The BA Elevator Pitch


Everyone needs a pitch.  An easy way to explain what they do, to people that may not know.

How good are you at explaining the role of a Business Analyst?

Here’s a serious question: picture yourself at a BBQ, talking to an old friend, or even a complete stranger. Some small talk leads to the common question; “what do you do for a living?”.  

In my life, I’ve lost count of the times that I get confused look when I proudly share my job. Despite our numbers in the coproate world, people still wonder what we actually do.

A colleague shared a video from Russell Peters, where (among many things) confusion reigns on the role of a BA.  Take a look (language warning).

My first reaction: I agree with him 100%  Strange as it may seem, yes it can be hard to picture a Business Analyst.  

In the video, the audience member analogized the BA role as “building reports”, which didn’t help sell the BA role.  And yes, if I was Russell the BA, I might want to quit my job too.  In simple terms, writing reports is only a function of what we do but doesn’t explain why we write reports.

As Russell notes, “a mechanic, doctor, liqueur store oner, I can picture that; A Business Analyst, I can’t”.  If he struggles, can you imagine others who may struggle to understand what we do?

Now, I want to fix this problem.

A Good Pitch?

Another colleagues shared a post from Ailistain Cockburn, arguably one of the godfather of modern Agile.  Read his story about “pitching” agile.

Wise words from Alistair Cockburn.

It’s a good sales pitch; short, thought-provoking, and adds value. I can’t think of a manager who wouldn’t want early delivery of value. Not to be confused with curring corners, which often turns into disaster, Alistair pitches the idea of “just enough” change to give value. It might turn out the big project is no longer needed, as enough value was delivered in the first few weeks.

Everyone needs a pitch, especially a BA. Let’s write one.

Sell the BA in you

My first question: how would you pitch a BA role to a colleague, or a complete stranger, or in a social context?

Some may use an anlogy, in order to relate to something known.

We are often diplomats; caught in the middle of two warring factions. Namely, the business, and the technology teams, trying to find middle ground on the colour of a simple form.

On occaion, I feel like a translator, trying to understand what the business said to me, and frame it in a way that technology understands what they need to do.

I feel like a negotiator, like one of those hostage negotiators you see in the movies. Constantly back and forth between business and technology, arguing over insignificant details, when we should jsut focus on the important stuff.

For myself, I prefer to take a simple approach, much like Alistair Cockburn.

Here’s my pitch:

I turn your needs into business value.

I’ll break down what this means, and how I sell it.

Needs and Value

Business Analysts typically exist to understand your needs; this could be challengers in performing your role, improvements you’d like to make in a system, or provide help to brainstorm an idea. All needs are documented so that the business knows what they will get, and the delivery team know what they must do. Yes, there are plenty more things a BA will do to understand your needs, but let’s keep it simple for now.

The next step is to understand what is valuable to your stakeholder. For me, context is key.

Take for example a common scenario; a business wishes to implement new technology, in order to reduce operating costs by 30%. A common mistake is to implement a cutting-edge solution (output), without considering if it helps to achieve the desired 30% cost reduction (outcome). By definition, no real value is delivered.

We all remember the tyre swing, right?

The tale of the tyre swing

In the tyre swing example, it’s clear no one got what they wanted. However, as Business Analysts, if we keep our focus on the need and the interent value, good outcomes are achieveable.

When you come to devising your BA elevator pitch, you can follow the analogous definition, or choose your own relatable path. Always remember the key ingredients; what are you going to do to make someone’s life easier?

I’d love to hear your BA elevator pich in the comments section below. Good luck!

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