Demonstrating the Value of Business Analysis with Adrian Reed

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In this conversation, Adrian Reed and Joe Newbert explore overcoming self-helplessness by showing the appetite to seize opportunities and demonstrating the value of business analysis.

Adrian is the Editor-in-Chief of BA Digest and Co-founder of BASchool.day. Author, speaker. But mainly a Business Analyst whom co-workers would describe as an "unapologetic diva" (a joke, but only slightly).

Here are just a few of the highlights in this episode:

๐Ÿ’ก "It was like a light bulb came on for me." Adrian accidentally found business analysis while working in an insurance company. He always looked for ways to improve processes and gradually became involved in IT systems change. Adrian secured his first official business analyst role when his organisation restructured and gave him the title. He received formal training before moving on to become a lead business analyst in a different company.

๐Ÿค– ๐ŸงŸ " That's where you kind of lose the, the empathy, because the empathy is squashed out

๐ŸŽ ๐Ÿงก ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿน "Rather than just having a red apple, let's have a whole cocktail." Adrian expresses that collaboration is vital regarding role defragmentation and the emergence of specialisations. He says the boundaries are a construct only because we made them. Adrian sees adjacent roles as exciting and valuable and encourages us to embrace them and make it a win-win situation.

โค๏ธโ€๐Ÿ”ฅ ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿฟโ€๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿšง โณ "If we can't explain it. And if we can't sell it, the problem is on us." Adrian says it's not enough to complain about being misunderstood and sees a massive opportunity for anyone who wants to overcome self-helplessness. He says in those situations where business analysts join late, and organisations dilute their value, the most courageous thing to do is influence by understanding the high-level problem statement and answering the big questions. Adrian emphasises that if people don't get the value of what we do, it's on us to articulate and sell our value.

โ†•๏ธ โ†”๏ธ โค๏ธ "I don't care what my role title is. I don't care what the clients I work with what they call my work. I call it business analysis." 


๐ŸŒ ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿฟ "Networking is an underrated skill." A pod subplot about how networking doesn't have to be terrifying, especially when business analysis conferences are like family reunions.

Tune into the episode below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your podcast player of choice. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by Business Change Academy skills development and career building business analysis courses.

The transcript of this episode can be read here.

  • [01:06] Did business analysis find Adrian, or did business analysis find him?
  • [03:17] How business analysis has changed over the years since Adrian started
  • [09:21] Cutting out the signal from the noise to find focus in this modern-day
  • [15:11] Displaying empathy when a customer's problem is not a star or a circle
  • [20:41] Agile as part of a whole set of needs to become a responsive organisation
  • [25:51] Losing the learned helplessness and having the courage to be more
  • [29:44] Building a community of practice that spans beyond your organisation
  • [32:15] Embracing niche professions that defragment the business analyst role
  • [42:11] Finding identity and community within business analysis into the future
  • [49:54] Seeing business analysis conferences as family reunions, not networking 

What was your favourite quote or insight from this episode? Please let me know in the comments. ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡

๐Ÿง  Add your brains to the  ๐Ÿ‘‰ Future Business Analyst survey.

Joe Newbert 0:00
Hey everyone is Joe. Welcome to another episode of the future business analyst podcast. My guest today is the mighty Adrian Reed, Principal Consultant of black metric editor in chief at ba digest. And as we all know, Adrian likes a good side project. He is also co founder of BA school day along with Tina Lovelock, author, speaker, but mainly a BA, and co workers would describe him as an unapologetic diva he, Joe, but only slightly, only slightly at least, you didn't insist on a bowl of blue m&ms for coming on this show. So I appreciate that.

Adrian Reed 0:45
It would be brown m&ms. Joe, you should know.

Joe Newbert 0:50
Anyway, welcome to the show. And Adrian, thanks for joining me today.

Adrian Reed 0:54
No, thank you. My pleasure to be here.

Joe Newbert 0:57
We always start at the beginning. When you tell us how you found this profession, or perhaps how it found you?

Adrian Reed 1:06
Yeah, that's a really interesting question. I'm one of those bas Joe. And this may resonate with you where I think business analysis found me. And I was actually working in an insurance company. And I was pretty much on an underwriting career path. But I was always the sort of person that looked to try and improve processes, I was very junior in my career, and I sort of got into what was then called E commerce, not the kind of E commerce we would consider to be E commerce now, but it was, you know, brokers, insurance agents, sending electronic messages over with these horrendous data standards that were used at the time. And, and so I sort of got into projects on that and got into what we would probably now call IT systems analysis. And then as I started to get involved in change to IT systems, I started to understand the importance of the business and the process element of the change. And then the organization had a restructure. And suddenly, there was this roll call, business analyst and I, the more I found out about it, the more I was like, Okay, well hang on a minute, this is what I've been doing. And this is what I enjoy doing. And this is what I want to do. And then once I knew that it was like a light bulb came on for me. And I then subsequently, you know, did some actual training in business analysis, because I knew it was an actual role, and then moved on, you know, to a different company to become lead business analyst, and, you know, and so on and so forth. So, went through various domains. So yeah, so it found me, I think,

Joe Newbert 2:51
yeah, as you say, it's a story that resonates, I think it does find many of us where we start, you know, if we got a mind for that improvement, we start seeing things that we can change, and then suddenly there's a role for us, right. Yours emerging sort of quite early on, I guess, in in the maturity of the profession. How have you seen things change over the years from when you first started to now?

