Now, before anyone starts typing an angry response, let me say up front that methodologies are fantastic tools. Unfortunately, they are just that, tools. Just like a mechanic cannot fix your car using a single monkey wrench, a Business Analyst cannot effectively perform their job with nothing but methodologies. I have seen an increasing trend in the IT industry that is putting more focus on methodologies. And what’s the problem with this, you ask? They sound great in marketing materials. You can add fancy and colourful graphics that show how a project or task will theoretically proceed. They can be described as “robust”, “comprehensive”, or whatever other buzzword you want to use. In short, they look great on paper and can be very appealing to potential clients. However, as Business Analysts, we are selling ourselves, our chosen profession and our clients short if we rely on nothing other than methodologies.
I encourage you to take stock of what you have in your toolkit. It should contain all of the skills, resources and knowledge that you use to perform your job. This is where the true power of the “toolkit” analogy lies. By putting all of your skills and resources in the context of being a tool, you are forced to identify if you are proficient or weak in the use of that tool. Now, put your toolkit together. Throw your communication, facilitation and documentation abilities in there. Put more specific skills like strategic planning, data design, graphic design in there too, if they’re applicable to you. And yes, put your methodologies in there, they are after all a resource that you use. As you are building your toolkit, keep track of anything that you feel weak at, so you can work on developing those skills.
As Business Analysts, every project or task that we work on will have its own unique attributes and nuances. Those differences may arise due to the nature of the people we are working with, the technologies we’re using, the environment we find ourselves in or the structure of the team we’re on. This is likely not news to anyone, but the key here is that every situation is unique, and it is exactly this uniqueness that makes it impossible to have a “one size fits all” methodology. Go ahead and use a methodology that fits the project you’re working on, but even more importantly, use your skills and knowledge to deliver the outcomes you are responsible for. Remember that the goal of a project is not to successfully complete the steps of a methodology, but rather to deliver value to the stakeholders.
Going forward, let’s refocus on delivering value with the best tools we have. What’s in your toolkit?