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The Accidental Business Analyst

A Business Analyst drawing a chartI have a good friend who is a business analyst — in name only. She was given the title because her organization was installing SAP. The powers that be decided that she fit the bill for the role that is apparently defined in SAP as "Business Analyst". As a result, my friend was anointed business analyst and the world continued to turn on its axis as if nothing had happened. Actually, therein lies the issue. Not only was it as if nothing had happened, as far as my friend knew, nothing did happen. She received no training in what it means to be a business analyst. She was given no responsibilities that even remotely resembled those commonly associated with business analysis in today’s world.

She came to me (whom she knew as an avid golfer who happened to teach business analysis courses) to ask what a business analyst actually is. Unfortunately for her, after she found out what a business analyst was supposed to do, her company refused her request to become trained as a business analyst. Apparently, she already had too many years in the position to qualify for training. Go figure.

What Does this Have to Do with You?

Recalling this episode (which happened a few years ago) got me thinking about you. That is, about other people out there who might have the title of business analyst but don’t know what it is that they are supposed to be doing. We do have the results of our survey published in a video titled, "An Introduction to Business Analysis Techniques" that might give you a clue. Unfortunately, that survey talks about things like Model Process Requirements, Facilitate Requirements Workshops (a.k.a. JAD), and Write Use Cases. It dawned on me that unless you were at least minimally aware of the field of business analysis, these words would mean nothing to you. I know definitively that these tasks would mean absolutely nothing to my friend.

The Other Side of the Equation

Then there is the inverse situation. How many of you out there are doing the kinds of things that typical business analysts do, but do not have the title? You may be a business analyst and not even know it! If you don’t know that you are a business analyst, you might not know where to go to on the web for help, what kind of training would help you advance your career, who offers that training, and on and on. So, I decided (inspired by the way, by a suggestion from another friend — whereby you can deduce that I have a lot of friends, as in at least 2), I decided to offer you a work aid, aka: cheat sheet. Based on the idea shamelessly stolen from Jeff Foxworthy, I would like to present the following tests to help you determine if you are, indeed a business analyst. Before we start, I want to clarify that the list contains only a few seeds that with your help (see below for details) will ultimately grow an entire crop of tests for future budding business analysts.

You Might Be A Business Analyst If . . .

  • not even your closest friends can figure out what it is that you do — after you’ve explained it to them five times.
  • you have drawn a process flow of how to prepare breakfast — and convinced your spouse to try it.
  • your CPA thinks you are too detail-oriented — and even your doctor thinks you overanalyze everything.
  • your spouse compares you to a 5-year-old because you constantly ask questions.
  • you have received death threats from end-users because the system you wrote the requirements for doesn’t do what they want it to do.
  • you know what a Zachman is.
  • you are really good at creating a shopping list but expect your significant other to do the shopping.
  • you know the difference between what you know you know, what you know you don’t know, what you don’t know you do know, and what you don’t know you don’t know.
  • you created a list of 10 requirements that your new wrist watch had to meet — and tested them all in front of the jeweler.
  • you are constantly correcting how people say things to help them figure out what they really mean.
  • you create a question file to take with you when you go shopping for a new car.
  • you know that the term "constraint" does not necessarily refer to handcuffs and "elements" are not only found on the periodic table.
  • you measure pool temperature and chemical balance in your pool before jumping in.
  • you reformat the instructions to assemble your toddlers princess castle into a use case.
  • you think that a 1-to-many relationship is a good thing — and many-to-many relationships are also acceptable under the right circumstances.

Beyond these simple beginnings, I ask you, dear reader, to finish the sentence "You might be a business analyst if . . ." in your own words. Please add a comment to submit your ideas or email me at Tom.Hathaway@ba-experts.com.