Adrian Reed 3:17
So I think, well, so I'll start by answering that question in a really odd way. What one thing that hasn't changed, is, I think there's a sense that business analysis isn't as recognized as it should or could be. And when I was first involved in this there was like, we were always fighting up against the OAU. But you're part of it. Right? Like and organizationally in that organization, we were part of it. And we were really struggling to say, actually, look, but that doesn't mean that you don't need to make all of your decisions about solutions. And only involve us when you think there's it involved, because actually, we provide bigger services there. And that was a battle we were fighting at the time. And, but I think there's that that misunderstanding in some organizations, still, there isn't in others. But I think there is still a feeling amongst many practitioners that Pete like, almost like people don't get us. And, and I think there's work for all of us in the community to do to, you know, to sort of collectively get over that, which perhaps we'll come on to as a separate topic. But in terms of what's changed, I think, you know, in terms of the fundamentals, fundamental skills, beneath it all is still really sound because you need to be able to problem solve, you need to be able understand processes, you need to understand data, things like this and, but of course, the actual mechanisms, the deliverables, the artifacts, the way they look, have definitely changed. You know, I'm far more likely, if I think about the projects I've, you know, I've worked on in recent years, it's far more likely to be buy rather than build, that might that might just be because of the types of clients I tend to work with. Whereas, you know, in my, like, my, the first part of my career was on, you know, making changes to an existing what we would now call legacy mainframe, I mean, it was probably legacy at the time, to be honest, but it was homegrown, whereas this sort of less than that. But then there's the recognition that, you know, organizations have got have normally got a bit of a hotchpotch of technical architecture and process architecture and organizational architecture. So you find yourself having to understand all of that. So I think I think, you know, obviously, there's, there's more agile practices. To a greater or lesser extent, I see a lot of agile in name only, which, again, is a whole separate topic. But there's, there's, I think, what underpins all of this is an expectation that the pace of change has to be quicker. Yeah. And often people say, or I find people say, Oh, well, we want to be agile. What they actually mean is, we need the ability to realize benefits quicker and get stuff out the door quicker of which some agile methods may help us achieve that they may help us achieve a part of that. So I think that's an element to it. And you know, and I think, but but a real biggest two, two related things have changed. The cadence, speed, velocity and ferocity of communication is just so much like like when I and this is where I'm going to sound like I used to live in a windmill. So it's that kind of crazy. Sort of, but like, like, when I first started my career, I was in an insurance broker. And our main communication with the insurance companies we dealt with were by phone or by memo, right, yeah, printed memo, which if it was urgent, would get faxed, right. And, and so things happened in quite a Batchi way, because you had an end of day batch that got physically mailed. That kind of cadence just doesn't cut it today. But the flip side of that is, I think we work in a permanently distracted world, where everyone's at meetings, and everyone's at meetings, replying to teams, teams, you know, teams, messages, and WhatsApp. And so if I was reading, in fact, it's just happens to be here, because I was I was making some notes with an excellent book by Petra Belzer bore begin with you, which is actually about mental health and cultures in organizations. But I haven't got the exact quote, I won't get to find it. But she basically says that, you know, focus is the new, competitive commodity, right? Like, nobody has focus. And I was reading thinking, Yeah, I work. I work in a distracted way, and actually just carving out time to think. So I've gone on a really rambling stream of consciousness there, Joe, so picks pick the bones out of that.

Joe Newbert 8:04
Yeah, well, I guess. So that's my part of this conversation to try and do that. And you did drop lots in there. But it is, it is really interesting how things have changed. And there's no one simple answer is there. It's the many sorts of different complexities that that you brought in. I mean, let's maybe focus on that word, focus, because I do think it's very important. You talk about these times when it was when communication was much slower. I was remembering back to when there was a mailroom guy, you know, he had a trolley and you put your memos on their trolley. And you might be lucky if it reached the floor above or below by the next morning, right? It was a completely different pace. And now as you identify just the pace of change the pace of expectations, the pace of meeting needs, is what was the word you I think used to work ferocious, didn't you because it is ferocious. And that ferocity is probably only going to increase as we get into the next few years. How do you think as well, I don't even want to say as bas I think, just as general professionals, just as, as people, what sort of tactics are you starting to put in place to be able to cope with that?

Adrian Reed 9:21
So I think there's two elements to that those the, those the, almost like the, it's, it's cutting out the sick, this is a sort of probably a physicists view. Not that I'm a particularly good physicist, but it's cutting out the signal from the noise for me personally. And I think that applies at different levels. It sits at the organizational level, the team level and an individual level. So like, I mean, you know, you and I have never like directly worked together, but we've collaborated on stuff together. And you know me well enough to know, if you send me a WhatsApp message, I will reply to it, but probably not straightaway, and there's nothing and that's just that's, you know, unless it's urgent, that's, that's kind of fine. So I think there's an element of understanding the signals that need an urgent action need an urgent response, and understand the signals that might be somebody else's crisis. But making a decision over whether to make it your crisis or not, as well. And that's gonna sound really harsh, but like, you can end up you know, if you're working on a business critical product, or business critical, you know, if this thing doesn't launch, when we're not going to be compliant at the end of the month, or whatever, and someone draws you out to work on something that is far less important than you've potentially yet. You've helped them with their crisis and created a crisis of your own sort of thing. It's really easy to do. And, but I think more broadly than that, and I'm going to bring it back to ba techniques, because I can't help myself. But if you think about a context diagram, and I know, that's one of those things, you say, context diagrams, there are so many different flavors, but just imagine a circle with some boxes around and some arrows coming in those arrows representing data flows. You know, you could almost imagine, imagine them like message flows, or business events happened in some adjacent system, or adjacent actor is telling you something, and your bit in the middle has to decide whether or how to respond. And that kind of thinking can apply at an individual level, right? Okay, someone sent me an email saying, you know, they want me to review the eBay purchase that I've made, I may or may not actually want to do that, right? Just because it's come in doesn't mean it's that I'm going to do it, or I'm going to do it now. Organizations need to do that as well, you know, someone sent in a suggestion, they think you should do something completely differently. Of course, listen to it, but triage it. And if it's not in line with your strategy, probably just write back and say, Thank you very much for the feedback. But, you know, we're a discount airline, no, we're not going to offer free food to all of our passengers or whatever. I mean, that's crazy example. So yeah, I think it's about triaging understanding that there's going to be noise prioritizing, and, and setting those boundaries and, and unfortunately, and even on a personal level, saying no to stuff, right, because there's so much stuff, there's so much stuff we all could do. And our word I got stuck in an Instagram hole yesterday, I was scrolling scrolling was to give up just, you know, caught in a scroll hole. I mean, it's easy to do.

