Why we need to read!

The head of what is probably the largest Business Analysis community in the world (over 1,00 business analysts) told me how shocked she was by the lack of reading her business analysts do around their work. Only 3 out of 30 said they ever read anything about business analysis, in contrast to what she sees when walking past developers desks where  piles of well-thumbed copies of various software books are always in evidence

There is an interesting paradox that technological advances actually make the job of business analysis harder. For example the flexibility and configurability of business software packages turns the old complaint of business of not wanting to ‘have to change our business in order to fit the IT system’ on its head. It is now much easier to give the business exactly what they ask for. This can be a recipe for disaster! It’s easier than ever before to create bureaucratic workflow monsters.

The ability of business analysts to understand the real problem and to influence people to see the wider picture before agreeing on a solution is key. This means technical and business knowledge is not enough and that people and leadership skills are becoming more and more important. Many of these skills are straightforward to understand but take a lifetime to master.

Andy Wilkins’ chapter ‘Dealing with problems’ in the book has given me a much-appreciated understanding of different types of problems.  I’m currently working with a series of ‘wicked messes’ and trying to bring about change in social care. I followed up Andy’s chapter by reading one of his references (another great thing about the book is there are exactly 200 references to other books and articles) A thought-provoking, and very useful read, David Hancock’s book Tame, Messy and Wicked Risk Leadership develops the theory of messy and wicked problems through his experiences of managing risk for Heathrow Terminal 5 and London Underground.

To me the point of reading is to understand the worlds we work in better so that we can bring about more effective change. A deeper understanding of messy and wicked problems has helped me to recognize and understand why so many projects in social care are so hard to manage and deliver and has provided new and exciting approaches to take. Theory is interesting but it only becomes useful when you start trying to use it to apply to your own situations.

The manager’s solution has been to run monthly short seminars based around James and Suzanne Robertson’s book Mastering the Requirements Process . The requirement for attendees is that they read the relevant chapter before the seminar. How do you encourage people to read?

1 comment… add one
  • Penny Pullan September 15, 2013, 9:12 pm

    Yes, James, the fact that some business analysts don’t read much has struck me too! I have a recommended books list hosted at and people are often amazed that I have read so many books. The trouble is that these are just the best ones as I’ve read many more that I would not recommend.


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