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Being a “simplifier” can be really complicated.
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In January, the IIBA DC Metro Chapter hosted Delvin Fletcher, President and CEO of IIBA, for a discussion on Sense and Respond – Business Analysis in a Decade of Change. During his keynote, Delvin stressed a multitude of themes; and, as always, at least one of them kept me thinking. In particular, he highlighted the concept of "simplifiers over complicators". In this context, he referenced business analysts as simplifiers.
When I approached the 2021 Volunteers of the Year about this concept, Debbi Levin said, “I define a simplifier as someone who translates technology to something the business can understand and work with. It is easy and hard to do at the same time.” Yasser Talat concurs, “Yes, it is really important to be a simplifier as a BA. And, yes, it is really difficult to be so. However, when we exert the effort to be simplifiers as much as we can, it paves the way for us to present the best value possible to all types of stakeholders.”
As business analysts, we use a variety of analogies to describe what we do. I frequently use words like “translator,” “interpreter,” or “bridge builder.” All of these have an inherent implication of simplification – I help people get from one understanding to another; from one idea to the next; from one process to another. I aid in that transition; I make it “easy” for them to get there; I simplify.
At the same time, what Debbi and Yasser say about difficulty is completely true. While being a simplifier might be second nature to relationship-building, communication experts, such as ourselves, it is not always as EASY as we make it appear. Undoubtedly, our process for simplifying for others can be complicated for ourselves. We frequently have to tackle (1) aversion, (2) stakeholders, and (3) technical concepts/jargon. As Georges Bryson describes, “We must, as business analysis professionals, be the facilitators of change to bring VALUE to our stakeholders, and we must strive to find order in the chaos, and this can only be done via SIMPLIFICATION.” By Georges’ definition, we are sorting through the “chaos” ourselves in order to make it clear, understandable, and approachable to others. And, as agents of change, we are also battling our stakeholders’ aversion to anything change-related. We strategically and methodically break down work, processes, and communications to assist stakeholders in migrating incrementally through change.
Often times, this change management process involves individuals who are actively part of the implementation. This requires navigating them through the steps to a successful implementation. Simultaneously, there are end users, whose participation is limited to only the end product and how to adopt it. This requires an entirely different plan and approach.
Yasser describes, “And one of the reasons it is difficult to be a simplifier, is how to be a simplifier and, at the same time, understood from different types of stakeholders. (For example), there is a challenge when we design a solution that is simple enough to be valuable and understood by business stakeholders and, at the same time, having enough details to help the implementation SMEs implement the solution properly.”
Ultimately, we get to the question – how do you make spinning multiple plates, in opposite directions, look easy? This is where our business analysis toolbox comes in handy. In fact, Debbi advocates, “I like to use process maps at a high level to simplify business process understanding. I like to use diagrams to visually represent connections and relationships. I find most people prefer something visual than paragraphs to understand their process world.” Visuals are the number one way a business analyst can make things accessible to all parties. I also like to “gamify” some of our tasks. In fact, last week, I made a game out of building our business and technical capabilities matrix for a vended product. (Gamestorming is one of my favorite references.) When we use the right tools, everything goes more smoothly.
If you are looking for ways to increase your toolbox and “make things look easy,” check out IIBA Halifax, IIBA Ottawa-Outaouais, and IIBA Palmetto. These three Chapters co-host a regular “Technique Boutique” series.
For further reading, Georges recommends Deloitte’s article on the Simplification Principle.
Reminder: 2021 Volunteers of the Year:
- Eastern Region: Georges Bryson - Montreal
- West/Central Region: Debbi Levin - Phoenix
- Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, and India: Yasser Talat - Egypt
- Europe Region: Claude Duc - Geneva
Be Bold features members, volunteers, and Chapters who are taking bold action. If you have a story to tell or a recommendation for future inclusion, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the Author:
Koryn Anderson enjoyed a couple of careers before finding her ultimate one. She has been a business analyst for more than 10 years and is currently a Lead Business Analyst at Baird. She is passionate about the BA discipline, has her CBAP® certification, is Past President of the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter, and is the current Communications Director for the Global Chapter Council.