The Samurai Business Analyst

My Lineage
I am a Senior Business Analyst by trade and recently took the opportunity to set up my own company after a 33 year career with a major financial insurance company in the UK. In the time I worked ‘for the Man’ I undertook many major projects and whilst I have some formal qualification as a BA I have mostly developed my skills via experience, training with several leading companies and learning from others. I have also learnt a huge amount from participating in and speaking at conferences, most notably the European BA Conference held in London every September. These activities gave me the confidence to find my voice as a BA and share my experiences. This blog is not an attempt to be a text book on being a BA, instead it is my attempt to bring a slightly different frame of reference to the role and provide a framework for personal development and growth.
In 2010 at the age of 43 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which has been a major challenge for me as the condition has progressed. Living with a health condition has given me greater focus on leaving a legacy and making a difference; outside of the office I used to be a fencing coach and have interests in Zen, martial arts and samurai history and it is in this area that I initially found a real model around which to structure my personal view of the world. My co-habitation with Parkinson’s has enhanced my views and I believe that people perform better when they have a job that they can believe in and grow through. I also believe that everybody frames their world with their own perception and rules. It has taken me a long while to synthesise my job, life and principles but it has been an interesting journey to get here. Hopefully you will find some of the information on these pages of use.

This Time It Feels Personal

I’d like to share my experience of a process I have recently encountered. I will remove the specific details of the council involved as I don’t want to unduly embarrass any of the people (unbeknownst to me I may add) who work in the particular team this concerns, or indeed any of the people I do know who work there.

I write this not for payback purposes but as a Business Analyst questioning processes and rules and to illustrate how decisions we might be involved in during IT or process development can impact the end customer.

Context:

Two days ago, on a Saturday I filled in a web-based application for a Blue Badge Disability Permit. It was quite a big thing for me as in some ways I felt I was conceding something to my diff-ability (Parkinson’s Disease) but also felt appropriate as  my symptoms have worsened over the last year but still only occur at certain times of the day. I honestly reflected this in my application, enclosing a letter from my consultant that reflected my latest condition, plus a list of the medication that I am taking. (Not a short list). Perhaps my approach was too naïve but that’s how I roll….

Imagine my surprise when I got a response this morning, barely half a working day after I’d sent it in….

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I have to say I was a tad disappointed by this prompt and obviously automatic response (the salutation was the clue) so therefore decided to pen the following reply…

Dear Blue Badge Unit,
Thanks for the (I suspect automated) reply to my blue badge application that I made on Saturday. I have to admit that I am disappointed that I am not eligible as I was attempting to be as honest as I could about a complex condition; Parkinson’s Disease. My symptoms (in conjunction with virtually all Parkinson’s sufferers) are variable throughout the day. I may start a journey in the car but have to get my wife to drive halfway through due to the tremor coming on, or my muscles stiffening. Correspondingly I may be able to dance the polka when leaving home but be unable to do more than shuffle on arrival at my destination. It does feel like I am being penalised for having an “Intermittently Hidden Sporadic Condition” rather than a “Hidden” or “Obvious” one.
I would also like to point out to you that having an automated mail response to this type of application does not endear the service to the recipient, particularly when it is a decline. I have spent thirty years working in IT as a Business Analyst and I am pretty sure the use of my full name as a salutation indicates a field reading automated response. A little more empathy around a personal issue would perhaps be appropriate. I assume that someone does actually read all first stages of the application and there are not just pre-determined criteria for an automated yes/no response…….?

Kind regards

Dave

Imagine my amusement when I immediately got the following response….

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We shall see how things develop….. But it is a lesson that whilst a process can appear efficient to one person it can feel very impersonal to another…….

“IT Boffins….” really?!?

