Monday, March 14, 2016
You Are A BUSINESS Analyst
I am a Business Analyst.
What I do is so much more than the title implies. Systems Analyst doesn't do it justice either. In my line of work, you must either know the business inside and out or get the skills that allow you to elicit a client's needs, wants, and pain points quickly and with a deep understanding. Furthermore you need to be able to take those items and translate them to features and functions that the development team can create, inside the known framework and architecture inside your organization. You need to know the up-stream and down-stream impacts on other systems and you also need to plan for the future. When you put it all together, it's an intimidating amount of knowledge and skills. At the end of the day, however, it's the business and their needs, wants, and pain points that drive our jobs as Business Analysts.
I have heard many great and not-so-great technical team members grousing about "If it weren't for the stupid users, our jobs would be so much easier." In my youthful cynicism and life as a developer, that was something I could get behind. I just wanted to get the software done. All these wants and needs and nitpicking was holding up my ability to deliver. As I have gotten more experience and a well rounded sense of what it really takes to build good software offerings for my clients, I have come to realize that internalizing that statement and making it your battle cry is a short road to failure.
If you sit down and really think about what we do as I.T. professionals in general, it should be a very short while before the truth smacks you in the head like the cold fish of reality. Our jobs exist, our careers exist, and really our technology exists, expressly to support the day to day processes which are needed to run a business. Sure, a business could try to function in this day and age without technology, but I believe even the smallest of businesses would struggle to survive and definitely struggle to grow without some investment in I.T. to support and promote them.
Too often, we techie types forget these important concepts. We just want to get the job done. We lose sight of the fact that without the business, our jobs and our very skill and knowledge wouldn't exist. The earliest analog computers were not created as an abstract exercise. The Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest known analog computer that helped compute astronomical positions and therefore aid in ships' navigation. This navigation was not undertaken for fun. Around A.D. 100, sailing great distances was a very risky commercial and/or military activity. Knowing where you were at any given time was the difference between loss of a ship and its cargo or a successful commercial venture. Having the ability to understand where you were going was the difference between reaching the beach on the shores of your enemy or accidentally invading the shores of your closest ally. When the people who built this device, and others like it, sat down to work on them, you can safely assume that business and/or military interests were on their minds. They had to take into account all the issues and concerns associated to them while designing their mechanism. Otherwise, their mechanism wouldn't have served any purpose except of an idle curiosity to play with and then set aside.
As Business Analysts, it is imperative to remember who drives your work. You must listen to and empathize with your business. A good analyst will sit down and watch users or potential users in order to see what their day is like, what matters to them, and what would make things easier. A good analyst will work with the business to find the underlying problem(s) that are driving the request that put you there in the first place. A great analyst will work with the business to determine and understand how best to solve those underlying problems and what mode those solutions should take. A really great analyst will know when to suggest non-technical solutions that the business can implement with less risk and definitely less cost. Any analyst worth their salt should then be able to take all their good business information and work with the technical team to design an efficient solution to meet all the needs and wants for the business. Through out all this, the analyst will be an advocate for the business' interests. Most importantly, they will realize that all of these processes, wants, and needs are the space in which your job is made. It's where you add value for the business and help to ensure that it not only continues to function in today's world, it grows and thrives in the future.
I will grant it that there are folks out there who design write elegant code for their own satisfaction. However, if they are paid for doing so, you can bet there was a business problem and a business process behind it all. Remember, analysts, the business is your reason for being a Business Analyst.