But your approach is the hot seat

And you’re in it.

Once you take the posture, once you commit to helping people change, to take them on a journey from here to there, from the ‘as-is’ to the ‘to-be’, then you’re in the hot seat.

In the hot seat to lead.

In the hot seat for what the journey ahead brings.

Is it any wonder we’d prefer to spec average stuff for average people? If all you do is offer a straightforward option, it’s a safe path. This is the best we’re prepared to do.

On the other hand, great business analysis is the generous and audacious work of saying, “I see a better option, let me show you.”

When you know what you stand for, you get to do the work

Debra Paul has written half a dozen wonderful books that humanise the too-often industrialised craft of business analysis.

In Business Analysis, she makes it clear that if were merely trying to define the IT elements, we’re doomed to a lifecycle of looking in the rear-view mirror. We’ve nothing but an information system in the making, always wary of our predicted benefits. We’ve no choice but to be driven by function, focused on maintaining or perhaps slightly increasing our competitive advantage.

The alternative is to expand your scope and build your authority, the arc of change you seek to enable. This is a productive stance, one based on opportunity, not function.

Now you have found your stakeholders, where do you want to take them?

Debra shares six principles that good business analysts live by; if the principles you’re living by (and leading others by) doesn’t do these things for you, you might need to dig deeper and find better principles. Ones that are more authentic and more effective. Good principles:

  1. Address the root cause of business problems, not symptoms.
  2. Recognise that IT systems should enable opportunity for improvement.
  3. Challenge pre-determined solutions and identify business options.
  4. Evaluate feasible and contributing requirements, not meeting all requests.
  5. Support the entire business change lifecycle, not just requirements definition.
  6. Recognise and negotiate conflicting stakeholder views, not avoidance.

HT: Debra Paul

“You could go to anyone, and we’re anyone”

Imagine an online travel company.

One approach is to find the best destinations with the best prices and sell package holidays to anyone who needs a break.

There are problems with this.

First, if anyone can package holidays the way you package holidays, then a competitor a short click away will take half of your business—more than half, if they reduce their price.

Second, and more important, no one needs a package holiday. It’s a desire, not a need.

So why should people care?

Perhaps that customer does want the best airfares, hotel tariffs and rates for every other thing. They want the all-inclusive holiday package which includes most of their meals, as well as drinks. It’s easy to budget for. Bang for buck. And they can spread the cost over several months.

Perhaps the customer wants convenience. They want to remove the stress by taking the minimal planning path. They’re prepared to pay a premium price for the luxury of having a high-quality holiday organised for them by the expert. Zero headache.

Perhaps it’s a status symbol. That there’s an impressive portfolio to choose from with bucket-list destinations all over the world. Plus the tailor-made itinerary means that they’ll get an experience they wouldn’t otherwise do if they were to book independently

Any of these perspectives and transformations are available to the travel agent as soon as they decide to make a stand.

But knowing the perspective your customer holds is insufficient. You still have to act on it, open up the door to the opportunity, and model the entire system around that perspective.

This is the approach that helps people understand that you are remarkable, and this is the approach that makes things better.

The paper vacuum

When you do something that others do, when it’s something that we can easily get on Upwork, on Indeed or on LinkedIn, there’s some squeeze.

It’s the squeeze of knowing that you have no competitive advantage. It’s the pressure of knowing that if you raise your asking price enough to earn a decent income in return for the effort you put into your work, we’ll just haggle or find somebody else who will do it cheaper.

New entrants, substitute products, and the bargaining power of buyers and suppliers; when the availability of a more affordable option is a step away, we’re not afraid to step.

Writing use cases from a process that already exists is easy. Engaging with peoples desires and needs, helping them to see further, raising their expectations—that’s the tricky work we signed up to do.

From now on, your stakeholders know more about the business than you do. And so your paper work, no matter how much effort you put in, is not enough.

The system’s down

“System” is a special word. Probably the most overused and abused word in our business lexicon. Bandied about, in multiple contexts, the word itself doesn’t tell us much.

“The system’s down”, they say.

So what’s the problem?

Is the hardware or the input device broken?

Or is the network offline? Is bandwidth usage heavy?

Could the database be corrupted, or the data be incorrect?

What about the person? Are they using “the system” correctly?

Perhaps the documentation—the forms and manuals—are out of sync?

Possibly the procedures, guidelines, and scripts are dated and no longer relevant?

Maybe it could be the software? Does the computer program have a logic or control issue?

Systems comprise systems. A hierarchy of components, layered like a set of Russian Dolls, coming together to accomplish an outcome. Operating systems roll-up into information systems roll-up into business systems roll-up into industry systems.

So tell me, what part of the system isn’t working?