You Might Be a BA If…

Jan 28, 2024
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You Might Be a BA If…

You Might Be a Redneck Business Analyst If…

Maybe you remember that old comedy show “You Might Be A Redneck If…”, well the humor associated with the truth of many of those jokes definitely brought up some parallels at a recent BA event. And while we didn’t have anyone with “15 cars in the yard and none of them run…” we did have quite a few obvious BAs in the room.

At a recent holiday party (i.e. monthly meeting with a theme) full of BAs, the new director wanted to create a little fun.

She picked a few “Would You Rather” questions to make it fun and learn a little about the team. Some of the questions were:

Would you rather:

  • Have an unlimited gift card to a restaurant or to a clothing store?
  • Be on an airplane between two arguing passengers or sit next to a screaming infant?
  • Spend the holidays on an island or at a ski resort?

In any other crowd, these would likely be three straight forward easily answered questions – but this wasn’t any other crowd, this was a room packed with 30 Business Analysts.

Immediately, as the first question was prompted, a member of the group spoke up, “Is the restaurant gift card to just one restaurant or several? And is it single use or multiuse?”

Quickly the new director chuckled as she was seeing first hand inside the minds of BAs.

We went on the next question. Arguing passengers or screaming infant? A few people gave answers pretty quickly, but most followed the answer with a clearly detailed rationale; I’ve been a parent and I’m pretty good at tuning out babies; Stick me between the arguing passengers – that would be fun, would probably egg them on; another adding, I have compassion on the parent of the screaming baby, the arguing passengers have issues they need to get over. They shared the why behind their decision and it was easy to see the logical approach in play, regardless of the reasons, driving them to their decision.

Then we came to the third question. This is where the clarifying questions really started to fly.

  • Is this an isolated island or a populated island?
  • How’s the food on the island?
  • Is there snow at the ski resort or is it off-season?
  • Is the island in a tropical climate?
  • Are there restaurants and shopping near the ski resort?

And the list went on. After everyone had their questions sufficiently answered and heard answers for everyone else’s questions, we were finally ready to vote/reveal.

This simple activity was priceless in showing what you get when asking a group of BAs what may seem like a few simple, straight forward questions. And this all ties into the BA Mindset.

During our three week BA Boot Camp we offer twice a year, we start the program with a class called “BA Mindset”. Some people naturally come in with a level of BA Mindset. These may be what I think of as the “Green” people from the True Colors analogy (you can learn more about that in my book Color By Design: Why You Do What You Do…). Others may develop the BA Mindset as they mature in the industry. Even those with the natural affinity to problem solve can benefit by refinement of techniques associate with the BA Mindset.

So what is the BA Mindset?

It’s one thing to do business analysis activities, it’s another to THINK like a business analyst.

Let’s dive into what it is to be a business analyst and how the BA mindset fits into that.

So what is a BA?

  • An individual who works with business practitioners and developers as a business problem solver
  • A liaison between the technical and business worlds
  • Someone capable of analyzing the business to identify problems and/or opportunities and to define solution characteristics
  • Someone who is not intoxicated by technology
  • Someone who is not the end user

When we think about the elements that go into explaining what a BA does, we can break them down by what it means to think like a business analyst.

  • A problem solver: This is an important part of the BA Mindset. When thinking like a BA, we are creating change – not just for the sake of change – but to solve a problem; to bring about a better result than the current state. This could be through process improvements, requirements and design for new products, features or enhancements, or even through resource or approach challenges. The mindset of a Problem Solver: If you love a challenge, like to “figure things out”, and are drawn to finding solutions, these are key characteristics attributed to the BA Mindset
  • A liaison: I used to joke that I translate English to English – you see the BA has to be good at understand the language, intention, environment and perspective of both the business stakeholders and the technical teams. These two groups rarely share effective dialog. It is up to the BA to understand the true needs of the business, not just through what is said, but through digging into what is meant. It is also up to the BA to take that business intention and translate it into language that the technical players can clearly understand, while still being clear enough to the business for them to sign-off on. Understanding the technical side in order to effectively communicate technical constraints or approaches that may not seamlessly fit with the business’ direct expectation is also a key aspect of this skillset. This liaison, or translation, ability certainly ties into the BA Mindset. Word choice and intention here is critical.
  • Analyzing to understand: This is a BIG one! A BA is trained to ask questions first and analyze BEFORE solutioning. It is too common, and natural, for people to just start solutioning without first seeking to really understand the problem or opportunity being solved for. Part of the BA Mindset is learning to delay solutioning just a bit until discovery and analysis have broken up the proverbial ground a bit. It’s very common for stakeholder to come in and say, “I need XYZ, can you write up requirements for that?” Technically you could, but you may end up writing great requirements that don’t solve the need at all, and what good is that to anyone? It is so important, even if the stakeholders THINK they know what they need, to use effective elicitation skills to uncover any alternative or supplementary context and content that will provide you a solid understanding for the need or opportunity being addressed. Then through analysis of the material and information you draw out, solutions that actually meet the need can be designed. This is a trained element of the BA Mindset – and it takes intention and practice until it becomes habit.
  • Not intoxicated with technology: To be honest, I didn’t come up with this expression. It’s a statement my former boss used to use. But the intention is a sentiment I’ve shared for a long time, and I’ve shared it with stakeholder for years as well. In my words, you should never make your work fit technology, you should make technology fit your work. In other words, don’t get so tied up on a particular technology, application or system. Figure out what you do, or need to do in your business processes, and then find a technology that can support you in your work. A BA should never be too “sold” on a technology that they seek to make business practices conform to the tech. That happens – but it’s backwards and not in the best interest for best outcomes. When you remain technology agnostic, you can write your requirement technology agnostic. Then if the organization decides to switch technology, many of your requirements are easily transferable and often still met without having to do a full rewrite.
  • A BA is not the end user: But the business analyst should be the end user’s best advocate! As a great BA, you always want to keep the end user in mind. You should have this central and even advocate for them to the business stakeholders when you make decisions around workflow, system engagement (or UX), and even design. Ultimately most systems should make the user’s job easier, not harder. And, what good is a system that nobody uses – so the better experience you can create for the end users the better. This also means keeping in mind what is important to those end users. Often the applications we design are not the focus of their primary jobs, but supportive applications. What does the end user really want to be spending their time doing while on the job? How can our choices, as the BA, help them do just that? BAs should always keep a customer-centric mindset, and this is just one more element that goes into the greater Business Analyst Mindset.

So there you have it – you might be a BA if…

You might be a BA if… you have more clarifying questions than there are options presented.

You might be a BA if… you tend include the “why” (aka rationale) behind your decisions while expressing them

You might be a BA if… you focus first on asking questions and resist jumping to solutioning

You might be a BA if… you can think about any activity in form of a workflow model

You may be a BA if… you seek out process improvement in your personal life

I’d love you hear your “You might be a BA if…” statements. Please share in comments below (must be logged in).

Thinking like a BA has a lot of advantages in a variety of environments and roles even outside of business analysis. If you’d like to explore more of the best practices involved in being a Best-in-Class BA, check out my book The Ways of a Business Analyst wherever books are sold online.


Author: Jessie Perez

Jessie Perez CBAP, is a speaker on BA topics. She is also the founder and president of We Speak Color Inc. (WSC), an IIBA Certified Business Analyst Professional, Academy Trainer and Coach for the Business Analyst profession, Lean Six Sigma Certified GB, established a BA Community of Practice within HCA and is the Author of the books "Color By Design: Why you think what you think...", and “The Ways of a Business Analyst”. Jessie is also a Certified Temperament Consultant and holds a BS in Global Business from Regent University.

 



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