Joe Newbert 12:44
No, it's easy to be distracted. I like what you say about signals and reading signals. And I think it's aligning signals with other people. And I feel like you said this, but I'm reminded of a sign that somebody had on their desk once they were an analyst, programmer. Place I work to 15 years ago, that sign on the desk said bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. And I feel like that's the crux of what you're saying here in a way.

Adrian Reed 13:13
It is. And I think, I think I see I've heard that, and I like it. And I think that's that's the essence of it, but with with empathy, because that's, and I'm not saying that, that that statement doesn't have empathy. But there may well be people that we can help, we just can't help them immediately. Or it's a case of, well, actually, you know, what, I just can't because I'm working on this, but you know, what, actually, there's a junior bi, who's really trying to get experience in this. And, you know, they can't do exactly what you need, but you know, what, if you to work together, they've got some capacity. So, you know, hooking people up in that way. So I think, you know, it is, you know, sometimes a yes, and can a good response to those sorts of things.

Joe Newbert 13:59
Yeah, it's maybe saying not saying no, as you said, but saying, No, I can't, but I can help you in another way. And making that connection for somebody. And of course, those signals as much as it might be bad planning on that other person's part doesn't mean that it's not important. And it actually doesn't need your response. And that's just the way it has to be at that time.

Adrian Reed 14:23
And the thing is, we never really know what pressure that person was put under when they when they were planning and what politics was going on, and we don't know what position they're inside. So I think the essence of that statement, I think it's, it's spot on, but I think if we wrap it in a, an empathetic wrapper, okay.

Joe Newbert 14:49
Maybe let's go with the flow of this empathy because I think empathy is going to be hugely important, isn't it as we go forward, because, as you say, with the pace with the Varosha SNESs of it all, we can find ourselves in that situation more and more. So empathy is going to be a big tool to help other people. Well,

Adrian Reed 15:11
and this is where, oh, I'm going to I'm going to probably I, I try not to be controversial, Joe, I really do. But so Lean Six Sigma are excellent process improvement methods and methodology. So nothing I'm about to say, is intended as a dig at any, in any methodology, I think they're both fantastic and have their uses. It is easy when some process methodologies are mis applied, in my view, to end up cutting out all of the slack, creating so much standardization, that when someone who has a need that doesn't fit the script, they're an edge case. And they're excluded. Right? And it reminds me of I remember when I was a kid, having a, I don't know, how you describe it, but like a bucket. And the bucket had like a lid with different shapes on right. So you and you have these little blocks, you'd have a star block that fit through the star hole, and, you know, you know, the kind of thing I'm tossing around? And you know, and then and then you could jam them in like I would do, because I'm awkward like that. But anyway, more sensible children would have done it the right way, I'm sure. But the point is that I think a lot of when there's no slack, what you're what the interface that we present to our customers, whether that's over the phone, whether it's an online to faces, right, okay. Is your query a square, a star or a circle? And you go no, well, it has to be. So you know, and so I've had this experience that, you know, I have a elderly relative who very sadly, lost mental capacity through dementia, absolutely traumatic, anyone going through that, you know, it's a horrible journey for everyone around them. And in the UK, the way that that happens is the person in advance makes a what's known as a lasting power of attorney, which means that someone else can take on their affairs when they can no longer do so. And there are hundreds of 1000s of power of attorneys probably more, but every company you deal with, it's like, oh, God, we've never seen one of these before. Oh, we don't know. Right? Well, and you ended up having to, like, for too Well, for one government, one government department. I had to go to the Director General to get stuff sorted. I kid you not. And for one telecommunications company, I had to basically take them to the regulator, because they were refusing to deal under power of attorney and you kind of go, I get why this is happening, though. It's because the people on the front line are saying, well, no, we only deal with the person. If you're not them. Then sorry, we can't help you. It's like, Well, okay, you know, and you get and then you get the really an empathetic response is what can't you just remember, can't just ask him to remember his password and give it to you? Well, no, because actually, he can't remember who anyone is. And he can't speak. Yeah. And like, so that's where you kind of lose the, the empathy, because the empathy is squashed out through too much. On unthinking automation, and automation isn't bad, but I'm thinking automation is an unthinking systemization. Like scripting, right? I don't necessarily mean it system, but giving someone a script and saying, Don't deviate from it. So yeah, hunterson, ethics, ethics and empathy. So important.

