Lately I’ve been thinking to myself, “What does it mean to be a professional?” It’s a word no doubt you’ve heard thrown around, often in a cavalier way. People take one look at another person and say, “They are not professional,” or view the actions of another and think, “A real professional wouldn’t act that way.” What, then, defines professional?
To be certain, a “professional” is someone who is qualified in a profession. That is the formal extent of the definition, but in everyday use what does that mean? Well, clearly this is tied to a profession. It follows then that every profession has their own standard of what it means to be a professional. For instance, you wouldn’t say a doctor is unprofessional because they didn’t file a brief with the court, and you wouldn’t call a lawyer out on professionalism for not scrubbing into the operating room. As a business analyst, I can’t help but wonder, “What is a professional Business Analyst?”
To help me in my quest for knowledge, I thought I’d poll my coworkers with, “In a few sentences, and in your own words, how would you describe what it is to ‘be professional’?” I had everyone give their role within the company as a context to their comments. Here are a few responses I’ve picked as a point to think things over.
Professionals own results and outcomes, rather than “agreeing to work for a certain number of hours at a certain rate”. Professionals own their mistakes and fix them. – Requirements Architect
As business analysts we should be striving to be creating goals and objectives that are finite, measurable, and can be delivered upon. Going further than that, we should be meeting these objectives we set, and should not flounder on our accountability. In fact, accountability is an important part of any profession, regardless of if you’re a doctor, lawyer, or business analyst.
Do what it takes to enable our customers to succeed and achieve their stated (and unstated) objectives for a project while treating them and my coworkers with the respect, courtesy and consideration that they deserve. – Senior Product Manager
Follow-through and respect. Even if you’re not a consultant and don’t necessarily serve your requirements to customers, there should be a standard of excellence that is universal to all business analysts. Additionally, showing respect to coworkers and customers alike is key. It allows them to put their trust in you as a professional.
My perspective definitely isn’t going to be the ‘norm,’ but in my opinion professionalism is being an attentive listener, being empathetic, being honest, and caring about the customer and his/her success in a real and personal way. – Product Manager
To me, this comment touches on what I would call “personal” professionalism. While most people would consider the conservative, suit-clad person with a firm handshake to be the epitome of professional, I would rather place my professional trust in a person who is honest with the people they interact with, truly listen, and can create an air of understanding. Business analysts should be producing a front which communicates, “I hear you, I understand you, I will do everything to make sure you are involved.”
To be professional means to be competent at what you do, be reliable, respectful, and honest with others, making sure your professional life does not interfere with your work, and always look for ways you can being doing things better. – Requirements Analyst
This last comment, I feel, is one of the most important considerations for professionalism. Professionals should be “competent” at their profession. That is, if you are asserting yourself as a professional you should know what you’re talking about, you should know what you’re doing, and you should know where to go from here. Simply asserting that you know what you’re doing is not enough, but often people cannot tell the difference. However, if you are not being honest in your professional representation, and people figure it out, all trust in your professionalism will be lost.
In no way is this an exhaustive list of what exactly a professional business analyst should be, nor does this set out any framework to describe the professional business analyst. I think that as a profession Business Analysis may not be mature enough to garner such standards. However, these are the considerations that must take place. What would you add as a quality of a “professional” business analyst?
I would encourage you, dear reader, to open up the conversation to your fellow professionals and come to an agreement.
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