What is it that those who are good at presenting information do that is different from those who aren’t quite so good? There are a number of things, including making sure the information is complete. But what they do that is less obvious is that they do more than merely gather facts.
Let’s take the example of doing a business analysis task to gather requirements. We’ve seen plenty of requirements that are full of correct and complete facts but which still seem to lead us in the wrong direction or tell an incomplete story. Let me give you some examples of writing facts that are absolutely correct but have vastly different meaning.
These examples are based on a real conversation I just had. Pretend that you are a 3rd party, maybe a business analyst, who is listening or partly listening, in order to gather the information in order to document it. Note that each example is 100% true. I don’t know that this is relevant, but I live in a relatively small town.
Example #1 – Just the Facts, Maam
Gloria recently called the police department to tell them she would be breaking the law for several days. They took her information and told her that it was no problem.
Example #2 – In Context
Gloria recently blacktopped her driveway and, living in a town where it’s against the law to park on the street, overnight, called the police department to ask what to do with her car. They told her not to worry about it, that as long as that was the reason and that she calls them every night the car is in the street with the license plate and location, that they waive the restriction.
This is not a requirements document nor is Example #1 quite complete in its facts. Still, as an effort to give an illustration of how misleading facts can be, I wrote this in a way that I agree is slanted. This is similar to the way people use statistics improperly, where they give them in a manner that incorrectly affects the reader’s opinion.
What I’m trying to get at is this: it’s not enough to merely gather the facts. We must look for the intention behind what people are telling us. The difference between a good BA (Business Analyst) and a great one is that the great one knows how to do this much better, probably based on experience and sometimes on having better skills at reading and understanding people.
I often hear complaints about how hard this is to do. I agree that it is quite difficult. However, that’s our job. Any job that includes working with people will always be hard. Those who want to be great at this will rise to the challenge and projects who use these people will be rewarded with better material which better represents whatever information it is that is being gathered.