Joe Newbert 18:43
Ethics? Yeah, it is. And I'm going to circle back to your comment on the edges. And I'm thinking about, I'm also doing the thing where I revert to business analysis, but I'm thinking of a process diagram, and we've got an exception, and maybe the exception doesn't have a flow apart from to say, give to it as department that can deal with the unusual and be.

Adrian Reed 19:03
Exactly. And that's it, right? Because, and this is it because sometimes when I talk about things like this, people say, Oh, but you can't ever define processes for all the exceptions. And I say, Yes, I agree. I agree. You can't, you know, or you could, but it will take you so much time. And you know, and you know, on an exam, a crazy example I always use is which, you know, what? If the head of state rang, and, you know, you said they want something, you might cut them some slack given their head of state, right, you know, like the President or king or queen or whatever, and you're in your jersey, you're probably gonna have a different process for them. But like, don't define that, unless, you know, they're, you know, listen, you know, they're a customer, right? So, I mean, there's ethical question about whether the process should or shouldn't be different, but you might need extra security because, you know, you've got the king or president or whatever visiting so, you know, but yeah, I agree. That's, that's, you know, for uncommon exception All you need is someone, you need people to have the ability to see. Oh, my word, something else is different here. It isn't right for us to exclude that personal for them off, lets someone who's got some autonomy to make the decision. Let's pass it on to them.

Joe Newbert 20:15
Yeah. And to come here to set to come back sort of the circle round. I mean, you mentioned agile and agility at the beginning. Now you've now mentioned, I guess, following processes to choke particular situations. Agile is a means to agility, right? But it's not the end result. Is it? It's just a path to get there? Well, or one yes to get there. It's part

Adrian Reed 20:41
in my view, agile product, or software delivery methods are a part of a whole series of things that needs to happen in an organization to create agility. Right. So let again this is a ridiculous example, but only because I was as I was mentioning, earlier, before we went live I had my opticians appointment today, my eyes haven't changed, which is good. But one of the things I noticed on my walk to the opticians in Portsmouth we have lots of these electric scooters. I don't know do you have them? Wear? Yeah, yeah. Right. And they're in a really weird legislative situation in the UK, because they, it is legal to make them it is legal to sell them. But it is not legal to use them on any public piece of land, right or highway. Because they, from what I gather, they fall into this weird classification of vehicle that you can use legally, as long as you get vehicle excise license, vehicle excise duty or road tax as it's sometimes known. And insurance, the issue being that you can't actually get either of those things. And there are other reasons that doesn't fit into the Road Traffic Act or whatever, right. So you've got this bizarre situation where you've got a thing being sold, that is definitely being used on public land. That is not legal. And the police probably haven't got the time or inclination to enforce against anyway. And then. And then there are then there are side schemes where you can legally rent them and stuff. And so it's very blurry. But but the point there is that's an example. And it's crazy example, but technology has moved more quickly than the law. The government cannot legislate and there's not enough legislative time in the UK Parliament, I'm I would suggest to legislate as quickly for the technology that's emerging. Okay. Now, think about legislative agility, right writing legislation. So it can actually be, you know, quickly adapted for emerging technology. That's something I'm sure the senior civil servants in governments would will be thinking about that's necessary for agility in those organizations, but has nothing to do with agile, right. But there's exactly the same thing in organizations that like policy and strategy level, because, because like going back to that, going back to that crazy bucket analogy, with all the different stuff, right? Imagine those are the shapes, like those are the things that are out there in that buckets environment. And if there's a shape that doesn't fit the bucket can't really service its environment anymore, right? So I can organization, something happens, perhaps there's a new social trend, right? You know, and it can't if it doesn't see it, it, it can't respond to it. So it doesn't even know the signal, the signal is there knocking against the thing. And, you know, so I think agility, like Agile is, is a great way of delivering, you know, working software in a really effective way when it's done well. But there's a whole organizational thing that needs to change where the organization needs to be looking outwards, needs to actually be talking to its customers. It needs to be, you know, actually living agility, a macro perspective, not just saying, Well, yeah, we want to deliver stuff quickly. But you know, what, we also want you to commit to estimates budgets, and we've got our here's our 10 year strategic plan. Can you give us a five year roadmap, please, you know, so there's that there's that kind of level as well.

Joe Newbert 24:34
It's really interesting. I mean, he raised some great, great points as much as like one areas being sort of encouraged to be more flexible, more agile, more fluid. There does reach this point where it starts to knock against the bucket and say, well, actually, we were sort of unable to do this. I'm joining a few dots here. I think I want to come back to what you made a brief comment about out sort of people not understanding what the BA does, you know, and perhaps being a problem from the outset set of the role. I'm going to use one of your phrases here, just just to lead you into this. You say you try and avoid to be controversial. I think some controversy might be good. Adrian bas losing the learned helplessness a cane. Yeah. And I just want to tie this into, what I'm hearing from you is that BAs can step up and actually play a much bigger role in questioning things like ethics, in questioning things like, you know, your shape sorter and perhaps just driving change a little more proactively than they do right now.

