Three Things That an Analyst Does Differently Than Everyone Else

    Heather Mylan-Mains

    As an analyst I know I am different. I know that I approach problems, conversations,  projects and just about everything with thinking that is not the same as other people. Recently, I had a conversation with a sponsor about a project I worked on with two stakeholders. He relayed that another person on his team worked with the same two stakeholders and it was more of a challenge to complete the requirements. He was pondering what was different in those experiences. I know that the person on his team isn’t a business analyst; they are an extremely qualified SME more technical in his approach! The title business analyst is so broad. Business analysis as a skill set is more specific. This conversation triggered me to think (shocker!).  In this situation,  what is it that I do differently? I have narrowed this down to three things I do that are specific to how a business analyst will approach a project.

    1. I think in process
    2. I consider the user experience
    3. I learn and then I teach

    I think in process

    As an analyst, I consider many things to determine how to approach my work. I ALWAYS start with understanding the business process. I need to understand at a high level what the business process is. All business processes involve these basic things:

    1. Start
    2. Request for a product or service
    3. Review of the request
      1. If the request is not compete, then a request to Fix
    4. Delivery of product
    5. End

    There are many details in every business in each of these areas, but the basic idea is the same. In any initiative I make sure I understand WHO, WHAT and HOW for these steps. This is thinking in process!

    WHO requests the product or service? What kinds of customers are requesting? Are they internal or external? Are they new or existing? Are there premium or regular customers?

    HOW do they request it? What system or interface do they use? Are there rules to how it can be requested? What are the exceptions in how they request it?

    WHAT are they requesting? Is it a new purchase or a request for help? Is there a problem or do they want to make a recommendation? What do they need help with?

    I draw it out in whatever way makes sense for me to understand. I create a visual for what I understand to ensure I can have conversations that demonstrate I grasp the business. This is the foundation for my analysis.

    I consider the User Experience

    For the process I consider what the user experience will be. Users are so different! Some categories of users in organizations could be:

    • Internal/external
    • Potential/new/existing
    • Experienced/just starting
    • Creating/Updating/View only

    As I consider the process I consider the specific user needs. Each user will have a unique viewpoint that could lead to different business rules or data needs. Making sure I know what the user experience is ensures I uncover these. Using scenarios to talk through user interactions is something that differentiates my approach. Think about every which way that the user will interact with a process and you will be amazed at the results you uncover.

    A potential customer experience is vastly different in the kind of information you will expose and share than a new customer who has formal relationship, a commitment with your organization. The new customer relationship will be must different that an established customer. Structuring your thinking to consider all three will yield better results than simple considering a customer. It’s a risk to expose too much information to potential customers. You need to expose enough to get them interested in your product or service. An existing customer doesn’t want to ever have to see the new customer information once they have been on-boarded as a customer. However, they may need to see the same information in a different format once they are an established customer. Understanding these user experiences and creating solutions for them is the art of business analysis. One journey will not be the same as another.

    To add to the complexity, the new customer experience may be different for each product or service, depending on the type of business. The analysis process accommodates checking for all of them to make adjustments as needed. Don’t make the mistake of thinking all customer groups are the same. I think personas are helpful in the scenarios to focus on the most important customer types.

    I learn and then I teach

    As an analyst I am constantly learning new things. I rely on teams of subject matter experts to learn enough about what they do to understand what the problem is and what they need. I translate that into requirements and use visualization techniques to teach what is needed to other stakeholders. Having a focus to learn something with the purpose of teaching creates a different viewpoint than filling an order and taking notes.

    Learning requires curiosity. I need to be interested in the people I am talking to and what they are doing. I need to want to understand their process, the data, the rules and the inputs, outputs, systems and customers they are working with.  I also need to be courageous to be able to ask questions that are inquisitive without being nosey and to gain trust. This isn’t an easy skill to learn. Learning also requires humility to admit you don’t know something, to accept someone else is the expert and that you have to be the student.

    Being the student requires listening, being engaged in the lesson and being willing to watch. This can be frustrating, especially if the person teaching is not skilled at teaching! Learning needs to happen quickly and then you need to demonstrate you learned the lesson and can teach it through documentation, presentation, and demonstrations. Refining these skills is a key to analysis success. This process is key to analysis success.

    When the learning and teaching process is successful, an analyst is quickly expert enough and can represent the business in the design process. The analyst knows what the process is and what the problem is. It’s a beautiful thing to see this process unfold in organizations.

    Thinking in process, considering the user experience, and learning and teaching are three things that I  do differently as an analyst. These are viewpoints, approaches, and ways I think that will give sponsors and stakeholders a different experience working with me than other team members. Each of these things takes practice and application to refine. It’s something that is difficult to articulate but leaders can see and tell the difference. I wish you curiosity, humility, and courage to think in process, consider your user perspective and to keep learning and teaching.

    Heather

    A BA without Borders

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