Watch the video or read the article to understand the origins of The Business Analysis Mindset.
The video above based on the following article originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on Nov 29, 2021. Read the article and comments from the community
This theme is recurrent in my conversations with business analysis practitioners, both private chats and public chats on my YouTube Channel, as you’ll see. It is persistent in my thoughts, so I finally decided to structure it in this article and invite all those who consider themselves as Business Analysts to think with me.
Different ways to understand business analysis
Of course, the provocative title of this article – BA is a Mindset – does not eliminate other ways of seeing and understanding Business Analysis. The same thing (anything) can be seen from different perspectives.
IIBA presents BA as a practice to enable change in the context of an organization by defining needs and recommending solutions that create value to stakeholders (IIBA, BABOK Guide v3). Viewing it as a practice leads us to think about BA as a way of doing things. A set of tasks and techniques, as they are very well described in the BABOK guide.
PMI defines BA as a set of activities performed to support the delivery of solutions that align with business objectives and provide continuous value to the organization (PMI, Guide to BA). Viewing it as a set of activities leads to process mapping, with inputs and outputs and the distribution of responsibilities. And this leads to another way of viewing BA that, according to my perception, is the most common in organizations.
Most day-to-day debates talk about BA as a formal job position, most often allocated within the IT area (although its position may vary) and within a methodology with very specific deliverables. Although this may be the most common way of viewing BA, in my opinion, it is the worst of all because the discussion is restricted to arguing whether the Business Analyst is responsible or not for doing some activity required by the standard organization process. When the professional BA thinks something is not his or her duty, then “wash hands” and only “takes care of his own square”. No commitment to business outcomes. And this can be even worse when this discussion never ends because of a poorly defined BA role in the organization that leaves room for different interpretations.
“Business analysis is one of those disciplines, where people often use terminology, and people don’t really quite understand it, because business analysis is one of those disciplines that sometimes isn’t very clearly understood.”
In their excellent book Delivering Business Analysis (BCS), Debra Paul and Christina Lovelock argue that it is necessary to structure BA as a service. In fact, this should be a list of customized services according to the specific needs and context of an organization.
“As soon as we adopt a service mindset, and tell ourselves that business analysis is not just a team or a function within an organization, but it’s a core service of that organization, it leads us to think about our customers.”
A service requires the definition of a clear value proposition for service consumers and requires the provider organization to structure itself in the best way to do so. Viewing BA as a service allows organizations to structure themselves to deliver outcomes and to be able to train specialized professionals in each service, identifying the necessary skills in a much more focused approach. This is very good for developing T-shaped careers and specialist BA professionals. But limited to organizations that already understand the value of business analysis and are interested in creating specific structures for this purpose.
Thinking and communicating business analysis not only as a practice, a set of activities, a job position, or a collection of services but also as a mindset can help us reach other spaces.
Career for a professional BA is at risk
Most organizations in an agile transformation do not have a Business Analyst formal position anymore. Most agile methods do not recognize the role of BA and, in this agile context, there is a tendency to perceive BA as bureaucracy and excess of formalism.
“The way I’ve always described product owner really said a very quick overview is “a product owner is a BA with decision-making authority but without some of the bureaucracy that you see in the traditional BA world.”
Professional Business Analysts are losing their jobs to other specialties such as Product Owners, Agile Coaches, UX/CX Analysts, Scrum Masters. Many professionals are making a career migration to these areas because of a lack of opportunities as Business Analysts. I believe that everyone who knows BA agrees that it is essential in all these professions, but it is not recognized by the majority of those who are acting in these positions.
Another perceived problem is the lack of appreciation for the Business Analyst. The assignments and responsibilities that are related to those who formally assume the BA formal job position are usually only a fraction of Business Analysis, restricted to the delivery horizon. For many, the only chance to grow in their career and act with business analysis on the strategy horizon is by migrating to another position or function where they will no longer be recognized as Business Analysts, but as Consultant, Architect or Manager.
“In fact, sometimes I feel we have done a great disservice by making business analysis and the analyst role like a tight coupling. Like as if only business analysts need business analysis skills, which is absolutely incorrect.”
When we tie Business Analysis to the Business Analyst, we create a prison that restricts us to the limits of a specific community born in an IT professional’s niche of people who got tired of taking the blame for producing things that no one needed and so, created methods and frameworks where someone (the BA) took the responsibility to translate business to software requirements.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s crazy that this world is populated by gurus, that we have a methods war which we have had for 50 years. You need to put a stop to this.”
If we remain restricted to this niche, the “methods war” will trample us with new practices and fads that just rename what we have been doing for many years, and the name BA will be forgotten. Organizations like IIBA may cease to exist and we will see ourselves again addressing the same problems in other communities.
BA must get out of IT and gain the world
We need to democratize Business Analysis. Administrators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, traders, artists, nurses… everyone should know what BA is and apply it in their professions. And you know what? Many of them already do it! The best and most recognized professionals do Business Analysis. But they don’t call what they’re doing as BA.
“Business analysis is a skill for all professionals. And there are more and more research studies out there pointing to that. It’s a very high demanded skill, no matter what is your title.”