WARNING …. POSSIBLE RANT AHEAD

Now, regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not one to regularly criticise the journalistic standards of the modern media….. ok, well actually I am totally one who does that but that is because I believe they have a responsibility to put information across in a style that someone might describe as professional or at least grown up. This belief is for the most part found to be very naive but hey, everyone has to have a dream*

Well I am saddened to report Dear Reader,  that once again my dreams have if not been totally dashed then at least bruised….! I have just finished watching the One o’clock News on the BBC in which the deputy (?) Political Editor demonstrated a razor sharp understanding of how modern IT Business happens. NOT

Said reporter, who shall be known under a made up name to protect the innocent…… Let us call him Nirman Smoth, has developed a style all of his own over the last few months,one that is deeply rooted in the eccentric attention-craving category recently** classed as “Peston-esque with a 1940s twist”. Today he did a brief report on the Govt track and trace initiative, during the first half of which he used the outdated phrase “the tracers will have to get on the blower…..” when describing the process. He did this with an incredulous expression as if to say “surely not using a phone..” before landing the immortal and damning line “because the Government  can’t  wait for the IT Boffins to finish the  app”….  Really???

I suspect Mr Smoth that all those IT Boffins are in fact waiting for the Government to specify exactly what it’s requirements are in clear language, whilst continuously having to ensure that their stakeholders are not contravening sundry rules and regulations concerning security and data protection. Plus managing numerous incidents of  scope creep and budget reductions. Or …… maybe we’re all stood around in our lab-coats saying things like “spiffing set of screen designs old boy…. absolutely top hole….”

Stereotyping anyone? Right Dave, back in your cage….

 

* because as we all know, if you don’t have a  dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?

**by me, just now

Communication and Creativity

I decided to have a bit of a brain-wander interlude this morning; it’s something I have tried to introduce to my new routine; every so often I try and put the laptop away and just doodle ideas or in fact just do nothing.  I have been getting a little too busy lately and luckily my Wife pointedly reminded me that a) I did leave full time employment because I didn’t want to work full time anymore and b) I have got Parkinsons Disease (thankfully she drew short of reminding me of my age as well!). Very good advice to be fair as sometimes in my new world I forget that just because  I love my work it doesn’t mean I  have to do it all the time! I am having  tremendous fun here at ChuDo Consulting but I also want to keep it that way!

So, there I was, sat in my recliner, generally letting my mind wander and my gaze drift over my number one bookshelf * in an unfocused manner.  I have a theory that on occasion the universe will provide; particularly when I have an idea jam going on and lo and behold, it did… so I am pleased to present, as a follow on from my Presentation Skills workshop last week……

Communication Advice from Yamaga Soko

“Once a word is uttered a team of horses cannot  overtake it…”

“When you talk too fast it is unmannerly and hard for listeners to  understand. When you speak too loudly you startle  people for no reason.  Moreover, if there is a lot to say, if you start with a loud voice you’ll have a hard time getting to the end.”

“The mouth evinces repose, the voice  evinces calm, the tone evinces gravity.”

“Prefer discretion in speech, as if you couldn’t talk”.

“This is what is meant by the guidelines for speech that say it can create enemies and make friends,  it can beckon fortune and  calamity, glory and disgrace.”

Now, this book was written in the early 1600’s in Japan. Yamaga Soto was a middle ranking Samurai who distilled his own experience of service and discipline into a book titled “The Way Of The  Knight”. I bought a modern  translation of it many years ago but hadn’t got  around to reading  it in any detail until this morning, which has reinforced my belief in the serendipity of life on occasion. It is serendipitous for two reasons; I’m looking for material to write follow up articles after my course but also because it reinforces the point I make during the course about creativity; mainly that one of my favourite methods is to combine two seemingly unrelated topics to see what occurs. It also nicely reiterates a point I read in “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin  Kleon that says the best ideas are taken from other artists you respect and then enhanced through your own world view**

So there you have it, the story of my brain wandering morning! I heartily recommend it!

 

*I have three bookshelves; the number one is where I store the most important books in my collection,  ordered in significance by how far I need to  reach for them…. the bookshelf being  next to my chair…..

