What exactly do BAs do? How do they add value? And, could invisibility be terminal to the profession? Christina Lovelock MBCS, Business Analysis Leader, author and director of the national BA Manager Forum, hosts a panel discussion for BCS, exploring the nebulous nature of business analysis and to find out how practitioners are truly adding value.

 

Christina is joined by speakers:

  • Debra Paul, Managing Director of Assist KD
  • Linda Parker, successful BA and BA Europe BA of the year
  • David Beckham, BA public speaker

The main talking points:

Do BAs add value or offer value?

Linda Parker: In so much as it’s difficult to understand our own value or our own contribution, it's difficult for other people sometimes, because we quite often come in to help them add to their own value for whatever they're doing... We're quite often coming into help people dig deeper into ideas; to understand the complexities of a business problem; to understand the direction they need and to help people shape their ideas and to push them along.

Debra Paul: I think the BA superpower is that we can take an abstract, high-level view that focuses on outcomes, whilst also being able to dig into the detail. And there's not many disciplines that I think have both of those angles. I think being a mediator is certainly part of it, but I think it’s also the ability to say “What are we trying to achieve here? Have you considered other possibilities?”

One of the things that I think a BA can really bring, as a contribution, is the ability to offer ideas for other options and to open up the discussion, looking at things in quite positive way. I'm one of those people that just does this, so I also believe that we're there to help people analyse and learn.

Are BAs invisible? Is their invisibility doing them a disservice?

David Beckham: Sometimes you have to be happy being invisible, because a lot of the time you're working in the background - you're working in the middle - you're asking that question that nobody else would ask and possibly no one else will remember. We deliver a lot of things that are actually quite subjective, not stuff that you can kick or pick up. Sometimes as a BA, you have to accept the fact that the only time you get noticed is when things have gone right and that even then, they may not know [your contribution].

We perhaps have allowed ourselves to become too Invisible. We then find it difficult to get back on to that forum and say “Well, hang on a minute. We actually are adding clarity and getting rid of the risk.” It's a double-edged sword. I think a lot of the time we are invisible because we're doing things in the background, but it can go too far.

Is business analysis a continually evolving role?

Linda Parker: I’ve recently been working with external stakeholders over Zoom. We’ve spent a lot of time with them and they found working with the BA and a UX team extremely useful in understanding business process and workflow, needs and wants.

We've actually also done some training in the world of content writing as well, which is straying outside of our remit slightly, but it goes to the measure of needing to constantly learn new techniques and new things to keep you on the edge of what is needed by your stakeholders.

Debra Paul: One of the risks to business analysis is the fear of adaptation to context within the BA community. There's a fear that if I try and actually focus on what is a good thing to do here - what is the right thing to do and I'm not following the method and the rules - then actually somehow I can be criticized. But I actually think that just undermines us, because If all they're doing is ‘cooks following a cookbook’, then anybody can do that. Where we really are bringing extra is having the analytical ability to use it... understanding there are ideas and concepts coming through and then reflecting and thinking how can I apply it in different contexts.

On clarifying what a BA should do...

Debra Paul: So, we do need the BA practice leads to act, to be setting our stall out in terms of the service we offer and the value proposition. To say “This is the contribution that we can make in this situation,” and then to have a comms strategy to make sure they get that out to those internal stakeholders. That's really what needs to happen.

David Beckham: I just think sometimes, if we if we put ourselves too much in that requirements box, we lose the ability to go into transformational change or even Tuckman's team development model. That's a people model. That's where a BA can come in and say “It’s okay guys to be arguing at this point, you will feel conflict you will feel uncomfortable.” You're actually helping people through change and not necessarily the requirement.

So, I wonder if there's an opportunity here for us to say we're not leaving that part behind, but we're looking out a bit more to say, “Actually we're about transformation and change rather than the project requirements”.