Adrian Reed 25:51
I think there is a huge opportunity for anyone who has the appetite to do that. And I think there's actually a risk. So and again, this may be controversial, but you know, I've seen situations before where bas have been brought in too late. It happens, right? We've all been there. And almost like the situation is right? You know, you're brought in, we're agile. So the devs haven't gotten a user stories, like so write user stories, write as many user stories as you can, oh, no, don't ask those questions just right. Like, we just need user stories like users to and it's and it becomes like, a huge a story factory, where it's like, no, just write stories, stories, stories, stories, stories. It's like this this industrial complex of Aza you know, so that, and but actually, in that situation, sometimes the most courageous, difficult but courageous thing to do say, Okay, let's, okay, let's put some seed stories in, but I'm going to start a quite high level to work out. But let's actually work out what we're building here. And whether it's the right thing, because otherwise, I can write some really, really effective stories that deliver precisely zero value, because, oh, and by the way, what are we doing about non functional requirements here? Has anyone considered those? Because Are we really going to do them as stories? Maybe we are probably not, though probably going to do them differently? And how are we just using? So? So I think there is this quite often we get into a situation where others are, and it comes back to that crisis on other people's, you know, someone else's crisis? Well, you know, the, the outsource dev team are telling us they can't do anything, just haven't got stories, and there's probably a whole other, you know, so I think sometimes saying, Yeah, we can do that. But alongside that, I'm going to help you understand the problem statement, I'm going to do a context diagram or whatever. And I want to, you know, and in two weeks, let's have a checkpoint and just see where we're at, and see if we're going along the right way. Because you know, what? Agile and agility is also about having the ability to pivot. So, you know, let's, let's not start just by asking what everyone wants and coming up with a Center's Wish List of, you know, inconceivable and incoherent requirements or stories, let's actually figure out some of the really big questions as well. So yeah, but the learner just started circling back to the learned helplessness. I mean, and I really hope this isn't controversial. But like, if people don't get the value of what we do, that's on us. Yeah. Like, it's a harsh truth. It took me a lot a long time to learn, but I felt like I was being a teenager, like, Oh, nobody understands me. These people don't nobody gets me, you know, I mean, I was one step away from, you know, dressing like, what's his face from the cure? And getting, that's a reference that no one will get anyway, so he sent me a new job. I was getting my nail varnish ready, but no, so you know, so but like, feeling this misunderstood. But actually, like, if we cannot articulate our value, then we don't deserve a place at the table. And like, I know, that's a horrible thing to hear and to say, but like, it's not a new role, if we can't explain it. And if we can't sell it, then the problem is, at least partially on us. So I'm gonna I'm going to give that caveat to anyone who's ill. Right to me with hatred.

Joe Newbert 29:19
Now, misunderstood teenager, I think is the perfect analogy for it, because it is sort of this blaming the outside world for the situation that we're in when actually we need to do a better job of articulating but also demonstrating, I guess, you know, not just saying, but acting and showing that, you know, there is a valuable place for this stuff.

Adrian Reed 29:44
I mean, a phrase that I heard from Laura Brandenburg, probably 15 years or more ago, was credibility comes through delivery. And it has stuck with me ever since and I've probably used it myself. Your credibility comes through delivery. It might have been Laura Brandenburg, it might have been Paul Abell, actually, I might have heard either of them or both of them say that at some point, but very inspirational people, you know, folks listening, you know, Laura Brandenburg, Paul Abell, look them up, connect with them awesome people. And I think there's a huge amount to that. But you know, I think that, I don't think I think, again, this is one of those things that is at a practitioner level, it is also at a team, or department, or internal community of practice level, but also, you know, we have a global virtual community of practice, you and I have never worked together for the same organization. But we know we can pick up the phone to each other. And if you know, if I want, if I, like, if I saw, Oh, Joe, you've worked on such and such, can you give me some tips, I know, you take the call and vice versa, you know, I would take the call. And that is that sort of community of practice that spans beyond an organization. And I think, by doing the sort of thing that you're doing here, Joe, with, with podcasts, and the other great content you create, this is about getting the message out as well to, you know, to each other, but hopefully, then it filters, you know, proliferates through beyond this beyond business analysis, as well. So I think there's that good, like, you know, the Community of Practice element to it as well,

Joe Newbert 31:20
there is, and I'm going to come back to that, but via something else. I was in training the other day, and somebody gave me a great analogy for what they see happening with business analysis. And some of the other roles that are emerging more recently, they described it as a shiny red apple. And they said that pas used to have a shiny red apple, and then somebody came along and took a bite out of it right and said, We'll handle that. You could call them a product manager or whatever you want to imagine any role here. But then somebody else came along and said, We're going to take a bite of this apple two, and it was maybe a user research analyst. And, you know, there's all these different sort of niche professions emerging. Do you see that continuing? Over the next while becoming even more defragmented?

Adrian Reed 32:15
Yes, but I don't think it matters. Because like, so like, and this is another, I miss. So so so it's really interesting, because the work I do with the clients I work with, quite often people say, oh, you know, what, you're what you do is this is architecture, isn't it? And maybe some of it is or okay, you know, what you what you do? There is product management. Okay. Fine, yeah. But then actually, I think it's, the opportunity is, or, to borrow that analogy, is rather than just having having a red apple, is let's have a whole cocktail. Let's, you know, let's actually I'll bring I'll bring this is offering my apple, you bring your orange and your pair, let's put them in in a bowl and, and have a piece each, and then we've all got more flavors. And yeah, I might still be 70% Apple, and if you've got a question about apple cider, and you come and speak to me, but, you know, but actually, I can do enough orange, and enough pair, but knowing that the experts in pairs, and I've got this analogies, I've stretched it too far. Joe, I'm flogging it. But you know, but you get you get the point. It's about, I think, Nick to voile, who, again, another hugely inspirational person, if you're listening following it to foil, he says things that I generally only see the significance of about 10 years later. And this was probably nearly 15 or 20 years ago. Now at an iba event. I remember him saying that, you know, sometimes people say, Well, you can't be a BA and dou x as well. And my response is, why not? You know, the boundaries are only there because we made them. Yeah, I'm gonna say that, again. The boundaries are only there. Because we believe in and because sometimes because it's organizationally convenient for the boundaries to be there. Yeah. And yes, there's there's got to be clarity around roles and races and these sorts of things, but they don't have to be as they don't have to be concrete. They can be, you know, knowledge cannon in my view should. It's really exciting. I find it when knowledge comes from from adjacent roles, you know, when I work with UX professionals, either loads, because there's similarities in what we do. And I'm, I'd like to think they learned something, maybe something as well, when I've worked with, you know, other, you know, other disciplines I've learned loads so I think it's more about saying, Yeah, you know, what, people might have a bite out of our our fruit but you know, but actually, it's two way and why not take the opportunity to take a bite out of them. Hold on to it collaboratively and make it non nonzero sum. It would be would be my view on it.

