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What do you do?

“So, what do you do?”  It’s quite probably the question I most dread being asked. It’s a fairly benign question but as a Business Analyst I feel compelled to assess and understand what I am really being asked before attempting to provide an appropriately pitched response to my inquisitor. I find myself scrambling for the right words whilst my inner-voice is assuring me that whatever answer I give will most likely be met with confusion and probably even a little irritation.

“I am a Business Analyst”  I awkwardly mumble – blushing out of embarrassment for the both of us – whilst preparing for the inevitable follow-up question…. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and can passionately talk about it. The problem is, unlike a Project Manager, for example, the role of a Business Analyst is not clearly defined – You've got to love the irony!

The Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (BABOK) includes a standard definition of what a Business Analyst does. However, every Business Analyst, Project Manager, Hiring Manager etc. will have their own understanding and set of expectations. The truth is I don’t do any one thing. On any given day I could be mediating a heated discussion between a solution designer and a CFO in the morning and in the afternoon ordering doughnuts for a design workshop (tip: a great way to prevent any future mediation!) Sure, a Business Analyst needs to be skilled in lots of things and may be accountable for producing this document or that document, but these things should not define us and are poor indicators of the value we bring to a project. Every successful project starts with an idea but what is ultimately delivered is often very different indeed. The idea matures and flourishes and it is the job of the Business Analyst to cultivate and manage this change. We navigate the project through its life-cycle. The Project Manager might be in the driving seat but we are certainly up there next to her, preempting bumps in the road, managing diversions and ensuring the passengers in the backseat continue to enjoy the ride. For me, being a Business Analyst is much, I imagine, like being a parent to a teenage son or daughter – we must be objective listeners, excellent negotiators, understand budgets, have a real grasp on finances and build strong relationships (sometimes with people we don’t necessary want to). We are protective, we are demanding, we are challenging and we are 100% invested in the success of our “babies”.

“So, what do you do?”  it’s still a question that I dread being asked, but honestly, I normally just respond with “I work in IT”… That’s normally enough to stop any conversation dead!

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Huy VUQUANG posted on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 1:33 AM
I dread being asked that question too and then it takes minutes to explain what I'm doing as a BA.

From now on, I just respond with "I work in IT". Thank you very much.
Pjbussol posted on Thursday, December 5, 2013 2:12 PM
Thanks very much VUQUANG. So glad you enjoyed the article.

There are a few more on my blog if you're interested...

MikeB posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 12:05 PM
We're all right there with you. :)
Pabbiz posted on Friday, March 28, 2014 12:16 AM
Good article but for your information BABOK does not stand for: Business Analysis Book of Knowledge but Business Analysis Body of Knowledge

Pjbussol posted on Friday, March 28, 2014 3:37 PM
Thank you Pabbiz. Of course you are right - my schoolboy error! Thank you for pointing out my error and thank you for your great feedback regarding the article! I hope to post here again soon and would love you thoughts when I do.

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