The “Glue” for any IT Project

Friend: So what do you do for work?
Me: I’m an IT Business Analyst
Friend: So what do you actually do?
Me: I’m a glorified translator…

So how would I describe what I’ve been doing for the past year? Let me describe it through the context of IT projects such as business intelligence. The concept of Business Intelligence have been around for decades. For some, it is just a fancy word for business reporting. For others, it is a disproportionate investment that serves only managers and executives. Many people go about their day working on these projects with no sight of what their output ends up.

The thing is, Business Intelligence can be such an enormous part of the organization that very few people understand the big picture.  In fact, one of the major reasons why IT projects tend to fail is because of poor business/IT alignment. I like to use restaurant example to illustrate the point. The customer are the people you ultimately serve while the cashier would take the order and relay that back to the cook to prepare.

process2

You can take the same relationship and apply it to IT projects in general.  I look at it from this simplified picture.

process

Going back to Business/IT misalignment and problems it represents, the analogy would be going to McDonalds and ordering a  McDouble with Mac sauce but you end up getting and paying for the more expensive Big Mac.

So whose fault is it when this communication chain breaks apart?  Is it the customer who didn’t give the right instructions? Is it the cashier who took the order incorrectly? or is it the cook who thought a McDouble with Mac sauce would just be the same as a Big Mac he’s used to making hundreds of times?

I truly believe the responsibility almost always lies with the Business Analysts (BA), yes the cashiers. These guys take requirements from the business and translate them into work that programmers and developers can understand.  They are responsible for clarifying what’s been ordered with the customer and setting expectation on what the output should be with the cook (“No, it’s not a Big Mac!”).

It’s easy to point the finger at the programmers and developers. The repercussions are tragic,  there’s many examples of clients who have alienated their IT department and laid off entire IT staff because every output had not produced a satisfactory result. Most of the time, the problem came from the IT just not understanding what the business wanted and they were doing as they were told.

BA’s are the translators of the company and they are an essential part of any organization who is making hefty investments in technology. Therefore, I strongly recommend that companies make sure they recruit and retain the best and brightest business analysts out there to minimize project misalignment.

I apologize if this is an overly simplified view of how IT and Business works but I felt compelled to share and emphasize an important point. Finally, for those who have not seen this,  I leave with this famous cartoon that we live and die by.

Full Disclosure: I own McDonalds stock and I enjoy eating their food.

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One response to “The “Glue” for any IT Project

  1. Beautiful analogy Albert. I’ve been a product manager myself, so I did the exact same thing, but for the vendor. Product manager = universal translator.

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