We’re Business People First

“We need to remember that we’re business people first.”

Those are among of the first words of wisdom imparted by my former employer’s incoming CIO to the IT organization, and they’ve been on my mind since. First, I appreciated her emphasis on business literacy throughout IT. Second, I felt some validation in that I’ve long thought that way about my own role as a business analyst/business analysis manager even though I report through the “IT side”.

Business analysis is a business discipline. Yes, business analysis is a business discipline.

It’s great to have technical skills and literacy. They give us credibility in our interactions with our solution delivery team members, and are useful in helping provide the business with an idea of what is possible or practical through technology, but business analysis is, first and always, a business discipline.

Analysts don’t enable “IT” solutions, they implement business solutions with business value to meet business goals. Because of the ubiquity of technology in business, solutions typically include a technology component, but they are driven by a business problem and intended to produce a business benefit.

Technology, and, by extension, the IT department, is often viewed simply as a tool of the business, or even as a disconnected entity from the business. Our reporting structures often don’t do much to shake that perception.

With all that, I’ve found value in shifting my own perception of my role from a service provider to that of a partner or trusted business adviser. I try to approach my relationships with business stakeholders as a partner who brings value to the business relationship, not as a subservient or separate entity with separate motivation, and goals. I’ve found that as I approach my role in that way, my business stakeholders begin to treat me in kind.

Beyond that, the most successful business analysts I’ve known (and I know many!) are experts in business. By that, I mean expert in the generalities of what is required for business to work, and in the specifics of the business or market in which his/her company competes. They speak process and human factors with the same fluency as they talk technology and systems. Business literacy is a foundational attribute of a successful business analyst!

So if you haven’t gotten the gist of this post, let me conclude with this: Business analyst – with all the other IT or business enabling roles – is a business role.

“BAs don’t enable ‘IT’ solutions, they implement business solutions with business value to meet business goals.” – Click to Tweet

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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6 Comments

  1. Great article, Jonathan. I completely agree with your point-of-view; we really need to dispel the myth about a BA being closely associated (or only associated) with IT projects. There is no better time to do this now, while the role of a BA getting more recognized and clarified. For a business analyst the first order of business is business. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Yamo! I appreciate the comment.

      Even when a BA typically works on IT/software projects, it’s important to look at outcomes in terms of business value instead of just, “did we give the customer what they asked for?” That’s the easy way out. A good BA doesn’t just rely on the business stakeholder to know the business (you know, because we’re “IT”), but helps stakeholders through the process of discovery and analysis – providing insight and business expertise – to ensure the best business outcomes.

      One of the complications that comes with the BA with the IT blinders on is that every solution is approached in terms of what we must do with our software and systems instead of also considering people and process as well. This can result in over-engineered systems and sub-optimal solutions across the board. Anyway….

      BTW – love the turn of phrase – “For a business analyst the first order of business is business.”

  2. I just started reading Love Works by Joel Manby. Joel provides an approach and real life examples of how to implement a “people first” culture in any business environment. I highly recommend this book.

  3. The way I see it, the role of a BA is essentially a matter of understanding and facilitating resolutions to problems. So, perhaps business analysis is neither a business nor an IT role, but a problem-solving role.

    How so? Well, not all resolutions to business problems involve technology; and not all resolutions require acumen of the particular business (in my opinion). The common denominator for all resolutions is problem-solving.

    I believe Business Analysts ought to serve as partners to both the business and the solutions team.

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