I recently read an article written by one of my favorite gurus, Neal Whitten, entitled Do You Really Get Your Job? Neil is very big on accountability. He writes an article that reminds us to examine our jobs and roles and to think about whether we are performing in the best way possible or are we just doing enough to get by.

Whitten questions the role of a Business Analyst “who believes that her job is to give the client what they want, instead of what they need.” I believe his comment is worth some self-examination. I might debate his definition of “want,” but I think I understand too well what he is suggesting. For example, someone tells us they need a new screen and we tell the developers to get working on that. Are we really performing any business analysis or are we merely order-takers? What if your client’s problem was more complex and the new screen isn’t going to fix it? What if the screen desired was inconsistent with the rest of the application or what if the information to be entered on the screen would not be useful if it were collected? Why do they need the screen? What is the business problem to be solved? Hmm.

This reminds me when I was at a very nice restaurant and I thought I knew what I wanted to order. The wait person asked me several questions about what I really liked and suggested something totally different. I took his suggestion and was very pleased with the result. I was more pleased with what I received than what I thought I wanted due to the extra effort that this person took to understand “my true requirements.” So if you are a Business Analyst who “gets” your job, take pride in your curiosity to investigate, analyze, and discover what is truly required. More often than not the Business Analyst really helps the customer understand more fully what they really need. We all know that time is money, but rework is even more money. I know we are all under time pressures to do things faster, but a great Business Analyst needs a strong backbone to say wait a minute lets figure out what you need first – maybe it is this new screen but maybe it is something else. Too often in these hurry-up projects the customer finds out too late that they paid for the wrong solution. They are not very happy with you then, are they? Next time your customer gives you a dictum, look them square in the face and ask a few probing questions-you’ll feel better!

Does anyone have any bad experiences by giving a customer exactly what they said they wanted?  Please share your thoughts.

Whitten, Neal, “Do You Really “Get” Your Job? PMP Network, 2-2006.

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