• RichYarnold

Do You Even BA Bro?

I am an inquisitive person by nature. As a kid I used to take things apart to see how they were made and how they worked, before putting them back together with varying degrees of success. One time I took apart the rear brake mechanism on my brand-new mountain bike to make it tighter so I could do better skids. The problem was I didn’t have the right tools to fix it, so I ended up with a bike that only had a front brake. To stop, I either had to stick my feet on the floor or pull the front brake and risk going over the handle bars. I’ve still got scars in my mouth from the bust lips after attempting the latter.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been involved in loads of different projects and changes, each one different but all requiring the same set of core skills – the ability to understand the underlying problem or opportunity, the ability to assimilate information and the ability to communicate with stakeholders. To further simplify, it is all about being inquisitive and effectively communicating your findings.

This inquisitive nature has never left me and I still enjoy the challenge of breaking things down to find out how they work, whether that’s a process, an IT system or even a person. It’s a trait that has served me well in my career, particularly in my role as a Business Analyst.

Early in my career I believed that the path to success was to specialise in something. Everyone in my social circle was a specialist – a Teacher, a Policeman, a Management Accountant and a Software Developer. I was worried about being considered a generalist and jack of all trades. I (wrongly) assumed this would make me easily dispensable and unattractive to employers and wanted to apply a label to my skill set and experience. I stumbled into the Business Analyst role, not realising at the time that it would give me the label I was looking for, while still providing me the breadth of opportunity I find energising.

In my experience, the role of the Business Analyst is described as quite narrow on paper but is very broad in practice. On paper there appears to be a split between technical BAs and Process or Functional BAs. The former primarily dealing with system change that requires an understanding of how systems interact (blurring the lines between the BA and Solution Architect role). The latter being dealing with process or organisational change.

The job descriptions I have seen appear to suggest Organisations think they want one or the other and the job descriptions they put out contain the same things – ability to gather requirements, understand system interactions, strong communication and stakeholder management skills etc etc. It leads to a preconception that the Business Analyst role is a specific role with a narrow skill set, focus and set of objectives.

In practice, I have found it is a role that can be applied to a thousand different scenarios. When someone asks what I do for a living, and I try to describe the BA role to them, I struggle to be specific. “I help organisations understand what changes they want to make,” is about the best description I can give.

I am (currently) a Business Analyst. That’s what my job title says, but I see myself more as a Change Generalist who has a number of tools available to me that I use to help organisations make the changes they want. Those technical tools are supported by a set of soft skills that allow me to adapt to the organisation and stakeholders around me. Underpinning it all is that same inquisitive nature that resulted in a bust lip.

I’d love to hear your views on what the Business Analyst role is, and what you think it can be. Does the description above resonate with you? Or does the BA role mean something else? Please leave a comment below or drop me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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