5 Ways to Keep Your Perspective, Even As You Get Incredibly Close to the Business

As business analysts, it’s essential that we work closely with our business stakeholders. Whether we’re working on strategy, feasibility or requirements, this closeness often helps to ensure that we gain a real and detailed understanding of the problems that our stakeholders face.  In some cases we might try and completely immerse ourselves in the world of the business user by co-locating with them or even by going “client side” (which might sometimes be referred to as “going native”).

There is no doubt that this closeness can be hugely beneficial, and it helps us to build strong working relationships with our key stakeholders.  But, is it possible to get too close to the business?

One of the real benefits we can offer as business analysts is objectivity.  We can act as impartial and objective change practitioners, assessing the “health” of a proposal, project, concept or requirement.  We’re able to use abstraction to understand the bigger picture, and use structured analysis to help ensure that the right solutions are delivered to meet the business need.

A potential danger of “going native” is that this objectivity could get lost.  If a BA works closely with a particular business division for an extended length of time, there is the risk that he/she will start to see problems and opportunities purely in the context of that particular area.  In addition, working exclusively on a client site can seem a little “isolating” at times, and you may feel that you start to loose touch with your peers. However, this is not inevitable!

I believe it is possible to work closely with a business division or client for months or years, and still provide a valuable and objective analysis service.  However, there are a few strategies which can help avoid the potential issues, and they are:

1. Maintain your professional network: If you are working on a client site, make an extra effort to stay in touch with your peers.  They can provide you with support, and can provide you with healthy challenge if they feel that a particular project is not taking the right course.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to a BA colleague if you are stuck with a problem.  In fact, make a point keeping in touch with you BA colleagues; be that professionally, or even socially.

2. Insist on peer reviews: It is an excellent idea to ask a colleague to peer review your work. This might involve a formal peer review of a project deliverable, or perhaps even an informal “skim read” of a draft copy.   Ideally, this should be someone who is working on a completely different project as they may be able to provide a perspective that you hadn’t considered before.  Make sure you offer to peer-review their work in return; by doing this you may even find cross-overs in your work, and in a best-case you might even the opportunity to save effort!

3. Innovate: Vary your analysis techniques: It’s extremely easy to find a formula that works and stick to it.  However, sometimes this leads to a rather “factory like” approach to analysis; business stakeholders may get used to these techniques and arguably this could lead to the same closed group of solutions being chosen.  Be innovative, use different techniques and experiment.  Sometimes a new technique can help business stakeholders to think in a different way, and help to find new innovative ways of approaching projects.

4. Leverage relationships: Challenge! One significant advantage of working closely with stakeholders is you’ll have the opportunity to build relationships and rapport.  Once you have this, it is far easier to challenge ingrained whys of thinking.  Use this rapport to challenge pre-conceived ways of thinking.  “Can you tell me why we do things this way round here? What would happen if we didn’t?”

5. Continuing Professional Development: This is important for every Business Analyst, but can be particularly important if you are working on a client site.  Working on client territory can seem a little “isolated” at times, and staying up-to-date with industry developments is a great way of making sure you don’t get left behind.  Consider joining a professional organisation and attending events – the IIBA would be a great choice.  Also consider joining online forums, reading blogs and articles.

Ultimately, I believe working closely with a business unit gives us a real opportunity to show the value that Business Analysis can bring.  It’s a way to build relationships, and raise the profile of the BA profession, and it’s totally possible to do this without suffering the negative effects of “going native”.  With just a little foresight and planning, it is possible to enjoy the benefits without the disadvantages.

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Comments

  1. Good article, Adrian. It is important not to lose contact with colleagues or to lose the holistic perspective. However it can equally be said that spending too much time in the IT ‘camp’ can lead to a narrowing of perspective to being too focused on solutions too early, on having the appearance of being driven by technical imperatives ahead of business ones. Sometimes the most effective set-up is for business analysis to be a service offered out of a strategic body – like an internal consultant, independent of and working with both business and technical stakeholders.

  2. Claire Connor says:

    hi Adrian

    I agree an excellent artical and one which is a cultural debate in many organisations.
    Value can be added from both types of resource but it is getting the organisation to understand the true value of a pure BA. This is a huge topic! One I am sure many would have comment about!

  3. Hi David,

    Many thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

    I completely agree with you on this, and I believe there is a strong argument for decoupling Business Analysis from IT. After all, not all projects are IT projects, and IT certainly isn’t the solution to all organisational problems!

    I think that sitting outside of the business (and outside of IT) as you have described is the ideal situation, as it allows true objectivity. This also helps with credibility as business stakeholders can be sure they are getting a truly objective and impartial BA service.

    Thanks again for the comment,

    Adrian.

  4. Hi Claire,

    Many thanks for your reply. I absolutely agree, getting an organisation to appreciate the value of analysis can be a challenge, but it is so important.

    I firmly believe that the best way to prove value as analysts is to consistently deliver effective change, and then quantify the value that we’ve added. To do this, we need to build trust-based relationships with stakeholders, and convince them to engage with us earlier (which can be a challenge in itself!). I also agree that all of this is easier said than done!

    You might find the following blog article interesting, as it’s related to this very subject:

    http://bit.ly/964bpN

    Thanks again for your reply,

    Adrian.

  5. Krithivasan says:

    Hi Adrian,

    I have enjoyed reading your article and it is impressive too “Going Native”.
    I agree to your choice of preserving your profession network especially your BA colleagues.
    The continual study of business at very instances will certainly helps BA to groom and grab opportunity in every cornered room. When it comes to a BA who works in offshore and his access to the business users is remotely sensitized, Will it not be in a sealed or packed envelop to an analyst?
    In such cases, how do your differentiate and distinguish on your approach?