In this episode, Jonathan Babcock helps us to understand the essence of business analysis and how though a better understanding the principles behind this essence, you can improve your performance.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • Where the true value of business analysis lies
  • How understanding the essence of business analysis leads to more meaningful ways to measure performance

Show Notes

Why does business analysis exist? What is the underlying essence of the analysis activities? Many people confuse the role with the associated tasks such as stakeholder management and requirements elicitation.

Business Analysts who confuse the essence of the role with the tasks they need to complete will fail to reach new levels of performance.

The underlying essence of business analysis is finding out ways to get what’s in a stakeholder’s head out and onto a whiteboard where it can be modeled in such a way that other people can understand it and used to establish a shared understanding among stakeholders and confidently move forward with a solution.

In short, the essence of business analysis is the value gained in creating a shared understanding and getting thoughts out of another person’s mind without a loss of fidelity is hard.

Focusing on the essence of business analysis opens our eyes to new opportunities; new ways to create value and put the team in a position to be successful.  It also allows us to use different techniques and tailor our approach to meet the needs of our stakeholders.

Documentation has its place and its purpose, but creating documents in isolation and then sharing them is a poor way to communicate requirements and create a shared understanding.  It’s much more effective to get the right people in a room and work through it together to the extent that the documentation we create becomes the sum of our conversation.


How to Know if You’ve Done a Great Job

You’ll know you’ve been successful in focusing on the essence of your role and in helping others to succeed if the stakeholders ask you to help on another project.  If you’ve done your job well, it will be recognized and people will want to work with you again.

Another way to find out if you’ve been successful is from 360-degree feedback or a net promoter score.  360 feedback allows team members at all levels provide feedback as to your performance.  A net promoter score is a way to get quantitate feedback as to whether or not you’ve performed well and people would like to work with you again.


The Impact of Focusing on the Essence

Aside from the ability help others and your organization to be successful (and advance your own skills), seeing the essence of your role as communicator and facilitator helps you to understand where your skills can be used outside of your current role.

The next leap forward for your role may be in moving out of the in-project work and helping executives with business cases.  Here, you can make sure the delivery organization is working on the right things for the organization instead of just delivering the right way.

In order for this to happen, people need to see us as communication experts and not just requirements experts.  When we are viewed in this way, more career opportunities open up for us.


Living the Essence

To get to a point where we can focus on the essence of business analysis, we need to shift our focus away from written documentation.  If we try to be more precise in our written communication, we tend to become more technical and use approaches (such as BPMN or UML) that are difficult for stakeholders to understand and consume.

While the documentation has value, there’s more value in ensuring a shared understanding through the use of visuals.  Visual models are easy to understand and can be as precise as formal written documentation.

The highest bandwidth form of communication is talking together in the same room and using visuals to ensure a common understanding.  The real value is doing the work together.


Listen to the full episode to hear all of Jonathan’s advice including using the softer side of the essence to deliver more value for your organization and how to define success.



Your Homework

When we create something, be it a document or a visual, think of who is going to use it as our customer.  Focus on their needs and afterwards, get their feedback on how you could have done better or how you could have helped them to be more successful.  This kind of mindset builds trust and allows you to reach higher levels of performance.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Jonathan Babcock

Jonathan Babcock

Senior Manager, Jabian Consulting

Jonathan has over 15 years’ experience delivering business solutions and has found his professional passion in helping organizations and individuals to define and realize their goals. He enjoys meeting and interacting with business analysis professionals and is an active participant in the broader business analysis community through speaking engagements and his Practical Analyst website. Jonathan is also the VP of Professional Development for the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the IIBA®.

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