Joe Newbert 35:07
Yeah, nothing is a great view. Yeah, the fruit cocktail, one of the important things for me in there was actually saying, you know, I can do a bit of pear, but I'm not a pear. And exactly, and that that's the point where, you know, you know, I can help you. But if you want more help, then we might need to take you to see a specialist, you know, who really gets into it?

Adrian Reed 35:29
And that's it like, so for example, I know that I, I know, there is so much I don't know about quality assurance and testing, like, you know, QA and testing, and there are people who specialize in that. So whenever anyone asks me about that, I'll say, look, I can give you a very, very brief and probably an accurate overview of some stuff. You need a QA and testing professional here. It's not, it's not. So one, it's not something I know about. And it's not something that excites me. But luckily, it's something that excites a whole bunch of people who I love working with, I love working with QA and testing professionals. And you know, and, and I can, you know, in that situation, why I can perhaps introduce you to someone some. So, there's that element of knowing when to hand off and knowing when to recommend or bringing, because, and that works both ways, right? Because you then find that perhaps someone speaking to a QA and testing professional say, Oh, do you know what? Like, I can give you a bit about business analysis, but go and speak to Joe, right. Like, we really need to bring Joe in on this. So it's that kind of collaborative constellation of people that get stuff done, right, with the disciplines that get stuff done, all collaborating to get stuff done, and making sure when they see someone's not there, it's like, oh, it shouldn't we have some, you know, enterprise architecture here seems a bit lacking, you know, that that type of thing.

Joe Newbert 36:52
Yeah, you make a great point in there, you know, it comes back to you doesn't it's like you refer one way, but it's not one way it goes both ways. And so as you say, we built up that collaboration. And I'm reminded as well, one thing I often say, when you do find a sort of a learned helplessness, BA is that you think you've got it bad, you should try being a tester, they get involved much later, they're given much less focus, and they get on with it and do it within the constraints that they've got.

Adrian Reed 37:24
Yeah, and I mean, I have huge amounts of respect for QA and testing professionals, because one of the things I think they're, in my experience very good at is saying, okay, you've given us, you know, you've dealt us these cards, here's the tacit risky, or Now, here's the tacit risk you are now taking, if we can only have that length of time to do what we need to do. So you know, what you want to do? informed? And I think that that's another important point is, I've never got like, Well, I do have an issue, because, as you mentioned, the beginning, I'm known as a diva, but like, I don't have an issue with an informed decision maker saying you've got less time to do your analysis, as long as I have put forward the case that if you if you cut down to this, here are your risks, here's what's going to happen. Here is the organizational debt you're going to be carrying. If we do this, you're fine with that. Okay, what do you know what, it's your budget, you're commissioning this piece of work? Fine. And you know, and that, and that sometimes is life, sadly. But it is about that storytelling. And I normally find if you tell the story well enough. Yeah, you can, you can know you can win them around, but not always.

Joe Newbert 38:35
Yeah. And yeah, it's gonna be under school. Well, you know, I never get or they won't give me or whatever. But actually, as you say, it's responding and say, Okay, if that's the way it is, then you're going to miss out on X, Y, and Zed I'm not going to be able to do this. That's the concept potential consequence. You happy? And if they say yes, move on.

Adrian Reed 38:54
Or even better, I like to do. Okay, so these your constraints? are they hard constraints? Can they, you know, like you said, 10 days, can it? Is it really 10? Or could it be 11? Like, if I could, you know, okay, so, you know, it's you can start to play with to find out what the real constraints are. Okay, fine. So I'm here, here's what I can deliver in 10 days or whatever. But how about Wait, you know, I'm just I'm just picking 10 as a random bucket of bucket of days. But But how about we do five and then have a chat and see where how we're getting on? Because, in my mind, I'm thinking because, you know, you're the execs view or whoever might have changed when they start to us, because credibility comes through delivery, remember, and that doesn't necessarily it doesn't always mean delivery of the end product. It can be that they read Oh, my God, this problem statement. I've never seen anything clear that you know, you've probably heard that before. Right? You deliver something that to you or is just bread and butter, and they're like, Oh my God, how did you do that? Like we've never Yeah, this is going to be so useful for us. So like, get something out. earlier and then say, you know, I know we said 10 days. But look, we did this. And you know, you're saying it's gonna be really useful. How about we discussed that constraint again, you know, and then just, again, it's an informed decision based on what what they know, a decision isn't a decision isn't always a decision forever. It's a decision at that point in time. And, you know, I think I think we should get better at having conversations about when is that decided? Until? In what situations? Will that decision be revisited? You know, just because someone's pulled an arbitrary deadline out of the air doesn't mean we have to, you know, burn out an entire team to deliver it. If that's not the right thing to do when burning out a team is almost certainly never the right thing to do.

