The BA Heartbeat

A software business analyst (BA) has one simple mission: Maximize software value to the customer.

This breaks down into smaller goals, of course, like conducting interviews, writing clear requirements, communication, facilitation, etc. The BA heartbeat, however, needs to be crystal clear so that we don’t get lost in all the project noise: Represent the customer.

Developers want to write great software, testers want to deliver quality products, and project managers want to hit deadlines and budgets. Others surrounding the project have their own missions and motivations, but they are all different from the BA. Sure, you can argue that the entire team should be focused on the same goal, but that’s corporate speak that doesn’t reflect the nuances of how team roles differ.

Every day the BA shoulders the responsibility of translating customer pain and desire into prioritized actionable requests that a software team can efficiently understand, design and deliver.

We patiently endure hours of meetings, ubiquitous customer desires to design things and the tedious writing of feature definitions. We counsel and cajole and pry into the mysteries of our customer’s business until we can nearly run it for them, so familiar are we with the functional operations.

We forge a bond with our customer that both we and they depend on. Through the laughter, the frustration and the smell of dry erase markers we carefully stitch together a relationship that becomes a conduit connecting need with capacity.

When someone on our team suggests that the customer does not need something that we have painstakingly defined, we suffer the setback emotionally, buffering the customer from this techno-rejection and we fight for them, wielding the best business case we can make so that they can prevail in absentia.

We bring perspective and balance to the tug-of-war that is software development. We strive for the ideal solution while staying rooted in the reality of our constraints.

We track every change flowing from the customer’s dynamic world into the tower of the software genius, minimizing the impact of change where possible and accelerating understanding through diagrams, narrative, emails, knowledgebase updates and *gasp* meetings.

In the end, when the bug lists are clean and the stress of the rollout is a distant memory, we take satisfaction in having delivered on the trust our customer and our development team placed in us — a charge to deliver the most valuable software we could, given limited time and money.

If you recognized your own heartbeat in the description above and you are not working as a business analyst, maybe you are carrying the wrong title.

Which way is ground?

Parking on the level above where I entered the garage, I hoofed it into the elevator thinking about my meeting.
Why do I feel the freedom to ignore my surroundings and focus on my meeting? Because I have faith in the good sense of architects, builders and elevator designers to do the right thing…to act in my best interest and not make me learn a special system just for this building.

Silly me.

After the door closed, I was greeted by a typical panel of buttons. That’s when my trouble began.
I’m on the second floor, right? I drove in on the GROUND level (where cars typically travel in the real world) and I went up ONE level.
What level am I on, then? TWO, of course. Except in THIS elevator.
I glance at the buttons and, before pressing the ONE button, glance up at the floor indicator. It says “5.”
FIVE? I’m on level FIVE? But I only drove up ONE level from GROUND! How can this be FIVE?
Then I see it — the magic icon that is supposed to make everything all right. The calming, ubiquitous symbol that means GROUND and will guide me through the rest of my journey. Is it a picture of LAND? No. Is it a picture of a person walking on some GROUND to leave the building? No. Is it the word LOBBY perhaps, or “G” for Ground? No and no. It’s…a STAR.  And this totally intuitive symbol for GROUND FLOOR is located where? Next to the level 3 button. Level THREE!!
You’ve got the scenario by now. Level 1 is first (lowest) basement level. Level 2 is the basement level above that, level 3 is actually the GROUND floor and so on up to level 6.
Momentarily stunned by this complete lack of consideration for the unwary visitor, I pause to consider whether I believe that pressing the button next to STAR will achieve my objective.
I know I want to go DOWN because I am clearly UP. But how far DOWN do I want to go? One floor, of course, because I am only UP one level.
I’ll save you the suspense…I got to the meeting ok. But I haven’t told you the best part.
This cleverly numbered elevator is in a parking garage that serves a building full of office suites. You know…the kind consultants and start-ups hang out in so that their PROSPECTS and CLIENTS (read VISITORS) can come see them and be impressed?
Indeed. Just as soon as they pass the “what level am I on?” test presented by the elevator designers.
Elevator button creativity is a widespread phenomenon. In the Peachtree Center, they got the “1″ for Ground right, but the level below that is “ML” – for Mall. Apparently the elevator design crew never heard the word “mall” in a general context, such as an outdoor park.
In Colony Square, they like “L” for lobby, but the levels below that are C1 and C2…presumably for “C”ars? Ahh…but not all elevators can reach these levels…like it’s a secret clubhouse.
Well, I’ve had enough. I am officially launching the Elevator Buttons Standards Commitee (EBSC). We will meet for the next several years and then issue an optional draft specification. There’s probably a government grant we can apply for. Look for the whitepaper.