Is a Business Analyst a “bridge” between business departments/functions?

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“I’m proud to say that I was the bridge between IT and the Business”

About a year ago, I read a blog from Kupe Kupersmith (author of Business Analysis for Dummies) published on BA times, and in his article he was urging Business Analysts to stop referring to themselves as ‘the bridge’ between IT and the Business, implying that someone who acts as a bridge is simply transporting information from one side to the other.

I totally agree with his point of view – a Business Analyst is not ‘a scribe’. A BA is a lot more than someone who transports information from one side to the other, from one person to another, or one department to another.

 But, in my experience, I know I have acted as a ‘bridge’ between IT and the Business, and in doing so I know I haven’t just taken information from one side to the other. I’ve certainly added value because for me, being a ‘bridge’ has meant acting a bit like a translator, when different parties couldn’t understand each other very well.

 Perhaps this is my background in languages creeping in, but let me tell you my story.

I remember my first project as a BA. The telecoms company I was working for, was building its own rating engine, to be integrated with their existing billing platform, which was outdated and no longer fit for purpose.

 I have no IT background. With a degree in languages from Italy and on my first ‘proper’ job in the UK, it’s fair to say that all I had in my toolkit at the time were the attitude and some of the soft skills required to be a good BA – I was curious, eager to learn and understand new things and with a strong analytical mind. I was also a good listener and able to build trust and strong relationships with my stakeholders from different areas of the business.

 So on my first day on the project I was told to go and speak to Ian, the System Architect / Solution Designer and the mastermind behind the engine that we had already started to build. I went to see Ian in the IT department – in the office that he shared with the developers he was overseeing. The office was full of massive PCs and monitors (they must have had 2 or 3 each!), lots of fans and lot of books. IT books, on C+ and the likes. A LOT of books. (Of course I knew nothing about C+ at the time!).

Anyway, Ian wouldn’t look at me. He was talking to me and answering my questions, but he wouldn’t look at me. He was looking at his monitor, his back towards me. He was helping me understand, but he was very much to the point and a bit ‘disengaged’. At first I thought it was personal, but soon enough I started to attend meetings with Ian and other business stakeholders, and I started to understand…

Ian was (and is) one of the most knowledgeable and intelligent people I’ve ever met, but he didn’t like being brought into director-level meetings and constantly being asked when the product was going to be ready and whether we’d meet the internal deadlines. That simply wasn’t his job (Ian wasn’t the Project Manager). Ian was unsupported. Software development wasn’t an issue of course, but he had no one who would help him elaborate on some of the requirements and understand what the end users wanted the product to be able to do. He could do SO many things and he could do them in SO many different ways, but all he had to work with was an endless list of call types that he needed to get his product to be able to rate.

Translation. Ian lacked translation. And so did the directors who were after the product.

Communication was completely broken down – Ian was feeling unsupported, frustrated and not appreciated. He was disengaged and perceived as rude by some people. On the other side, the directors were waiting for information that wasn’t coming, wondering why things were taking so long and why Ian would walk out of meetings without a word at times. The bridge was broken. There was no bridge!

 When I came along, it took me some time to get up to speed, but working on that project was one of the most rewarding things I have done. I worked with Ian and the team for the best part of a year, and by the time we were done we had a brilliant new rating engine, we recruited a team of fantastic users who’d help with configuration and product set up, and gone were the days of Ian looking at his screen while talking to me or walking out of meeting rooms without looking back.

I acted as a facilitator, an advisor, an ‘analyser’. I listened (empathy goes a long way!), I coached, I used my analytical skills to help understand what the real business needs were, what additional information was required to fill the holes; and, right or wrong, I played a big role in the discussions around the solution, because that’s what my project needed from me.

I translated and added a value. I was the bridge, and a bridge was exactly what was needed.

About the Author

sara_bussandri_LThumb

Sara Bussandri

Is a Business Analyst with over 10 years’ experience, and currently works at a top UK Telecoms company in the Business Change Function.

Photo Credit: Jay Mantri

3 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. thanks for sharing Sara. I would agree with your views about being a bridge but also Kupe draws an important view as well and perhaps it is best to see Business Analyst as a facilitator and a change agent that can bridge the gap when required to but also can wear many hats including the hat of a problem solver.

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