BAs Are Note Takers

    Heather Mylan-Mains


    There is a common perception about people working as business analysts.  In teams all around the world at this moment, a business analyst is hearing something like ‘oh good you’re here, we need someone to take notes!’ . It’s an interesting idea to consider that the role is limited to note taking, as if this was the only value provided. I am here to address this perception. Business analysts are note takers! Consider the value of the business analyst note taker; they take notes of processes, business rules, interfaces, data, stake holders and gaps in any and all of them! It is not a meeting minute note taker.  It is a discovery, an interrogation note taking exercise to learn and assess changes,

    The Scene

    Consider this scene; a team is discussing a project. A system is mentioned that had never been mentioned in conversations before. Other people in the room nod their heads  and someone adds this to the meeting minutes. The note the business analyst is taking is ‘what additional work does this mean for the project? How does this addition impact the business rules, security, process, data, interfaces, etc.?  Based on the answers to this, an analyst must stop the conversation to elicit more information. Change impact is assessed. Adding a system could be weeks of analysis, design and coding work. If a new interface is needed there are dozens of other questions to be considered and likely multiple meetings needed to explore the impact.  That note is so much more than ‘need to include system X for project’.

    My Notes

    I am a visual, kinesthetic learner; which means I am a note taker. I am old school. I take notes with a pencil and paper. I learn as I take notes, the act of writing improves my ability to retain information. I can see my notes on a page, I may star or underline for emphasis. I am known as a note taker. I have hear the phrase ‘Oh good you’re here, you can take notes!’ What’s funny is I am not a great minute taker. My notes are focused on what I need to learn in a conversation. What systems do I need to know, which stakeholders are involved, what business rules might be new or need additional exploration. It is not for minutes!   I may even draw some of my notes in the form of a context diagram. Absolutely not meeting minutes type notes.

    Notes vs Minutes

    Meeting minutes are important to me as a business analyst. They provide context to what was discussed, what decisions were made, etc.  Limiting my note taking to minutes deprives my team of my highest value. The value I bring is focusing on listening for what I need to learn or elicit more information for. It is an entirely different focus. More often than not, when I hear something, I pop up to the white board writing, drawing and modeling to help create a shared understanding. That’s also not note taking for minutes. That picture I take after will supplement meeting minutes; however they are not meeting minutes.

    Value of Notes

    I will never stop taking notes.  I love input! I want to know more and collect information. Taking notes is a key to my ability to learn quickly. A pencil and paper are simple tools that create powerful results. I take notes all the time and I refer back to them, continuing to build my requirements story.  My value to my team is to take note of all of the things other team members haven’t thought about yet. Considering all the stakeholders and the entire enterprise in my analysis. Yes, I am a note taker, a thinking note-taker considering all the impacts in every situation. Business analysts are thinking note takers!


    A BA Without Borders

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