Joe Newbert 40:44
Yeah, it's questioning again, isn't it really just making sure that we're solving the right problem? In the right way. You're talking earlier, you know, about the way that you know, these roles are set up in organizations, I mean, I often get a mental picture of like, a floor plan in an organization with cubicles because it feels like that sometimes that there are cubicles, if you pop your head up, you can like look over and see everybody, but often, you know, our heads are just down and we get in on within that particular discipline, I often think that it's the same with bodies of knowledge, you know, they're all so distinct from each other, and, you know, almost trying to keep each other at shoulders, lens and say, like, we're the most important body of knowledge. And I feel sometimes, in all of that, we perhaps lose that collaboration that you were talking about earlier. And what I'm transitioning to now is community, and as as these nice roles emerge, and they probably all get their own bodies of knowledge that tell them how to do their, their jobs, which, you know, I use the word dilute here, quite lightly. I mean, it's going to dilute business analysis to an extent potentially, how can we retain a sense of community of business analysis across niche disciplines? I feel like that could be quite a challenge.

Adrian Reed 42:11
It could. I don't know. The I don't know the answer to that. But a way I look at it is if we, if we zoom out and think that we are all practitioners of change is an ugly, clunky phrase, but that they're lovely. And but there'll be people saying, Oh, well, we do product, you know, we're product not change. It's like, yeah, okay, but you're changing. Like you're incrementally developing and delivering a product or whatever. But there's still change, right? But we've all got something in common. Like, I don't care. Particularly this is just me speaking. Now, I'm not saying anyone else should think like this. I'm just saying how I think I don't care what my role title is. I don't care what the clients I work with what they call my work. I call it business analysis. And I know I you know, I bleed into other disciplines. And I think there are enough of us around. And I think I was if I was having this conversation. I think it was with Fabricio for Bristow, Laguna Laguna in Brazil, the Brazilian BA, who, again, anyone listening should definitely follow. And we were chatting about stuff. And I was saying it's interesting, because like, there used to be, there always used to be a central hub for stuff, right? Yeah. So like, and that had to be there. And I'm going back to the I used to live in a windmill time of my life when, because the central orchestrating organization controlled information, right, because you couldn't live like that, there was a time when it wasn't as easy to get as much content as we will get Now certainly wasn't as easy to get like for us to do this 30 years ago, and get people to listen to it would probably have involved sending audio cassettes or CDs in the post or something, right? You know, maybe this says that, that kind of that kind of thing. But whereas, whereas now that need for a central body to do stuff is communities can self organize. So when our sphincter for breast, cloudy idea came into my head, it's like, it's like we're moving away from, like, everything orbiting around some central sun, to like a constellation of different people and organizations, and, you know, and they can all exist and all thrive. And but you don't have to be a large organization to, to do stuff and you know, and the bat and where we placed, the boundary of that galaxy is largely a social construct, right? We you know, you might draw that boundary in a different place for the way you practice business analysis to where I do, but that doesn't matter because you're doing awesome work for your clients and you're doing the stuff they need and you know, trying to do the same for, for mine. So. So I guess that's a really long winded way of saying that I I'm not sure how much the identity I don't think the identity matters to people outside of the community, anywhere near as much as it does to us inside. And I just a crazy analogy to draw there is I remember being with a relative in who had a bit of a fall in accident emergency, so the emergency room of a hospital. And there are all sorts of person visiting this relative who'd taken a fool, all of whom had different titles. And you know what, as a patient and as a relative part of a patient, you just don't care. I don't care whether that person is a nurse practitioner and advanced nurse practitioner, a doctor, a registrar, a senior registrar, a junior doctor, you know, a radiologist and all that orthopedic registrar, or whatever, none of those things, I don't care where those boundaries are, what I want is this, I want the good clinical outcome for that patient. And I want that that community to have decided who needs to do what, when, and, you know, what, if an emergency occurs, and someone you know, heaven forbid, has a cardiac arrest or whatever, and the right person isn't there, I probably want the the people around to have enough training to deal with it while they get there. And put that into our world. And I know it's a crass analogy, but put that into our world. We're like, oh, no, everyone has to care that we're business analysts, and we're and we're not whatever. No, it's I just think it I think we sometimes place, you know, understand why it's important. But if we focus on actually what clients customers stakeholders want, and put that first, and worry about the identity second, I think we'll be fine.

Joe Newbert 46:57
Yeah, I think so to read, what you said resonates a lot. I've often thought that, you know, we often pick up a book or book that prescribes a particular way of doing our job, and everybody's going about their life wanting some change. And we saw pointed a book and go, no, no, we're like, we're following this, we need to do it this way. And everyone's like, I don't care. I just want this outcome, I want this result. And that's what we need to prioritize here.

