Undercover Boss: The Ultimate Exercise in Business Analysis


Undercover Boss: The Ultimate Exercise in Business AnalysisIf you haven’t seen the hit TV show “Undercover Boss”, each episode has a CEO, or some C-level executive, step out of their executive roll and go undercover; dawn a disguise and work in their company in front line customer-facing positions to learn what really goes on in their organization. We have seen the COO of Roto-Rooter crawl under houses and clean out drains, the Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio ride the truck to pick up trash, and the CEO of the Utah Jazz NBA Basketball Team become a member of the half time Dunk Team. It’s always fun to watch these top executives fail, and yes even sometimes get fired from, entry-level positions in their own organization. However, they always meet employees along the way that make the boss’ experience unique and demonstrate extraordinary pride in performing their job. If you take a business look at what goes on in each episode, you see business analysis happening throughout the experience.

Influence without Authority

The boss doesn’t walk through the front door of their undercover experience in their suit and tie; they exchange the suit for working clothes, often jeans, and a disguise and walk in as a new employee or TV show contestant trying to win a job or money to start a business (that is how they explain the TV crew following the employee around) and work in the same entry-level jobs as the employees that they employ. They interact with employees, as a peer or subordinate, and learn the trials and tribulations of the job. Sometimes they will make recommendations on making a process better right from this role as the new employee.

Discover Business Needs

The goal of these bosses in taking on this undercover experience is to discover what really goes on in the front lines of their organization; in other words, discover how the customer experience is being delivered and the pain points of their employees in delivering that customer experience. We have seen bosses discover outdated hard-to-use software systems, software systems that don’t talk to each other doubling the employee’s work, employee conditions not up to par such as break rooms and health conditions, broken equipment or incorrect equipment to get the job done, supervisors not stepping up to fill in the gap when things get backed up, among other terrific discoveries.

Make Recommendations to Solve Problems

One of the first things the boss does after their week undercover is meet with the executive team and inform them of their experience. They tell the executive team of the things they discovered and make recommendations on fixing those problems they discovered.

So next time you watch Undercover Boss think of it from a business perspective and recognize the business analysis activities that the boss undertakes during their undercover experience. As a business analyst you don’t have to put on a disguise to do your job, but you can take lessons from Undercover Boss; ask questions and discover where you can make business processes or systems operate more efficiently, engage and collaborate with your business stakeholders to get needed information from those subject matter experts, and make recommendations to decision-makers to solve business problems that you have discovered along the way.

Author: Aaron Whittenberger, CBAP is a business analysis consultant in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. He has over 27 years of business and IT experience, including 14 years of business analysis and 14 years of consulting experience. Aaron is an avid Business Analyst, Business Process Analyst, Project Manager, Blogger, Mentor, Trainer and Presenter. He is a champion for the IIBA®, business analysis as a profession and the recognition of its practitioners. You may connect with Aaron on LinkedIn or follow him on twitter @TheWittyBA.

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