** remarkably,  this further confirms/reinforces a piece I am working on about networking being so important as this was a book recommendation from my Magician Friend Butzi! Who I would never have met if…. etc etc….

What’s New With Me

I was tempted to call this post “Woss Gorn Orn Hair?” which is the way my local Norfolk dialect would pronounce “What has been occurring?” but I thought there were limits that even Google Translate couldn’t overcome. So here is the first in an occasional (possibly unique depending on the amount of views it gets) feature of what’s been going on in my world….

Books I have been reading……
I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently, following the trails of Kindle recommendations and suggestions from other colleagues and here are a few reviews for you, if you like that sort of thing…!
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
It’s difficult to categorise this book as it could be classed as ‘inspirational’, ‘motivational’, ‘creativity-enhancing’, ‘philosophy’, ‘business’, ‘mind-sets’ etc It’s a wide ranging yet accessible story of the author’s battle with the anti-creative process he refers to as resistance. This force is what is constantly preventing us from achieving our individual goals and objectives, cunningly conspiring with procrastination, imposter syndrome and fear of failure to neutralise our innate desire to become the person we really want to be. This really resonates with me and I found the book simultaneously funny, tragic, provocative and inspiring. It is full of little gems of knowledge such as “the thing we fear and put off the most is the thing we need to go and do the most in order to grow as a person.” I was really taken by this statement and it will be something I return to again and again; because I believe it’s true. We all have a hidden talent and purpose that we secretly, in a lot of cases unconsciously want to fulfil, whether it be write a book, be a train driver, etc but arrayed against us are millions of years of herd behaviours that are desperately attempting to keep us nondescript… so the big frightening monsters don’t eat us! If you’re in any way creative (or have ambitions to become so) I highly recommend this book.
Steal Like An Artist – Austin Kleon
I was recommended this book by an acquaintance of mine (See ‘who I’ve been conversing with’ below) and as I know we’re on similar wavelengths gave it a read and really enjoyed it. It’s another view on the creative process, written in a very accessible coffee table style with a refreshingly honest take on borrowing other artist’s work to improve upon it. Whilst sounding initially morally dubious it turns into a very engaging read about how to discover, engage with and develop your hidden talents.
What I’ve been watching
An eclectic mix of Netflix, Sky and terrestrial film and series offerings including:
Extraction: No not a film on dentistry but a gritty (OK very violent) action vehicle for Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth, directed by the Russo Brothers of Avengers Infinity Wars/Endgame fame. A more reality based tale than John Wick, although I’m not sure even Thor could take out most of the Bangladeshi police in the way Hemsworth does, but some of the chases/action sequences are jaw-droppingly good in terms of the camerawork and direction. A slightly morally dubious roller-coaster action movie. (Netflix)
Chernobyl: Finally got round to unpacking the Sky/HBO box set and found it chilling, tragic and compulsive. Oh how they needed some business analysis….. but I don’t think the System would have tolerated it…. (Sky)
The Mountain: A meditative film with an orchestral score and narration by Willem Defoe on man’s growing obsession with mountains. The camera work has to be seen to be believed, as do some of the extreme activities people undertake to get their fix of risk and adventure often with tragic results. See it for the amazing photography and humbling landscapes that put perspective on our human endeavours. But beware if you don’t like heights…! (Netflix)
Who I’ve been conversing with
I attended the BA Webinar hosted by Adrian Reed and panelled (?) by Dr Debra Paul, Christina Lovelock and Grant Wright and enjoyed the fascinating discussion regarding business analysis in times of crisis. Lots to consider so check out the recording of that session plus others  here
Had a great conversation with Butzi, Illusionist and Supreme Magician and my compatriot in keynote speaking. We met when I volunteered to introduce him at a Conference and we subsequently spent a pleasant few hours talking about change, magic, the Samurai, martial arts and Lord knows what else. We had another chat this week and covered off all sorts of good stuff including creativity, obstacles to change and personal transformation (usual stuff) and also exchanged book recommendations!
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Nottingham BA Event on Tuesday featuring Lee Fewkes and his BA Story website. But the slides indicated it was a very interesting session. I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed for the site so I may be a bit biased but it’s a great idea and a personal project of Lee’s that’s worth both reading and celebrating!

