So, what do you do, exactly?


Business analysts? How many times have you been asked what you do for a living and had to pause to think for a minute about exactly how to describe it?

“I translate business-speak to tech-speak and vice versa.”

“I help my  company apply technology to solve business problems.”

“I work with computers.”

“I’m sort of like a consultant, but internal to the company.”

“I help business folks validate their business cases, and then help IT understand what the business needs.”

“I write requirement specs for software developers.”

“I work in sort of a hybrid business/IT role to help define business problems and deliver solutions.”

“I work in IT.”

“It’s complicated.”

Those are a few approximations I’ve probably used to answer the question, “so, what do you do for work?”

Granted, some of those are cop-outs for when I just don’t feel like going into it, or I know the person asking doesn’t care anyway. The problem is, I’ve been doing this gig for a while, and haven’t really had a consistent “elevator pitch” for what exactly it is that I do.

Jeff Martin, founder of Collective Genius provides some help in his article, “You Help Companies Change.” Per Martin:

If you are practicing activities that fall within the BABOK, then what you do is very simple and only takes three words! You “HELP COMPANIES CHANGE.” …. The activities of business analysis are specifically to implement change. We change processes, products and technologies to continually move organizations forward and to make them better.

In the comments of the same article, fellow Analyst, Atlantan and Jonathan, “Kupe” Kupersmith from B2T Training adds:

When people ask me what I do, I’ll be sure to lead with “I help companies change.” This will peak most people’s interest allowing me to go deeper into exactly how I can help.

I think Kupe’s right about it being a great conversation starter. The odd thing is, that’s pretty much exactly what I told people who asked what I did when I was in consulting. I’m not sure why I didn’t cary it over as I crossed over into industry in my present BA role.

Anyway, Martin’s article is a fun, useful read and in it he has more to say on Analysts and their role as agents of change. I’d encourage you to go give it a look.

That said, what are some things you’ve told people when asked what you do? I’d be as interested in hearing the funny or weaker examples as the good ones.

Oh, and thanks to Alex Papworth (twitter) for sharing the link to Martin’s article on Twitter.


About the Author

Jonathan Babcock is a management and IT consultant with expertise in business analysis, process optimization and solution delivery methodology. Practical Analyst is his outlet for sharing what he's learned, and for interacting with solution delivery professionals across the globe.

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  1. Excellent post, Jonathan.

    Depending on whom I'm talking to, I might use "I'm a technology consultant"…you can typically tell from the facial expression if the person wants to know more or if "technology" is enough.

    I typically tell family and friends that I'm like an architect for a house … I help people decide what they want before they pay people to build it.

  2. I form relationships with business customers by communicating in order to help them change and adapt.


    Nice article Jonathan. Well worth pondering.

  3. I help companies to define how business needs should be satisfied.
    Other expression would be: "I try to make the business and technology talk the same language"

    What about I'm the "compiler of business needs?" 🙂 Not everybody would get it, but sounds good for us in the middle between the business and technology.

    Good post Jonathan.

  4. I help companies to define how business needs should be satisfied.
    Other expression would be: "I try to make the business and technology talk the same language"

    What about "I'm the compiler of business needs"?. Not everybody will get it, but sounds good for us in the middle of business and technology.

    Nice post Jonathan.

    1. Welcome to Practical Analyst, Fenano22. Good comments. Your "speak the same language" idea is quite similar to my notion of being a translator – because I don't know that they'll ever truely speak the same language!

  5. Jonathan – great post and something I have tried to explain many, many times! Laura – I always use the analogy of being the architect for a house too….however, what about the almost textbook answer of being "a bridge between business and IT"?


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