I’m a business analyst and I often struggle to explain precisely what that entails. I’m currently working on a project to develop software for some Very Important Users, who don’t have much time to meet with me, never mind the development team. Agile methodology says that the users should hang out directly with the developers and business analysts are useless, so it’s my job to prove them wrong.
So I got as much time with the users as I could, and then made up a requirements document based on my best guesses about how they’d like to do business. When the developers ask me questions, I make up answers. I can do this because I’ve learnt just enough about the users’ business that I can model the users in my head, and then do two things with the model:
- abstract and reduce their unfocused desires into a pure kernel of business need
- figure out what they want in the future based on what they say they want in the present
Business analysts are a lot like criminal profilers, who learn what they can about a criminal (in fiction usually a serial killer), build a model of the criminal in their head, and then do two things with the model:
- abstract and reduce into a pure kernel of criminal intent
- figure out what they’ll do next based on what they’ve done in the past
My two favourite fictional profilers are Frank Black in Millennium, who has a superpower of being able to see the world the same way the criminals do, and Fitz in the British version of Cracker, who is a professional psychologist with plenty of his own dysfunctions. Maybe someday they’ll make a TV show about how cool I am?