As Business Analysts, usually the last thing on our minds is “emotion” as something that’s important to our work. We pride ourselves in the clarity of our thoughts, the impartiality of our observations, and the logic of our rational minds. This is all undoubtedly crucial to our work. But despite all that, there are definitely important roles for emotion in business analysis.
Recently, Business Analyst and blogger Adrian Reed asked the question on Twitter:
Most valuable role for "emotion" in business analysis is for gauging user experience and figuring out how to improve it.
— Joe Barrios (@IamJoeBarrios) January 25, 2017
I initially gave an off-the-cuff response. User Experience (UX) design concerns itself precisely with how people feel when they are using an interface, so the role of emotion is clear. If it feels good and gets the user what he wants, the designer will provide more of the same; if not, the interface needs to change.
But after thinking about it I realized that UX Design is not the only role for emotion in business analysis.
Emotion in Business Analysis #1: Joy/Satisfaction
In an economy increasingly driven by providing consumers with new experience, it’s imperative that a business understand how to judge joy and satisfaction in their customers (or the lack of it.) Business success will hinge on doing things that increase the customer’s joy with their experiences.
Joy and satisfaction play into business analysis in a number of ways. As I mentioned before, gauging user experience when working with a solution interface is a measure of the satisfaction the user feels (or, alternatively, her disgust with poor UX design choices.) A smart UX designer will enhance aspects of the interface that increase a user’s satisfaction, and remove or change aspects that do not.
Another example of the role of joy and satisfaction is the collection of data from customer satisfaction surveys, combined with making business decisions in response to those surveys. A business that keeps its finger on the pulse of its customers’ joy will succeed. That’s nothing new in business, but the emerging ability to collect large quantities of data means that no company has an excuse for being ignorant of customer preferences. And neither does the Business Analyst.
Emotion in Business Analysis #2: Fear
Fear is a great motivator for action. Consider situations where a competitor outfoxes a business in the marketplace, when it brings a product to market more quickly than you, when it sells more successfully than your product. These events generate fear in a business organization. Fear of someone eating your lunch, fear of losing business, maybe even fear of losing your job.
I have seen huge, slumbering enterprises move at the speed of light in response to serious market threats. Legacy waterfall software development processes may quickly give way to Agile development methods. They ignore organizational hierarchies to pull together thought leaders that can devise strategies for responding to the market. And, of course, the money pours in to adequately fund the response.
Fear provides opportunity to you as a Business Analyst. It’s not an easy environment to thrive in–it’s fast paced, frenetic, and breaks old ways of doing things. But that environment also provides fertile ground for doing things in a new and better way.
A BA can be at the forefront of the necessary change to excel in the marketplace. Whether it’s re-inventing processes or devising new solutions, the BA willing to show leadership will quickly establish his expertise and cement his place as a key player in guiding business change.
Emotion in Business Analysis #3: Intuition
Intuition isn’t exactly an emotion, per se. (The closest emotion might be anticipation.) But it acts like one in key ways. Intuition arises from the irrational, emotional part of ourselves that relies on something other than objective facts for making decisions. We rely on our gut feeling, a hunch about what the answer ought to be.
Intuition plays a big role in business analysis because it allows you to navigate the inevitable politics and culture of any organization. Intuition allows you to make the culturally correct choices in new situations facing the analyst.
When a problem arises, how is the Executive Director likely to react? Who is likely to want to weigh in, and with what obstacles? Who is likely to love and hate your proposed solution, and how do you address their concerns in advance? How likely is it that an organization will adopt new business processes, and what are the strategies for making sure it happens? These questions, and many more, can be answered by the Business Analyst’s intuition. The intuition combines the BA’s previous experiences and his emotional intelligence about what is likely to happen next.
It’s important to keep intuition in its place, though. It should aid decision-making but not replace it. Intuition can guide you, but you must always be open to new objective facts that might overrule your gut feeling.
Emotion in Business Analysis #4: Trust
Trust also plays a large role in a BA’s work. A Business Analyst earns trust (and its nearby cousin of respect) when she proves her essential value to the business. Every time a BA conducts a successful analysis that enables valuable change, trust in her will increase.
Trust works the other way as well. A successful BA must cultivate close connections throughout an organization, and even outside of it. For example, a good BA should have solid connections in the software development organization, the project management group, the architecture people, maybe even the executive suite. If he does market research, he may need to cultivate connections with industry representatives. When a BA is faced with new challenges, he is more likely to successfully innovate and solve problems if he has access to people he can trust to help solve those problems.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been “saved” by being able to just pick up the phone and call someone I trust, or just drop by their office. A business will throw problems at a Business Analyst from every direction. When he doesn’t know all the answers, he has GOT to know who to call for help.
Another Perspective on Emotion in Business Analysis: “Changing the Changers”
As I mentioned before, Adrian Reed started a great conversation on Twitter on this topic. He later wrote his own perspective on the role of emotion in projects. He provides the insight that every change made to an organization in turn changes the changer. A BA applies his rationality, emotions, and intuition into making a change to solve a problem; in so doing, the change itself causes changes in the analyst’s attitudes and emotions that he will bring the next time. I definitely agree, and his article is well worth a read!
What do you think about the role of emotion in Business Analysis? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!