What is a Modern BA?

The Definition of a Modern BA A Modern BA is a BA who leads a group through a problem solving and solution process with the customer/user at the center of […]

The Definition of a Modern BA

A Modern BA is a BA who leads a group through a problem solving and solution process with the customer/user at the center of the analysis, knowing that all other details will follow. A deeper dive into what constitutes a Modern BA is a bit of a longer listicle. A Modern BA:
  • Acts as if the highest value of their role is to make the customer’s interactions with the organization/product/service better, and incorporates this into everything they do!
  • Enables a combination of relationship, influence, and analytical skills to guide a group through making users/customers interactions with the organization/product/service better, all from the customer’s point of view.
  • Uses incremental and experimental processes to learn more about the customer and their needs as the team works on solutions.
  • Understands and behaves as if meetings and documents are simply tools to help stakeholders and teams solve problems, not the job of the BA.
  • Owns the problem solving and analysis process while making good use of everyone’s time, adding value to stakeholders and team members’ time with a shared sense of moving forward.

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Modern BA

Along with this deeper dive into what makes up a Modern BA, there are some guidelines to follow. These are called the DO’s and DON’Ts of Modern BAs. 
Work from a customer point of view, knowing all other details will follow.  The customer context is the anchor!
Work from a technical and solution anchored point of view first or as a primary focus.  
Working from a customer point of view is the modern way of doing business analysis. When BAs work from a customer and user problem-solving lens with their mindset focused and anchored in making the users experience better for the things they do that bring them to use the product, all other details will follow and fall into place.
When we work from a solution first perspective we often miss the mark on solving the real user needs and waste time, money, and energy solving for the wrong problem without knowing it.
From what lens are you working?
See your role as a facilitator of problem-solving and decision making; facilitating the process and a group through a change
See your role as a documenter of requirements.  
BAs and POs exist to help organizations change in the way they work with and for their customers.  The role can’t just be about documenting!  Remember documenting is a tool as part of a bigger problem solving and facilitation toolkit.  Use it wisely!
Are you documenting for the right reasons?
Encourage experimentation to discover what the user needs to truly solve the problem
Think you are supposed to know it all, be an expert in a system, or think that the solution the user first had is what will actually solve the problem
Users really do not know what they need, they just know they have pains using the product and there needs to be a better way.   If we just do what they say they want, we might make them happy in the short term, but our role as an analyst is diminished, we don’t use or skills and role to the extent desired by the organization, and longer-term, we typically end up NOT solving for the real user need.
With increasing pressure on speed, the balance lies in experimentation.  Find small experiments that can test out the stakeholders’ ideas and other possible ideas that may work as well, see what works, and then move forward to a more elegant solution.  The learn as you go approach to solving for users’ needs.  Avoid the “we have one chance to fix this” mentality and work WITH your stakeholders and users to find what solves the problem.
Truly collaborate and be a servant leader to your stakeholders and the team.  Use humble curiosity to drive trust, relationships, and your analysis.
Sit alone and crank out documentation all day.
Being a servant leader is not about doing what others ask you to do, or asking others “what should I do”, it is about leading by example in your analysis, showing compassion for the user and asking curious questions, asking questions about how others will use your work as input to theirs and working together to improve it, making good use of time in meetings facilitating where everyone is engaged feels it is productive, being transparent about your priorities and steps to completion.
Act as if approval and value in your work are sought from your actions and collaborations and how you make others and yourself think.
Act as if what you document is what is approved and judged.  It will be if that is all you do!
Your value and worth are about how you take others on the process and journey of solving the problem and implementing the details of a solution.  Your relationships, interactions, thought patterns, and how you collaborate to determine your worth.
Documents are the results of all of this, without the right mindset, interactions, and collaborations, documents will not be of any value.
Own the role, own your craft, and do it well.
Rely on everyone else to tell you how to be a great BA
We don’t tell doctors what solution to give us and they don’t ask us what solution we think w need to solve our symptoms.  We don’t tell accountants how to do their work to us a tax refund, we don’t tell teachers how to teach our children.  we expect professionals we work with to know their craft.  Each profession has its own craft and techniques.  BAs and POs do too!  Learn the techniques and use them to show you own your role!
If others are telling you what to do, it is, unfortunately, a sign that they do not see value in or trust what they are seeing you do.  Be transparent with your work and intent, seek out other’s intent,  and own your craft.
Keep learning and exploring new techniques and skills related to BA work
Do BA work the way it has always been done
As much as Business Analysis is the same, it is also changing very fast.  There are new things to learn at every turn and adapt to keep up in this ever-changing world.    Continuous learning and continuous improvement are all that is constant!
Make sure decisions get made whether they have the authority or not.
Wait for others to tell them what to do and make decisions, calming it’s not their role
Top-performing Modern BAs have a relentless drive for progress and outcomes.  They identify decisions that need to be made, know who is responsible to make decisions and they tee up decisions for decision-makers.  They make decisions clear and facilitate decisions making with the needed information to get decisions made fast. This includes getting the right information at the right level of details about the decisions to the right people, having the right conversations, and reframing the decision as needed to continue making progress.
If you feel others see your role and what you do as more aligned to the “DONT” columns, be the change and show them another way, keep sticking to the intent of satisfying the needs of the users and understanding the problem over all else.

What the Leaders and Managers Know

We have asked BA Managers and Practice Leaders all over the globe what their best performing BAs do, and we have seen it in our 2019 State of Agile Analysis Study, and in my coaching, consulting and training work.