Finally, what I’ve been up to. Well, it’s been a busy week; I’ve run a half day workshop on Presentation Skills hosted by my friends at IRM UK for speakers at BA Europe in September and am looking forward to the first two day event in July. Thanks to Jeremy Hall for his MC’ing of the session and all of those attending. Expect some follow up articles soon! I also was kindly given the opportunity to give a virtual keynote speech on The Art of Influence to attendees of the Raiffeisen Bank International BA Summit in Vienna. It’s great to see events like this taking place and a real pleasure to be part of it. Even if only from my study!!

Necessity Breeds Contention

Here in the UK there has been a lot of attention recently on an app that has been designed to help track and monitor the potential dispersal pattern of Corona virus. In some media reports it has been described as a major breakthrough in the fight against the ongoing pandemic and hailed as the turning point of this very difficult period we find ourselves in. I’d like to examine that in a bit more detail; not because I think it’s a bad thing but because it’s instructive for a Business Analyst to always question things. I’m certainly not going to disparage any efforts of the people who have gone into developing this app in the short timescales that they have but I am prepared to examine the consequences of such a rapid development, the way it is being ‘marketed’ to the public at large, particularly in the way it is simplistically described without critical examination and also about the moral implications and some of the potential NFR issues…

So…. is this app a breakthrough? Well, let’s ask a few questions to see….

Does it provide any form of medical treatment  or medical cure? From what I have read; no it doesn’t.

Does it provide reliable data? At the moment based on my reading, I would probably say “yes and no” in the sense that if it is used within sensible parameters then it will provide usable data but that is very dependent on what the user keys into it and may be constrained by some of the non-functional requirement issues that we will return to below…..

Is it secure? According to what I have read (particularly via Privacy International ) again the answer seems to be  “yes and no”. It is immediately secured via your phone but after that the situation is far less clear in that, presumably in a bid to get people using it the NHS have been very generous with the ongoing licensing, clearing it for subsequent sell-on which traditionally means someone will hack it sooner or later once they get their hands on it. Add to the above problem by then figuring in that the app is designed to track your location and you have a potentially very serious implication regarding personal privacy……

Will it function correctly? Well at the present moment it seems to rely on being permanently open in the forefront of your device. This actually defeats a number of objectives immediately i.e. delivery drivers (presumably a key data provider in terms of epidemic spread) will have other apps going in order to do their job so an application that prevents them running Googlemaps or similar will not stay open long I hazard. Also this raises the spectre of fast and excessive battery use which combined with the fact that it may not be compatible with older or non-starter phones  and…. well you can perhaps understand  why this potentially suggests it might not yet be the saviour the media is suggesting.

I appreciate all these observations sound very cynical and in a way might suggest that I don’t want the solution to work but that is not the case; I want it to work as well as it possibly can but (and pay attention Dear reader, I stagger towards my point) this is where Business Analysts live dangerously in comparison with their colleagues and correspondingly get their fair share of opprobrium; because to get something to work we have to find all the potential ways of breaking it. This makes us different from virtually all of our IT colleagues because (and yes I do generalize tremendously here) Designers build it, Testers test what is built, Project Managers plan its  delivery, stakeholders specify what they want but BAs are the ones who exist to question it….

It’s a hard place to be sometimes but someone has to do it……!

 

It’s Star Wars Day!!!