Adrian Reed 47:27
I think so and I think also, is knowing that practices change. And, you know, I think it was a guy, I forget his name, Simon Wardley, who invented Wardley mapping, I, again, really interesting person to look up and follow puts a lot of this stuff out there for free. And, but I remember seeing him speak and he said, by definition, best practice is past practice. Right? By definition, best practice is past practice. And there's nothing wrong with that if you're in a completely static environment, where nothing's changed. And this is me adding on to what Simon said there where nothing's changed. And, you know, but actually, sometimes, like, you know, it's totally fine to mold techniques together. Right? You know, we all do it. And it's that like, dirty secret that, oh, you know, what, this isn't a, you know, this isn't a pure way of using technique, but it gets the job done. And that's, that's what's important. And I think that, you know, I, I do think that having toolkits of techniques is really important. But I think we've all got to be constantly looking out. And you know, what, if you see a tool from another discipline that's really useful, maybe we use it in a different way. Like, I would go talk to them and learn about it and bring it in. Right, that's, that's what really excites me is like, blurring the edges bringing stuff in from them from different worlds and getting our stuff into into their worlds. But but it comes back to that, you know, the analogy, but knowing that you're mainly apple that this is my speciality, and I can do a bit of pair, but go and speak to the pears and the oranges and the other fruits and vegetables are available.

Joe Newbert 49:22
Here they are, you've got a bit more choices. The last thing I just want to pick out from what you said as well is, is about your constellation, really, and that the profession will continue the networking of the profession will continue, regardless of the organizations that also exist in the space. And maybe this comes back to what you said before as well, just having people that you can watsapp and you know that they'll pick up in a day or two and help you out in the way that you need help.

Adrian Reed 49:54
Absolutely. And I think networking is an underrated skill. And it doesn't have to be terrified. I used to be terrified of networking. Because I'm not I'm not, I find meeting people. Terrifying. I mean, I just do, right. You know, and particularly in that, you know, if you think about networking, you know, you go to a networking event, and everyone's in networking mode, that's, that, to me is just like, it's, I can do it, but it's, I, you know, but if you go to an event with Bas, everyone is like, everyone's facing similar challenges. It's not like networking, it's like going to a family reunion or something in many ways. And, you know, I've had the, I've been really fortunate, and I've been able to come to the, you know, the big summit, Southern Africa, which is fantastic. And anyone, whether or not you're in southern Africa, go, go go look that up. And you know, and I have really great conversations with people everyone's friendly, the big conference Europe, big beyond, you know, there's, you know, an event in Germany of which should be a day, I think that all these different events and meetups, so like networking, inside your organization is important. But meeting other Bas, not even just in your country, and there are a lot you know, there are like, like there's zoom, that there's the Brussels chapter, has a, you know, a drop in zoom call every Friday in the UK chapter of IBA or so, you know, networking doesn't have to be scary, but it's, it's, it's great for learning. And, and you know, what, it's one of those things where I found if you put, you know, if you network from the perspective of I'm not trying to get you know, I'm not trying to get anything out of this by networking, but you know, what, if I can help someone out, I will and, and if you ever need anything, you almost don't even need to ask if the network is there, you just sort of put it on LinkedIn. And you know, and people will help you because they know you. Whereas if you haven't networked, then you're kind of shouting at an empty room, because you might have LinkedIn connections. But how many of those LinkedIn connections do you actually know? So yeah,

Joe Newbert 52:08
those are some wonderful last thoughts. Thank you for joining me on the show. Adrienne, it's always a pleasure to talk to you. And thank you for everything that you throw out into the BA constellation. I think you expand the boundaries of the universe. And I appreciate that.

Adrian Reed 52:24
Well, no, I do one thing, I actually do a cheeky little plug into a place. Ba ba digest. If you go to ba digest dot link, quarterly, open access journal, that is now well magazine rather than journal, which is completely free. All of the past editions are completely free. You don't have to register. And it's out every quarter. It is it's technically indexed by the British Library. Now. It has an ISSN number, which is more impressive than it sounds or less impressive than that sounds. But yeah, so but that that again, was one of the things we do with with digest is try and get different perspectives on business analysis. So if anyone listening wants to write an article, you know, get in touch, there's absolutely the opportunity for that as well.

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The Show Notes

Cool stuff mentioned on the show

๐Ÿซ Christina Lovelock and Adrian Reed's BA School Day 

๐Ÿ“ฐ BA Digest 

๐Ÿ“š Begin With You by Petra Velzeboer (Amazon)

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Adrian's shoutouts: Laura BrandenburgPaula BellNick De Voil, and Fabricio Laguna

๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ Wardley Mapping

๐Ÿ“› Networking conferences: BA SummitBA EuropeBA & Beyond, and European BA Day

โ˜• IIBA Brussels BA Cafe every Friday

๐Ÿ‘ IIBA UK BA Brown Bag session: 

(Affiliate links earn a commission from qualifying purchases which helps support this project at no additional cost to you.)

About Adrian Reed

Adrian Reed (/in/adrianreed/) is the Principal Consultant at Blackmetric. He is an experienced and delivery-focused Lead Business Analyst and Practitioner of Change, who is qualified to ISEB/BCS Diploma, IIBA CBAP and BAMF "Expert BA" (XBA) standard. Adrian is the Editor-in-Chief of BA Digest and Co-founder of BASchool.day, as well as an author, speaker and active member of the business change community, writing articles for many business change-related websites. 

About Joe Newbert

Joe Newbert (/joenewbert) is is a consultant, a writer, a speaker, but above all, a teacher. As Chief Training Officer at Business Change Academy, he delivers some of the best business analysis training on the planet. He co-authored the original IIBAยฎ Business Analysis Competency Model and served as Non-Executive Director on the IIBAยฎ South Africa Strategy Board. Joe is Showrunner at the business analysis podcast network OneSixEight FM and Editor-In-Chief at the Inter-View Report. And he also writes in fits and starts on Newbert's Blog.


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