These days I deliver more training classes than I attend. That’s not because I think I can’t learn anything new – I’m probably at a higher state of enlightened ignorance than I have ever been – It’s because that’s a big part of how I make a living. Thankfully, I am able to learn things in many different ways, including during conversations with people in my classes. The latest happened this week while I was teaching a class on the essentials of business analysis.
I’ll tell you what insight struck me in a bit, but first some background.
For years, business analysts have been positioned as being the liaison between business and technology. For a while a popular term was “translator” (my wife used to call me a “nerd interpreter”) meaning that a BA was required for the “business” and “IT” to talk to each other. With agile, since any team member may do some analysis, the monopoly the business analyst had on that responsibility flies out the window. Chris Matts suggested that we should think of ourselves as language coaches who teach everyone a ubiquitous language (analysis models and examples) so anyone can talk to anyone. This in effect connects the people with a problem and the people who can solve it in the most effective means possible
I was having a conversation with a couple of the attendees of my class about how business analysts have to parse information at all different levels of abstraction from extremely high level strategy speak to very in the weeds “I’ve been an underwriter for 30 years” specifics. It occurred to me during that conversation that the business analysis community has been overlooking a key responsibility that adds tons of value.
Not only do BA’s act as language coaches bringing users and the delivery team together, they also have to span the gap between very esoteric strategy, and very specific tactical information. It’s then when I drew the diagram shown with this post. Instead of a bridge, I’d argue that BA’s are really like a roundabout (also called traffic circle) that is smoothing the flow of traffic between business and technology AND between strategy and tactical. Why the analogy of a roundabout? BA’s facilitate the smooth flow of information between the different perspectives of business and technology and strategic and tactical by providing the models and analysis tools that help everyone develop and use a common language to describe the problem and possible solutions. This is analogous to the way roundabouts help smooth the flow of traffic instead of enforcing stops in one direction through stop signs or stop lights.
So what does this mean to the BA just trying to make it in today’s world? It means that BA’s should help delivery teams work with stakeholders, help strategic thinkers get a better appreciation for what it takes to solve problems and help tacticians understand how strategy impacts their day to day project decisions. The language coach not only needs to understand bizspeak and technobabble, they also need to polish their abilities to learn the different dialects of both.
Yes, I noticed that there are two dimensions of somewhat opposite values. I don’t have a 2×2 yet, but I’m mulling it over.