May 4th? It’s Star Wars Day!!
Yes folks, today marks the unofficial but much loved ‘Star Wars Day’ (if you don’t understand why then you may not get parts of the following…….) and I would like to contribute to the celebrations by recounting the following tale. So tie up your Banthas, put down your gaffi sticks, switch off your targeting computers and come with me on a journey to
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away*………….. well ok, the summer of 1977, Norfolk, the UK….
It had been a hot early summer but all the talk in the school playground had been about a film that was pulling huge crowds of people to the cinemas of the UK. As a ten year old I didn’t really have much concept of a big film and I think I may only have been to the cinema twice in my life at that point to see ‘One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing’ and the original ‘Dad’s Army’ movie, both of which had been ok but not exactly memorable. At that stage of my life I didn’t really have much comprehension of the movie world but one thing I did know that summer was that this upcoming film was big news……. And I wanted to see it. As did everyone else in my year by the sound of it and people were already gaining kudos by passing on unsubstantiated reviews based on the fact that “a mate of my brother’s best friend has seen it and reckons it’s fab”** No-one actually knew anything about it but there was a strong herd instinct to see it and as people began to return from visits to the cinema this instinct became even stronger; almost a definition of group membership. I don’t really recall how I ended up getting to see it but eventually, against all known tradition, I was allowed to bunk off from school for the afternoon and Dad took me to the Norwich Odeon, which in those days was a one screen auditorium seating about 300 people. It was packed but we got in and settled down in our seats. I don’t remember any trailers but I do remember what happened next. First the 20th Century Fox fanfare filled the darkened space (in my mind it’s almost part of the official soundtrack) Dur dun du-duhhhh….. (toot ta-doo)… Dur-dun du-duhhh…. (toota ta-doo)… dur dun du-DUHHH …. (TOOTA TA-DOO). Then the screen went black and….
Something Wonderful Happened
John Williams’ opening fanfare blasted from the speakers and the immortal opening lines quoted in my first paragraph above moved up the screen. No, they didn’t move up the screen they moved into the distance, drawing you into the adventure *** Then something more amazing happened; a spaceship flew over my head. (Yes, a spaceship; I’d never seen one before apart from the NASA moon landings and believe me a Rebel Blockade Runner looks a lot cooler than the LEM to a ten-year-old). Then (and I remember to this day how I shrank down in my seat) a REALLY REALLY REALLY BIG spaceship followed it and in a shot that’s been mimicked/homaged in many movies, just kept on coming. To a ten-year-old it seemed like that Bad Boy Imperial Star Destroyer kept on flying over my head for ten minutes. And that was it; I was hooked for the rest of my life. In fact, the only time I’ve ever experienced a similar sense of awe was when I walked into the shadow of the Great Pyramid at Giza; that was the intensity of the moment. In truth, I guess in some ways it could be described as a peak experience; it was certainly tremendously formative. Most of us know the remainder of the film’s story and how it developed so I won’t say anything more just in case it spoils the films for the three people who haven’t seen them yet**** Suffice it to say for me and many millions of other people it has woven a generational frame of cultural reference with so many iconic designs and truly memorable soundtracks and characters. Granted, the later films aren’t as epic and the dialogue in some ranges from trite to risible but one thing George Lucas could do was tell a story. In fact, as those of you who have ever seen my keynote speech ‘The Power of Change’ will know, he uses an age old model re-discovered within the world’s religions, myths, legends and folk-tales by Joseph Campbell and labelled as The Heroes Journey.
Now, as I look back at things in my later years, I really don’t know if I relate to the Heroes Journey because I love Star Wars or whether Star Wars lead me to discover it. In fact, the order of discovery is not important, its the fact that there is a link between them that is the important thing. Our lives are filled with events that seem insignificant or trivial at the time, but ripple on to become much more fundamental or pivotal with the benefit of hindsight***** What I do know is that those moments in a cinema back in 1977 certainly transformed my life subsequently. Those few minutes formed the foundation of my interest in drawing, have given me thousands of thrilling moments because of my love of cinema, stimulated my creativity and have ultimately enabled me to examine my own tribulations with a larger lens than just the personal one; translating my difficult diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease into one I can use to help other people deal with change.
So all in all, forty-three years after the event I think I can tip my hat to Mr G. Lucas and say, “Job well done Sir….” It would be nice to think some of the things I do will have a small measure of longevity as well. Now, hopefully you’ve enjoyed that tale Dear Reader, so go on out into your own life and write an amazing story.
May the Force be with you…….!

