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Recognizing Your True Value as a BA

value business analysis

Last Friday, I’ve had the pleasure of recording an audio contribution to the 5th and final day of the Business Analysis Summit 2014.

The session looks at:

  • The market changes that requires adopting value-driven mindset
  • How value-driven BAs look at things differently
  • Maintaining line of sight to where real value is at

You can hear the recording over on Soundcloud. Below is the audio transcript:

Hey everyone this is Alaeddin Hallak. I’m a CBAP and Six Sigma certified business analyst currently based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. With a programming background, I’ve been in the BA field for close to 10 years now. I’ve been involved in many different projects in few different domains.

Lately though, I’ve been drawing some analogies between my programming background and my current BA role. Specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about value, where it stems from and how it is delivered in each of those roles.

Now, when I was a developer, it was clear when and how I delivered tangible value: it’s when I shipped high-quality tested code that conforms to the customer’s requirements.

But after 10 years of BA experience, I’m starting to realize that as a BA, I may have gotten the idea of how and where I deliver real value wrong.

Let me ask you this question:

How do you feel when you finally get a sign-off on a piece of documentation you’ve worked hard on producing?

Like me, I’d bet many of you would answer with: relieved with a sense of accomplishment.

But what have we really done really?

Think about it for a minute: we’ve produced documentation. That documentation will pave the way to some future changes that are deemed valuable to the organization. But it’s still just documentation. The organization still hasn’t realized any return on their investments so far. Revenues are where they are, and so are costs. Nothing has improved, yet!

I’m not trying to bring you down or be critical of a certain methodology. The point I’m trying to get across is this:

We absolutely have to alter our perception and understanding of how we as BAs deliver real value to our organizations or clients.

Why? Because otherwise we will miss out on many other opportunities where we can add value and be indispensable leaders of change.

You see, BAs are not simply order takers. We all know that. The value in having a solid BA practice in an organization far transcends the idea of having one or two people who “gather” requirements and produce BRDs.

To really understand just how much untapped potential there is in the full range of what BAs are capable of doing, I’ll give you a simple framework to think about this:

Think about what constitutes real value to an organization. As far as I’m concerned, nothing screams value more than increasing or sustaining revenues, or bringing down operational costs. Those are the primary objectives. They may be supported by secondary ones like increasing efficiency, reducing time-to-market, or enhancing customer experience, but they mostly lead back to the primary ones.

Now add to that the notion of value in working on projects, which are how organizations execute on strategies centered around its objectives. In projects, real value is best showcased when a project solves the real problem or best capitalizes on the identified opportunity, while delivering those changes on-time and within budget.

Now, here’s the interesting part: did you know that as a BA, you are capable of adding value not only during project execution, but all the way from strategy formation to post-deployment rollout?

That’s right! Look no further than to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) to get an idea of the number of ways a BA like yourself can add true value. For instance:

  • The task to Define Business Need in the Enterprise Analysis section is essential for the BA to make sure the project is solving the real problem that the organization wants solved. If not done properly, resources are spent on solving a wrong or incomplete problem, leaving the organization in no better position than when it started.
  • The task to Define Business Case, again in the Enterprise Analysis section, helps the organization prioritizes projects according to the ones that bring the most value needed for a given period of time. This helps maximize attainable value given limited resources.
  • The task to Define Transition Requirements, which is often missed by the more junior BAs, is an absolutely essential one to get the project rollout on the right track and make sure that the full value proposition of the solution is realized by the organization
  • I’ll give you one last example: the task to Evaluate Solution Performance, is one way for the BA to come back and say: “Hey! this solution is working as we envisioned and we are set to realize the ROI on this”. The BA could also report back by saying: “This is not working as expected. Let’s revise so we can make sure we get the full value we set out to achieve with this solution.”

I can go on listing all sorts of ways different BA activities that ultimately add real value to the organization. The important thing to remember is, and to sort of tie this back to the introduction, is that real business-felt value is not attained by only producing a BRD, but in what the BRD enables. In this case, a great BRD:

  1. identifies the full scope of the real problem to be solved, and
  2. ensures that the best-fit solution is well understood and complete
  3. and in doing so, ensures the organization avoids costly reworks, which
  4. leads to a project that’s not only completed on time and within budget, but one that ultimately helps the organization achieve some of its primary objectives, like cutting costs and improving the bottom line.

You can generalize this idea, the idea of having a constant line of sight in what we do to where it ultimately adds value, to pretty much all the BA activities we currently do on a day-to-day basis, and even to activities that we ought to take part of, like prioritizing initiatives, that we may not be involved with today.

To conclude, remember this: As a BA, you’ve got to adopt a constant, value-driven mindset to do more of the things that add real value, and less of the things that simply drain resources (like time) and add no ultimately justifiable value.

Have a great day everyone. Cheers 🙂