The business analyst learns to see

In 1998, I was a very young and inexperienced business analyst at Prudential Assurance, the life and pension’s company I joined shortly after University. Suddenly, I was on a million-pound programme, representing business in endless important project meetings, and responsible for an urgent need: to make sure the ‘millennium bug’ didn’t crash the IT systems.

I wasted all that opportunity. I was doing barely an inch of business analysis. I was the proverbial scribe, translator and courier running back and forth between the developers and the domain expert. Despite my greenness, the amazing team ensured everything worked post-Y2K.

Over the years since, I’ve delivered dozens and dozens of IT systems and reengineered business processes and managed strategic change for businesses large and small. I’ve worked on industry value propositions with IBM, on legacy technology replacements with Citibank, and on career competency models with IIBA. My ideas have helped shape bespoke developments, ERP implementations, organisational structures and cultural behaviour..

Mostly, the journey has involved appreciating what works and trying to make sense of what doesn’t. It’s been an ongoing experience of success and failure (lots of failure) with people, projects and organisations I care about.

And now I have a lighthouse for what business analysis is today, about the stakeholder mindset, and about enabling change. This approach is simple, but it’s not easy to embrace, because it involves perseverance, understanding, and connection.

The business analysis that has pervaded our organisations is not the sort of business analysis that you want to do. The shortcuts using time pressure to reduce the cost to produce average stuff to skim stakeholder needs are an artefact of another era, not the one we live in now.

You can learn to see how stakeholders think and decide and act. And if you enable them to become better versions of themselves, performing like they hope to, you’re a business analyst.