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The One IT Role SMB Desperately Needs…

Business Analyst…is the Business Analyst.

The Business Analyst is a combination of a detective and translator. These individuals take business problems and they figure out the process, tools, information, services, etc. necessary to fix the problem.

In today’s business world, the answer to most business problems involves I.T. at some level. The Business Analyst takes the business problem and translates it into consumable chunks for the I.T. team.  The I.T. team then develops a solution which the Business Analyst then translates back to the user. Once the solution is vetted and approved by everyone, a project plan is developed and the project is executed.

Given this description, most SMB executives find the idea a Business Analyst waste of resources at best, and patently ridiculous at worst. And that’s understandable. Here’s the question that most I.T. professionals don’t know how to answer:

Business Executive: “So let me get this straight…we have a full-time I.T. manager who earns a nice salary, we pay an I.T. consulting firm to support our I.T. Manager on top of that, and now you’re telling me we need to hire a translator to handle conversations between our users and the two I.T. resources we already pay!?”

In most cases the answer is, “yes.”

As crazy as it may sound, I.T. people – even most I.T. consulting firms – have really good technical skills and knowledge, but their business, process, and people skills aren’t so great.  Without these skills, here’s what happens:

  1. A business problem is identified.
  2. I.T. and users/management meet to discuss the problem
  3. I.T. finds a technical solution to the problem and implements it.
  4. Because the solution is technical in nature (and not a business solution), users/management find the solution lacking. They explain their concerns/issues with the solution to I.T.
  5. I.T. makes some minor changes or simply shows users/management how they can work around their problems.*

*An important aside: I.T. is already frustrated at this point because from their perspective, users/management didn’t give them all the information they needed at the outset of the project. If they would have had all the information (they contend), they would have suggested a different solution. Now they’re stuck with this one which they don’t want to support because it’s never going to be ideal and they don’t feel they can tell management they need to start over. From the users/management’s perspective, they couldn’t possibly know the right questions to ask (they contend) in order to get the necessary information to the I.T. team. This is the essence of the problem.

  1. So, I.T. makes some quick fixes, but problems still remain (or are now worse). Another meeting is scheduled.
  2. Users/management are frustrated, but they patiently explain what they need again.
  3. I.T. finally explains that their initial solution has limitations and that they were only given partial information at the first meeting.
  4. Management is frustrated because lots of time and money have been wasted with nothing to show for it.

If you’ve been in business long enough, you’ve experienced this exact scenario. The problem is I.T. people are trained to think and deliver technical solutions. This way of thinking and looking at problems is exactly what makes them so good at what they do. So time and time again, I.T. provides technical solutions to business problems. And every time the technical solution lacks effectiveness because business never needs a technical solution. Only business solutions matter.

So as crazy as it sounds…yes, people who know both business and I.T, people with strong social, analytical, and communication skills; and people who are process-minded, are needed.  Desperately. These people are called Business Analysts and they have a skillset that most I.T. people (and I.T. consulting firms) don’t have. Strange, but true.

This blog originally appeared on ‘The Business Technology Place‘ – a website run by our very own, Joe Ulm. Joe is a Senior Business Development Manager at Information Technology Professionals. Read this article, and more on his website.

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