosophy upon which Western economic culture has been created. And if the credit crunch and the market crashes, depressions, and YouTube millionaires have taught me anything, it’s that the system works as evidenced by its stubborn refusal to simply die.


But how could we harness this potent force? 

And then it struck me. I remembered a phrase from my youth, a phrase that emanated from that doyenne of correctness, the Air Force. The 6 Principles, according to the Air Force, are Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.


Now performance and laziness may be diametrically opposed on the analysis dashboard of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Physical Activity Questionnaire yet to be top loafers, unrivaled sluggards, and dazzling slouches; we must first be excellently prepared. It is in this single area that we will separate ourselves from the common sloth, the recurrent idler, the regular layabout, those identified in my negative definition of lazy I outlined upfront.


The 6 Ps for the wastrel BA demand an energetic devotion to ensuring objectives are clear upfront, researching and researching some more through document analysis, observation, competitive analysis, and market research with customers. This commitment to vibrant inactivity must thereafter extend to effective prioritization, making vitally clear – I repeat vitally clear – what you do not have to do, breaking the rest down into the smallest possible exertion, negotiating as much as possible, clarifying results from every eked effort, and finally securing agreement from sponsors and project managers.


Your indolent friends will be the 5Ws and the H as you ask, for each and every task:


  • Why the deliverable is required;
  • What the task or deliverable is actually going to be used for;
  • Who knows what we need to know to complete this task or deliverable;
  • When it must be done;
  • Where it will be accomplished; and
  • How you will elicit it.

This will lead you to work smarter during the project, exercising the only muscle the lesser-spotted, lazy beta alpha concedes should be worked, your brain. Scrupulous attention to these details allows us to elicit requirements. We neither gather nor scribe the damned things, we manage the scope to focus on only the objectives and leave the nice-to-haves for the nitwit newbies, and, if we must write something down, make sure it is only what is absolutely and immediately necessary.


Being lazy is, unfortunately, a full-time job and I’m afraid you will find the onerous requirements continue. You will have to work smarter during projects too. And that means knowing stuff.


The next step is the important step in avoiding unnecessary work. After the 5Ws and H exercise you can eliminate all tasks involving stuff you already know. Now we must do the following:


You are left with the tasks that show you what you don’t know yet. Ask yourself: “What do I need to know next to complete the current step?” Then, most importantly, is for you to figure out who knows what you don’t know but need to know in order to complete the current step. Then ask the people who know what you don’t know. It saves you asking people who don’t know what you need to know and will only increase your workload. Now ensure you understand what’s needed to complete current steps and only document necessary information. And you may want to read these three points one more time; it can get a little confusing.


Repeat the above steps until you know everything you need to know to successfully complete each of the tasks or steps to complete your work.


To be professionally lazy requires an unerring commitment to doing as little as possible which is why it is crucial to always ask yourself: why am I doing this? Is it absolutely necessary? Does it meet objectives? You must consistently check whether or not any activity is worth doing.


If you’ve made it this far I must commend you on your extraordinary talent. You are a gifted moocher. If you are prepared to put in the effort needed to read this in the quest to learn how to do less then please promote yourself to the lesser-spotted, lazy beta alpha.


But alas, your work is not yet complete. As now you prepare (remember the 6Ps) for the next project because, having proven your successful slacker talent, your boss will undoubtedly require your best efforts once more. So, ask yourself: what lessons have I learned? What worked? What failed and caused me effort to fix? What could have been done differently (i.e. better or with less effort), and complete the feedback loop to yourself to ensure you do no unnecessary work in future. That’s important because as a lesser-spotted, lazy beta alpha we must constantly evolve and perfect our sacred laziness.

Robin GraceAuthor: Robin Grace, Principal Consultant, IndigoCube


Robin has been involved in Business Analysis for over 20 years and is well known for his presentations on various aspects of Business Analysis and his passion for the profession.  Robin is the Principal Consultant BA Practice at IndigoCube South Africa and works as a consultant, mentor, and instructor in the Business Analysis arena.


Robin was a member of the team selected by the IIBA and PMI to create a White Paper Titled “Partnering for Project Success: Project Manager and Business Analyst Collaboration”.  He has published a book titled “Aligning Business Analysis, Assessing Business Analysis from a Results Focus”, which looks at the results required for a successful Business Analysis engagement. 

Robin is a CBAP and is BA Certified from B2T Training (USA) an IIBA Endorsed Education Provider. Robin was the first person in South Africa to achieve this certification which requires a demonstration of practical analysis skills.

Robin contributed to the book “Business Analysis for Dummies” and was included in an article “10 BA Revolutionaries that Change your life”, Robin being the only one of 10 from Africa. 

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Gordon Mullan posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 3:44 AM
Excellent article, and I whole-heartedly agree (and aspire to the same goal). However, I think you mean "elicit requirements", not "illicit requirements" ;-)
alignba posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 1:25 AM
@gmullen I am so embarrassed the “Illicit” slipped through, as I am known for telling people “spell it with an “E” because if you use an “I” it means something totally different. Sorry
Gordon Mullan posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 3:25 AM
No problem. Typos can happen to the best of us - still a great article :-D
Adrian M. posted on Monday, April 24, 2017 12:09 AM
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