Three phrases only BAs would understand


I was recently teaching the B2T business analysis essentials course in Rhode Island. This is actually my third time here and each time I have loved listening to the language of Rhode Island. Yes, the language is English, however there are specific phrases that are not spoken in my native Midwestern land. I started listening more carefully and EVERY single time I checked out from a retail store, received a check from a waiter or waitress I heard ‘You’re all set then’. It was repeated every time. I heard it from students as I was wrapping up the day and heading out of the room. ‘You’re all set then’, not a question as much as a declarative statement to indicate I didn’t need anything more. The variation is ‘We’re all set’. I began to smile every time I heard it. A student who was raised in the Midwest said she enjoyed hearing me say ‘for sure’, and she recalled that she no longer heard that in her new Rhode Island roots. Another noticeable difference was how I spoke about time. I said ‘be back from break at a quarter till’ which is ‘ A quarter of’ in Rhode Island. I enjoyed thinking and discussing the subtle differences in our language. I always enjoy the NE phrase ‘Wicked’ being added to any word. I began to think, we as BAs have our own language that is unique to us. Here are five phrases I think only BAs will understand. I think it is Wicked hard to not enjoy talking about all of these things!

1. You’re missing an external agent.

What is an external agent? Is that an outside spy? Are we missing a potential threat? Why does it matter that one is missing? This phrase should be clear to business analysts.
A business analyst will understand that an external agent, or an actor, is a person, organization or a system that is a source or a destination of data. The external agent represents a key component to the requirements. These are sources of data, processes and interfaces that we need to consider for the requirements to be complete. When an external agent is missing in our analysis, this risk for missing requirements is significant. When a business analyst hears this phrase, more analysis is needed to discover the external agent. Once discovered the impact to the requirements can be determined. Identifying the external agents early in the requirements process creates value. Techniques such as the context data flow diagram can help identify the external agents and interfaces in the scoping stage of the project and ensure that impacts are identified early in the process.

2. That requirement isn’t SMART.

What is a requirement? How can a requirement be smart? Why does it matter if the requirement isn’t smart?
A requirement is a documented representation of a business need that represents a contract. The requirement must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Testable (SMART). A requirement must be written for business owners, developers, and testers can understand the pieces of the contract. A business owner must understand that the requirement describes the business need. A developer must understand what solution needs to be coded to meet the business need. A tester needs to ensure that the contract is fulfilled, that the business need is met with the solution. In order for all these roles to be successful, the requirement must be written clearly (specific), there must be a way to measure that it is successful (measurable), it must be able to be completed (achievable), it must represent a solution that is reasonable and not far-fetched (realistic) and finally it must be independently verifiable through a test scenario (testable).Writing a requirement is an art. Remembering this acronym will help ensure a requirement is written so that the contract is understood.

3. What’s the real problem?

A non-BA might answer this way: “What do you mean what’s the real problem? I just told you the problem, that’s the real problem!” A BA recognizes that stakeholders place orders for solutions that they think will solve the problem. In fact, the order often solves a problem, but not the real problem. The order is a band aid fix rather than a solution to the root cause problem. I had a conversation a few years ago with a BA Leader who wanted to improve the quality of business analysis on his team. He had invested in training boot camps to pass the CBAP exam. He expressed his frustration that although his analysts now had the CBAP certification they weren’t better business analysts. He implemented a solution he thought would solve the problem, but it was not the real problem. Without understanding the root cause of the problem, business owners will place an order that doesn’t solve the problem. A boot camp to pass a certification exam will not change a person’s ability to be a better business analyst. The boot camp will focus on understanding the material and questions to pass the test. The real problem is the inability to demonstrate the skills that deliver quality requirements. An investment in a skills assessment, hands- on training and/or mentoring would be the way to improve the skills. Match a business analyst that has the ability to deliver quality requirements with a certification, then you’re all set!

Heather, a BA Without Borders

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