In this Lightning Cast, you’ll discover a different way of thinking about your role and go from Analyst to Alchemist.
A Lightning Cast is a shorter form episode modeled after lightning talks. You’ll get valuable content in 8 minutes or less.
What’s in a name?
If you’re a BA, what does that mean to you? More importantly, what does ‘BA’ stand for in the minds of your stakeholders?
BA often stands for Business Analyst. If we take that name at face value, a Business Analyst is someone who analyzed the business; presumably to identify problems and opportunities.
BA can also stand for Business Architect. Someone who practices business architecture, which involves understanding and developing the capabilities of the organization and building the business strategy and the initiatives to execute that strategy. This title brings up images of someone sketching plans to build the business.
I often like to say that BA stands for Business Advisor. Someone who uses their skill, knowledge, and experience to guide decision makers to the right outcomes for the business. A Business Advisor is someone who is trusted, understands the business, its products, and the environment in which the organization operates. They look at facts and data, identify options, and make valuable recommendations to their organizations.
Nothing in any of those titles conjures images of a note taker or requirements author. Instead, BAs work to understand the strengths and opportunities of the business, needs of its customers, and uses knowledge and data to guide stakeholders to the right decision.
However, being a BA goes beyond that. We can write beautiful, elegant requirements, identify amazing opportunities that will surprise and delight customers, and influence stakeholders to make great decisions. If there’s no action resulting from our efforts, there are no outcomes.
The Business Alchemist
What if instead of an expert and advisor, we think of a BA as a Business Alchemist?
You may know alchemy as the precursor to modern chemistry. Practitioners of alchemy were often known for their attempts to discover an elixir for eternal youth and to turn lead into gold. But there’s another definition for alchemy; “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.”
In their time, an alchemist was a highly regarded scientist; an expert in their field that can accomplish seemingly magical feats. I remember seeing a cartoon drawing of the business analysis process and it showed first the Business Analyst talks to stakeholders and at the end was ‘deliver requirements’. In the middle was ‘perform magic’.
Truly great Business Analysis seem to be able to perform magic. They gather and analyze data to form insights through the transformation, creation, and combination of data and knowledge.
Going along with the concept of being a Business Alchemist, we are change agents. We try to transform lead into gold. We turn insights into action.
From a transformation perspective, we turn
- Data into decisions
- Unclear opportunities into strategically aligned goals
- Problems into solutions
- Ideas into a compelling vision
- Words into action
- Big, complex initiatives into small, valuable chunks that teams can deliver
Our Philosopher’s Stone
In ancient times, Alchemists referred to the imagined substance that would allow them to turn lead and other base metals into gold as the Philosopher’s Stone (not to be confused with a similarly named object in the Harry Potter movie). What is our Philosopher’s Stone? What’s that certain something that gives great BAs the seemingly magical power of transformation?
Perhaps it’s your ability to sift through piles of complex data, see connections, and derive an innovative solution.
It could be facilitation; bringing people together to work toward something meaningful and developing a shared understanding that leads to action.
It may be influence; that ability to find the right people and develop the trust needed to guide them to a desired outcome. Influence certainly plays a part in helping stakeholders make the right decisions.
For me, the Philosopher’s Stone is communication. Strong communication skills are critical for effective facilitation, for influence, and for inspiring people to take action.
You can have the best ideas in the world. Ideas that can transform your organization in ways never imagined. But if you can’t communicate those ideas effectively and inspire action, those ideas are worthless.
We can’t be effective change agents without strong communication skills. We’ll never transform lead into gold, vague ideas into extraordinary outcomes, without this skill.
What’s your Philosopher’s Stone?
Listen to the full episode to understand the impact of shifting the way you think about your role.
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