*we’ll come back to that opening line shortly
**depending on your generation substitute in top hole, spiffing, cool, mega, awesome, sick or dope
*** a very clever move indeed
**** Yes, you know who you are
***** The writings of Schopenhauer and the Hindu concept of the ‘Net of Indra’ reflect this better than I can….. and there’s a footnote I didn’t expect to be writing when I woke up this morning

Terra Incognita

20200430_084412We are living in changing times; the world is being tested by a truly global  challenge…. the smallest of organisms has caused a gigantic effect to the way our society works. Yes Dear Reader,  as you may have gathered by that opening, this is going to be my ‘opinion piece’ on the Corona virus crisis. So brace yourself; I have no real idea where this is going….

As I sit here, looking out at my small garden, the wisteria is just emerging. It’s a time when the garden becomes more pastel in nature; the vibrant pink of my two cherry trees has faded and the next stage of spring emergence has begun. It is the same each year but it feels massively different this time. The UK is in it’s sixth/seventh (? ) week of lockdown limbo and the next challenge will be the strange nebulous world of ‘lockdown easing’ and while everyone seems to think this is a good thing no one can actually figure out exactly what it is…… I hope there are people giving it  serious thought because in order for me to do any easing my requirement definition of coming out of lockdown is “not until there’s a successful vaccination and I’ve had it”…. which may seem a tad paranoid but I’m a person living with a recognised degenerative condition and who values his family and their wellbeing. That’s my weltanschaung and personally I think it’s fair enough. I have been subjected to so much information recently that I have no idea whether  my strategy is reasonable or not but it feels right to me. As a Business Analyst I am used to surfing the wave of ambiguity but this is one beyond any previous experience and I suspect there are a lot of people and organisations in exactly the same boat (or should that be ‘riding the same surfboard”?) So, steering this post towards a more practical destination, what does all this global change mean for Business Analysts and the BA profession?

Well,  I guess it varies in impact between “not a lot” to “a massive opportunity to make a difference’…… At the former end of the spectrum you can simply return to your job and keep producing good requirements analysis. You might want to throw in a bit of Corvid experience, particularly regarding  NFR defimition (i.e. “what would happen to this system/process/network  if everyone had to work from home”?) But beyond that you could probably carry on as normal.

Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum will be BA’s who will be assigned onto projects that are a direct response to the virus crisis, such as  network improvements, organisational changes or making processes more suitable for remote working etc. These will require a lot of thought about what happened and what needs to change.

Then, at the far end of the spectrum will be those of us who realise that there is a  new set of challenges awaiting us. On a global level I am sure THIS WILL HAPPEN AGAIN.  Let’s see if we can be better prepared next time. This will not be easy and is a problem that ignores for the large part our current geo-political boundaries. Corvid 20 will ignore those boundaries too so we need to think beyond those horizons; well, someone needs to anyway. One fantastic thing  I have seen coming out of this is the emergence of stronger virtual networks.  I noticed someone commenting on LinkedIn last week about the fact that they had attended a BA event in another country via  Zoom. This is a tremendous  opportunity for BAs to interact on a global scale to share their experiences and work towards solutions.

Those who know me will attest to my strong belief in making a difference.  I believe that with the right level of belief and leadership the BA community can make a huge difference in this new look world we will be living in. I’m not claiming to have all the answers on this, or even have a viable plan. To be honest, I have more than enough on my plate at the moment but I definitely feel there are opportunities out there for those of you who want to ‘surf the bug waves’…..

 

Good Lord! I seem to have fulfilled an ambition….

