A good BA enables good IM

Mark Atkins, Intraversed


A good BA enables good IM

Business analysts often seem like the meat in the sandwich between the business and IT.

At their best they have a good handle on both, speak the native tongue of both, forge relationships with both to ensure cooperation and collaboration, and, of course, they translate between them in the hope that everyone will get what they want and need to do their job successfully.

Not an easy role. But then, if what they do was easy, we probably wouldn’t need them.

The BA can be even more pivotal to information quality than you think

Many organisations don’t recognise the role BAs can play in developing quality information in your organisation.

There’s the obvious connection – the information the business uses to carry out its tasks comes from systems built by IT, guided by information formulated by the BA in collaboration with the requesting business staff. If the BA gets it wrong, the system outputs are wrong.

Then there’s the less obvious connection – your BAs are the central pin in any language definition work taking place at the start of new projects or data requests. This is often seen as a necessary early step in any new project.

But it’s so much more than that.

Clarifying the language involved in a project is central to project success. It’s not just a step in the BA’s process. It’s the KEY step.

When understood and managed effectively, language definition work becomes the key to the project’s success and the key to resolving any issues with outputs.

That’s a whole lot of potential value in the hands of your BA’s ability to get those definitions right. Every time.

Why you should develop your BA’s definition skills.

We all know that projects fail due to communication failures between the requesting BA staff and the IT staff building out that request happen easily. If we’re relying on BAs to ensure that doesn’t happen, why do so many communication failures still happen?

There are a few reasons – most notably, you need an organisational business term glossary to ensure clear communication, not project-based definition work (read more about that here).

But having a glossary doesn’t automatically ensure great definitions. If your BAs don’t have the essential skills necessary to write high quality definitions, then you’ll have poor quality ones, whether in a glossary or in project-based definition work.

Definition writing skills are not innate, they’re not common and they’re absolutely essential to great definition writing. Thankfully, they’re teachable.

Upskilling your BAs in definition writing skills can save your business a lot of money and effort, as it will increase project success rates and more easily rectify project failures when they occur. You enhance their value to you, and to future employers.

It represents a solid ROI and the potential for a lot of risk reduction. And that’s why we think upskilling your BAs with definition writing skills is a no-brainer.

Essential Skills for BAs

Here are the essential skills BAs need to have to deliver high quality definitions:

  1. Using grammar and punctuation effectively

    Boring? To some – but we kinda like it.

    Obvious? You’d think so, but we’ve seen some shockingly badly written definitions in our time.

    Essential? You bet.

    Poorly applied grammar and punctuation can change the meaning of a phrase or sentence completely. Here’s a great example. Common uses of poor grammar, like “I don’t want nothing,” manage to deliver their meaning clearly when paired with context, tone and inflection during conversation. But when delivered in written form, confusion as to whether nothing is wanted or something is wanted, is much more likely. This kind of ambiguity can undermine a definition (and a project) completely.

    And if you think punctuation is hardly worth a business’s investment, think again The famous Oakhurst Dairy case is a great example of one comma costing a business $13M. (Read it here)

  2. Competency at applying a structure that supports easier writing and quicker approvals

    We have created a novel approach to structuring definitions so that authors can

    • know where to start, where to go next and where to end,

    • be supported in the writing process and

    • deliver drafts in a format that makes discussion, editing and amendments cleaner and easier.

  3. Applying a standard across definitions to ensure consistency and quality

    While most people see definition writing as writing a sentence or two and getting general agreement from people, we approach each definition as a process to follow to reach a clear, high quality end point. And it often begins before you write a word, reviewing all existing definitions, clarifying calculations, life cycles and synonyms, and many more tools and tricks to make sure definitions truly capture and clarify all necessary details (and no more).

  4. Practical writing skills that get over-the-shoulder help from experts

    Learning a bunch of facts about writing definitions is different from getting help doing the application of those facts. We offer an educational package that involves two parts – the theory and the practical. We run weekly or fortnight writing studios, during which our experts review definitions written by your team, and offer suggestions for applying different aspects of the theory taught in classes in the first two weeks of our education course.

And if you want to take your definition writing further, establish an organisational glossary

We’ve developed our own approach to establishing a gold standard glossary using our Intralign Encyclopaedia software. The Encyclopaedia not only delivers a superior glossary component, it’s been designed around best practice governance, it incorporates our structure and standard features, and becomes the central hub for language and information management throughout your organisation. We offer the establishment of this glossary, along with definition writing training, as stage 1 of our Intralign Ecosystem implementation.
You can read more about the Ecosystem here.

Interested in Intralign definition writing training?

You can read about all our education offerings here.

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Mark Atkins, Intraversed

Mark Atkins

Mark is a co-founder & Chief Development Officer at Intraversed, helping organisations establish the Intralign Ecosystem, an award winning information management & governance methodology, to achieve reliable information, stable tech spend & greater IT project success.

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