Can you really be too business oriented?

Have you been told that you are “too business oriented?” How could that be? As business analysts, we are supposed to figure out what the business wants and needs, right?

Yes…and, well, no.

Watch this short video to learn how to respond to this kind of feedback.

Key points include:

To learn more about the business analysis process and handling sticky requirements challenges like this, check out the BA Essentials Master Class.

For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

How is it possible to become too business oriented, as a business analyst?

Here’s a question I’ve received a few times – BAs coming up to me and saying that they’ve received this negative feedback in their job and they’re not really quite sure what it means. That feedback is that you’re “too business oriented.”  They say you tell us all the time that we need to really engage with the business and understand what they want, what they need. How can I, as a BA, be “too business oriented?”  How does that work?

It’s interesting feedback.  As business analysts, we do start with the business. We do want to help shepherd in their requirements and solve their problems, but can we go over the top?

Feedback always tells us both something about ourselves and something about the person giving the feedback. What this says about that situation is that the person giving the feedback has a big appreciation for the technical and the project constraints.

It might be that you’re doing a great job of understanding what the business wants and the business needs, but not understanding that we have three months to do this project and what you’re offering would take us six years or three years or a year, whatever. It’s not feasible in the constraints of the project or the budget we have, or the timeline. We have to think that is what typically is meant.

I have done this before. I have gotten to the point where I’m really passionate about either a specific aspect of my business community, or a specific business need that I’ve taken over almost as a sponsor. When I start to do that, I start to forget that this has to get prioritized against other things, it may not be the most important thing to the business, it may not be the most important thing organizationally. I’ve got to shuffle this in and fit this in with all these other priorities. But I kind of get dialed into this one thing. I almost go to bat for it all the time and feel as though I’m constantly fighting to have this project, this thing, this idea receive some resources. That is what it feels like, I think, when you’re too business oriented.

How do you overcome the challenge of being too business oriented?

What do you need to do? Part of this is understanding that being a business analyst is not just receiving information from business stakeholders and putting it into the requirements. That is our job, but it’s not our job.

Our job is to help them truly solve their business problem. It may not be the thing that they come to us with in the first place. It may not be the 10 things that they want. It might be the one most important thing that they want.

If we’re going to bat for 10 things and only one or two of those things are important, we’re not going to get the most value out of implementation resources we have, the changes that we’re able to make. We’ll be working on these bottom feeder things that are not really adding a lot of value to the business. We won’t really have done our jobs as business analysts which is, really, to maximize the value that we get out of the implementation of the technology and the business process change; all the changes that go into our projects.

How do you make sure you are maximizing value?

First, you’ve got to understand that real problem to be solved. You’ve probably heard me say that before and you’re going to hear me say it again. It’s so important to what we do.

Then you’ve got to help the business prioritize what they want.  If they come to you with a list of 10 things, not all 10 things are equal. Let’s rank them. Let’s sort them into three groups of high, medium, and low. Let’s do something so that we know what’s most important and then help them advocate for the things that are truly, truly important in their business to solve that problem.

But you can’t advocate for everything that they may want or desire or think would be a good idea. If you do that, that’s where that “too business oriented” comes from. You’re not helping us add more value; you’re just telling us all the things that the business wants.

You’ve got to realize that there are technology constraints and project constraints here as well. We can’t do everything for everyone. We’ve got to focus on the most valuable pieces. That’s where the BA starts to become part of the negotiation and the facilitation process. Really helping your stakeholders prioritize is a big part of it.

Next, you’ve got to get in the middle of facilitating those discussions between the business and the technology team.

In my last video, I talked about what to do when a developer pushes back or when the tech team pushes back on you. It’s kind of the same thing. Part of it is understanding their constraints. There are legitimate true constraints around the project.

  • What’s feasible?
  • What is possible?
  • What are some of the possible solutions to this problem?

When you start to do that and you start to be on both sides of the conversation, not just the voice of the business – jamming the requests down the throats of IT – that’s when the magic happens and that’s when we really start to show up and add a lot of value as business analysts. Now we’re part of all the conversations, not just the business side of the conversation, but the business, the project, the tech team, the QA team. We’re facilitating that and we’re making sure the most valuable work gets done with the limited time and resources that we have.

If you’ve received that feedback, I hope this video helps you understand why you might have received that feedback and what actions you can take going forward to be both business-oriented and solution-oriented.

To learn more about the business analysis process and handling sticky requirements challenges like this, check out the BA Essentials Master Class.

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