I am delighted to  announce that I  have actually fulfilled an ambition I have had for some years in that I am going to be running some courses with my good friends at IRM UK. The courses are:

Developing Your Presentation Skills

 

Developing Breakthrough Communication Skills

The former is a particular favourite of mine as I really enjoy presenting/speaking and I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to “the art” of public speaking and I enjoy sharing anecdotes and examples on the topic. During the course I go through the basics of presenting then look at some more advanced stuff like story telling and the in’s and out’s of speaking at big events. There’s also opportunity to study some great speeches from history, which never gets old for me as each time I run the course either I notice something new or the delegates give a new insight.

I was inspired to create the second course for two main reasons… first, my good friend Jeremy suggested there was a good business case for it but primarily it was because of my complete dismay at the lack of clear  effective communication in these times of social crisis and upheaval. I also have a whole stack of examples, both good and bad of communication I have had inflicted on me over the course of my career!  But ithe session isn’t all about the not so good examples,  it’s also about ways you can enhance your own communication style as well. Experience like this is always good to share and I am looking forward to the premiere of this one!

It’s not often that you get to fulfill an ambition so many thanks to IRM for taking the leap of faith and allowing me to not only hopefully educate a few people but also to  enjoy myself whilst doing so!

The Tao of Business Analysis Part 2

I like quotes and can spend many a happy hour reading books of quotations, a hobby in which I was indulging this morning. It was a book of famous science quotes and I’d like to share a couple with you, as bizarrely enough I think they add to the discussion about what BAs do (or are). Here’s the first..

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
― Richard P. Feynman

Feynman was a famous scientist who went a long way to popularise complex topics. I do like this quote because it really resonated with me in terms of the way I see the world. I tend to want to pick things apart to find out how they work and I’m very rarely content with the surface view of something. My brain tends to throw out lots and lots of questions like what is this? How does it work? What happens if it stops working? etc etc. My mind tends to compel me to examine things to a level of detail that may not appear necessary but is always entertaining. A classic example of this was when I was asked, as part of a course ice-breaker, to try and talk about the inside of a ping-pong ball for more than a minute. Everyone in the room had a go, usually coming up with something like “Wellllll…. it’s white……” before floundering. My version went something like this. “You find yourself in a tight spherical space…. it is dark…. you don’t know how big the space is; there appears to be a solid boundary to your confinement but you don’t even know how big you are….. does anything exist beyond the barrier? Could you understand it if it does? How did you get in here? Would you even know you could ever be anywhere else?……” Finally the course trainers gave up and stopped me after four minutes. I think the ability to think with curiosity about situations is a vital one for a BA and it can be a lot of fun too! Bonus!!

The second quote is from Claude Levi-Strauss who says “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions”. Substitute ‘BA’ for ‘scientist’ and you have my view on what the role is in a microcosm. We don’t have to be experts but we need their input to get us to where we need to go. We also need to keep challenging the normal; if we don’t whoever will?!?

The Tao of Business Analysis

I was talking about the role of the Business Analyst yesterday and in doing so it got me thinking about how we can  describe the job succinctly…. and I came to the conclusion that it’s very difficult! It is just not easy to encapsulate the entirety of the role’s scope in one easy statement. However, after some pondering I have come up with the following ying and yang statements that may go some way to doing the Profession justice. See what you think…

  • Being a BA is not about being right; it’s about being effective.
  • Being a BA is not about winning the argument; it’s about provoking the debate.
  • Being a BA is not about giving orders; it’s about suggesting a direction.
  • Being a BA is not about perfection; it’s about progress.
  • Being a BA is not about looking; it’s about seeing.
  • Being a BA is not about hearing; it’s about listening.
  • Being a BA is not about recording; it’s about thinking.
  • Being a BA is not about systems; it’s about Systems.
  • Being a BA is not about leading; it’s about facilitating.
  • Being a BA is not about being agile; it’s about having agility.
  • Being a BA is not about looking down; it’s about looking across and up.
  • Being a BA is not about seeing the leaf; it’s about seeing the tree (at the same time).
  • Being a BA is not about being in charge;  it’s about being in control

So there you have it, just some of my thoughts. You may not agree with all of them and I am sure there are more out there, but it’s not about winning the argument, it’s about provoking a debate!