For many years, I've worked as a 'word guy' in the IT industry. This involved about 20 years working as a technical writer, creating manuals, bulletins, help systems, training materials, websites, and other documents to support a variety of products. These have ranged from online systems that process health insurance claims, machines that inspect glass bottles and other things as they speed by on assembly lines. traffic lights and electronic equipment for intersections, machines that count cars as they travel by on the roadway, and lots and lots of different pieces of software.
More recently, after seeking and receiving an MBA from the University of South Florida in Tampa, I've switched over to a more analytical role. I had already been doing process improvement, in that I was often called upon to help write and refine ISO 9000 procedures, and to create process forms and templates. But in the last several years, I've been working formally as a Business Analyst.
A Business Analyst (or 'BA' as we often call ourselves, secretly thinking of ourselves as 'bullshit artists'), as many people do not know, is kind of a hybrid creature in the modern business world. He, or often, she, is the person called upon to look at the vague ideas conceived by upper management, and to ask the obvious next questions, such as:
"OK, you want us to make a Doohicky to sell to the public. What exactly do you want this Doohicky to do? How will it work? What will it look like? What will it be made of? What language and tools will be used to create it?"
It's astonishing how many times people (other than BAs) don't ask the next questions. It baffles the hell out of us that they don't, but they don't. Then we write the answers down into very boring documents that can be referenced while people are fighting over why the project is late or over budget.
The other thing that Business Analysts do is called 'process re-engineering', which is just a fancy way of saying that we look at the way people attempt to do their jobs and point out places where it might make sense to do things differently. Things like this . . .
"So you install the screws and then paint the part, and then scrape off the paint, unscrew the screws, install this other part and then re-install the screws? Have you ever thought about waiting to paint it until you're done installing all the parts?"
Then we write it all down in long, boring documents that people reference when they're fighting over who's responsibility it was for that thing not getting painted at all before it was shipped to a customer.
Such is the life of the modern BA.