Happy Global Business Analysis Day! This day is in celebration of all Business Analysts and practitioners of Business Analysis across the globe (whether your job title reads ‘Business Analyst’ or not 😊).
In the spirit of Global BA Day, I thought to myself, what better way to celebrate this year’s Global BA Day than to address the misconceptions surrounding the term Business Analysis and what Business Analysts do.
So here goes!
Beyond all doubts, the domain of Business Analysis has grown and evolved significantly since October 23, 2003, when twenty-eight professionals came together in Toronto, Canada to establish an institution now known as the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).
True to its mandate, the IIBA has effectively established itself as the main global thought leader as well as the foremost promoter of both the practice and the practitioners of Business Analysts.
Over the years, various reference frames, events, curated content, guides, competency models, certifications, communities, and other resources have been designed, deployed, refined, and continue to be improved to ensure the global community of Business Analysts never lacks proper direction for growth and development.
In the last decade, I have had the privilege to serve as a volunteer at IIBA. First, in aiding the setup of the Nigerian Chapter of IIBA (2nd chapter in Africa) in 2009 and going on to serve as a volunteer in different capacities under the IIBA Chapters in Nigeria and Canada.
However, despite being proud of the progress the global business analysis community has made in seventeen years, I believe that there is more to be done.
There are, indeed, more mountains to conquer!
Embracing the Proverbial Elephant
At the very top of this list of mountains to conquer, is the struggle to ensure both organizations and individuals truly understand what business analysis is, as well as the value its practice brings to the table – across different perspectives and beyond job titles!
And here is where my idea of the proverbial elephant comes into the picture, an analogy based on an old parable about “THE SEVEN BLIND MEN & THE ELEPHANT”, that originated from India and made famous by Jalal ud-din-i Rumi, a Persian Muslim theologian and poet. This parable has been used over several centuries to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies.
The parable owes its origin to the story of the seven blind men who had no knowledge of what an elephant looked or felt like and so decided, ‘Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.’
They all fell into a heated argument as to who was right in describing the big beast, all sticking to their own perception. A wise sage happened to hear the argument, stopped, and asked them “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” The wise man then calmly said, “Each one of you is correct, and each one of you is wrong. Because each one of you had only touched a part of the elephant’s body. Thus, you only have a partial view of the animal. If you put your partial views together, you will get an idea of what an elephant looks like.”
This story clearly illustrates how our biases and limited experience; or worldviews often blind us, preventing us from seeking a more holistic understanding of things and subject matters.
Just like the story of the elephant and the blind men demonstrates, Business Analysis requires multiple perspectives for a holistic understanding.
An understanding which brings me to…
What Business Analysis Truly is About
This is not the first time the need for a holistic understanding of Business Analysis has been sought or highlighted. An IIBA Veteran known as Aaron Whittenberger wrote an article six years ago titled ” My Job Title is Not Business Analyst, But Am I One?”.
In this article, he floated the idea of ‘Business Analysis services’ which spans three spheres, including Strategic Analysis, Tactical Analysis, and Operational Analysis. He discussed how different enterprise roles contain elements of Business Analysis without the ‘Business Analyst’ title.
While diverse views as to how different roles can be defined using the ‘Three Sphere of Business Analysis’ exists, it is hard to miss the great value this approach offers.
In gaining a clearer understanding of the concept of Business Analysis Services, I recommend this definition of ‘The BA Career’ from IIBA’s Business Analysis Competency Model.
A business analyst is any person who performs business analysis activities, regardless of his or her job title or organizational role. Job titles for business analysis practitioners include not only business analyst, but also business systems analyst, systems analyst, requirements engineer, process analyst, product manager, product owner, enterprise analyst, business architect, management consultant or any other title that covers the Tasks described in the BABOK® Guide, including those who also perform related disciplines such as project management, software development, quality assurance and interaction design.
Again, it helps to go back to the basic question: ‘What is Business Analysis if it isn’t about job titles?’
At the very bottom of it all, Business Analysis is all about enabling change. Change that comes about by ensuring the underlying cause of a problem is identified and understood before proffering a solution to the problem that impacts capability and value to all stakeholders involved.
In proffering solutions, focus is placed on context and understanding the influencers and factors that impact the problems identified or the opportunities spotted for the business. Similarly, another requirement is an in-depth understanding of the various levels that make up the problem or the opportunity highlighted.
Perhaps the most ideal way to sum it all up is to focus on the specialization-agnostic definition from the IIBA’s Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK):
Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.
Which brings me to a question, have you met the Elephant named ‘Business Analysis’?
Do you see the parts or the whole?
In my next blog, I will focus more on what exactly the roles and responsibilities of a Business Analyst are.
Author Reference: John Ojurabesa is the Founder of BNET Learning & a Director of Product Management with ATB Financial in Calgary, Alberta Canada.