The business analyst
Problem solver, requirements engineer and manager, stakeholder manager, change manager, manager of whatever else might need management, solution designer, bridge between business and IT, moderator, presenter, leader, supporter. The list of skills for business analysts is probably one of the most extensive in the job world. And business analysts perform all of them on every company level, dancing on the parquet flooring of the CEO as well as on the concrete floors of operations.
So, who are these business analysts?
Who are these people who manage to be as multifaceted as a platypus? Where do they come from and how are they made?
Well, looking around in my circle of colleagues, I can say that those people come in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds. Some have a history in IT, some have spent most of the lives on the business side of things, some have worked in the same industry for most of their working years, others have worked in a different industry for nearly every project. The age ranges from generation Y to the baby-boomers.
What I can also tell when looking at my colleagues and myself, is that each of us is different. Sure, we all have the same business analyst imprint from what we learned in our business analysis courses and trainings. But what makes us unique is our inbuilt and natural personality. And looking around in my circle of business analysis colleagues I can see obvious personality differences.
I guess the most obvious and most common is the difference between having a rather extrovert or a rather introvert personality. You could also say some are more left brain oriented (analytical, fact related) and other are more right brain oriented (emotional, creative).
Why difference matters and is a key concern
And here is where I think it gets interesting. Because depending on the personality of the business analyst when performing a business analysis task, the results and performance can vary. And yes, I believe they can even vary big time. That is not to say that there is an issue with that. After all, just because it’s different doesn’t meant it’s wrong.
To keep it simple, let’s assume two business analysts with opposite personalities go about their business to elicit requirements. It is very likely and therefore quite safe to assume that the introvert business analyst will not put the personal stakeholder engagement up as their favourite elicitation technique. They might rather dig around in a system, read documents and keep the personal contact with their stakeholders at a minimum. The extrovert business analyst on the other hand will most probably seek immediate contact to all their stakeholders, engage them in structured and unstructured interviews, meet them for lunches or bump into them at the coffee machine, but they get sore eyes after reading through more than 5 pages of a technical systems manual in order to find requirements.
Your personality - how it effects your preferences at work
Now, why do I think it is important to be aware of the different personalities in business analysts? Because in business analysis and in projects, the “one hat fits all” approach does hardly ever work. Simply because every project differs in terms of the people involved and the nature of the initiative (product replacements, new product development, system updates, onboarding of new business skills, outsourcing of existing business skills, etc.). Some initiatives clearly require more direct personal contact with customers, suppliers, stakeholders than others. I also think this is why not every business analyst is necessarily suitable for every type of project or initiative.
In a project which mostly requires the business analyst to dig up requirements from the basement of a system, manuals and technical specifications, an extrovert or right brain oriented business analyst will probably not be as effective and efficient as their fellow business analysts being introvert or left brain oriented. That doesn’t mean that the extroverts are not capable, they very well are, but will probably lack some (if not a lot) of the necessary patience and particular concentration skill their introvert colleagues simply have as a part of their natural personality.
On the other hand, in a project where most of the business analyst's time is spent interviewing SMEs, organising and facilitating workshops and meetings, introvert business analysts will be experiencing at least twice the amount of stress level, wich can make them less effective and efficient than their naturally communicative and outgoing extrovert fellow business analysts. The introvert business analyst will lack some (if not a lot) of the joy of engaging with people, whereas their extrovert colleagues will love interacting with everyone and everything, as it is part of their natural personality.
The fine art of being a business analyst is therefore not only about being able to perform business analysis tasks by the schoolbook. It is also about our personalities, being aware that we business analysts differ in our personality as much as others do. Our personalities are key factors not only in our peronal, but also in our business life. Because our strengths can be someone else’s weakness. And vice versa. In the fine art of business analysis, your personality matters.
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. The animal is the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though a number of related species have been found in the fossil record. It is one of the few species of venomous mammals: the male platypus having a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe pain to humans.