All these professionals seek to understand needs, evaluate different alternatives based on the information available, and choose the solution that best suits their specific context. That’s BA. But they never heard this name. And they have never been presented to this way of thinking in a structured manner supported by techniques like we do. Everyone has a lot to learn.
Any professional who applies BA consistently will get much better business results. With better focus, better collaboration, better business decisions. BA can contribute to anyone’s profession.
BA role is out of fashion
In some companies, the BA role has already expanded the original boundaries of influence in IT and is working in business units, but simply to make the bridge to IT solutions developers, establishing clearer scopes for initiatives that involve some kind of IT system.
Again, this is just a small part of Business Analysis. And increasingly seen as bureaucracy and excess of analysis that paralyzes the flow of work. Something based on the waterfall approach.
Although IIBA and the entire community of professionals who teach BA today have worked hard to change this image by presenting agile ways of doing BA (myself included), a lot of companies do not see BA as something worth investing in. They’re looking for the new wave.
To be recognized and valued by a wider audience, we need to change the way we think and communicate business analysis.
BA as a Mindset
Business Analysis as a mindset can be used by anyone, of any profession, and in any practice.
“A mindset is a mental attitude or inclination.”
The BA mindset is that way of thinking that we develop after continuously practicing BA techniques and activities. It’s that almost unconscious discomfort that makes us ask “why do you need this?” or “how else could this problem be solved?”. Those thoughts help businesses get better outcomes.
“The Business Analyst mindset is what helps business analysts solve problems. It’s how we think. It’s how we are motivated to understand the root cause of the problems and to truly help our customers.”
With the following statement, it is possible to synthesize the Business Analysis Mindset:
“Think well before making a decision.”
Everything we do in Business Analysis: tasks, activities, techniques, roles, services… exist to support this mindset. A way of thinking that:
- seeks to understand problems within their context and from different perspectives before committing to a specific solution approach;
- evaluates different options in a systematic and structured manner;
- makes the relevant information clear and simple so that better decisions can be made.
This mindset can be taught and developed for anyone in the same way we teach and develop BA professionals today. No exclusivity.
Following successful steps
Mindsets can make this transition from a local and specific practice to a much larger audience. Agile did it. It was assumed as a mindset and transposed the IT frontier to other areas regardless of roles, practices, or professions.
We need workers with BA mindset, leaders with BA mindset, managers with BA mindset, CEOs with BA mindset. So we will have organizations with a BA mindset.
“One of the top skills right now, number six on LinkedIn Learning, is business analysis. And the people buying that training in those courses, they’re not your traditional business analysts.”
We don’t have to be afraid. The recognition of the BA mindset won’t eliminate the BA profession but will make it more valuable. When I seek personal improvement in a given area, I do not devalue the professionals in that area. Quite the contrary. I learn to value them. If I want to raise my children with psychology, I value the work of a professional psychologist. The more I learn about decoration, the more I recognize the work of a professional decorator.
The Business Analyst professional and respective certifications and institutes tend to be better valued as more people develop this mindset and recognize it with the name of Business Analysis.
How to develop the BA mindset
To develop the mindset you must study and practice, practice, practice… until it is an inherent part of your way of thinking. Your standard way of seeing the world.
“Your professional mindset will form gradually from practicing the profession, your specific work experiences, and learning from your mistakes.”
(Yulia Kosarenko, BA a Professional and a Mindset).
As business analysis professionals we must stop being “like a dog with a bone”, keeping BA just for our select group and not sharing it with other professionals. We must move forward on the way we work so that other professionals recognize and admire it. We have to develop that mindset in everyone around us.
Institutes and communities of practice need to open up to those who are not business analysis professionals, but who only seek this way of thinking. This will require us to abandon certain jargons that we have taken over the years and have a more universal language. We need to be more easily digestible.
“I think people can learn to be more analytical by learning a lot of the techniques that we have and practicing, doing some of the analysis that we do, like building process models, and capability models, and things like that.”
The discussions we often make about roles, methods, and job positions need to move to the background. They will certainly be of interest to professional business analysts, but not to professionals in other areas who want to develop the business analysis mindset. The development of this mindset and the search for better business results is what we must bring to the foreground.
And we need to make our mark so that our mindset is recognized.
When BA is considered a mindset by all professionals, we will have in our community not only BA professionals but BAs who are professionals in other areas as well.
- BABOK Guide v3 – A Guide for The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge; IIBA, 2015
- Guide to BA – The PMI Guide to Business Analysis, PMI, 2017
- Delivering Business Analysis; Paul and Lovelock, BCS, 2019
- Merrian-Webster Dictionary; definition of mindset; online
- Some of the Craziest Things in Working with Methods and Frameworks; Ivar Jacobson; online
- Business Analyst: a professional and a mindset; Kosarenko; Why-change, 2019
Other publications about the Business Analysis Mindset
- A mindset without skills is just frustrating (Article)
- Compounding the BA mindset (Article)
- The Brazilian BA into the multiverse (video)
- Mindset Mottos (Article)
- Business Analyst, a profession and a mindset (book from Yulia Kosarenko)
- BA Brew Episode 28: The BA Mindset (podcast with Debra Paul and Christina Lovelock)
- Should Business Analysis be promoted as a Mindset? (podcast with Delvin Fletcher)
- BAs to watch with Stefan Bossuwé (video from IIBA)