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IT Business Analyst
Browsing job boards, I came across the title “IT Business Analyst” and it made me pause and think of people who say “I’m not a computer person.”
The IT Business Analyst operates as a proxy, accountable for collaboration, Q&A, managing stakeholders, facilitating communication, and coordinating with leadership, etc.
In some organizations, IT Business Analysis is probably how the Finance department classifies the cost center for Product Management.
Basically, the IT Business Analyst is accountable for facing off with the non-technical stakeholders.
The IT Business Analyst discovers problems from interactions with customers in the market, converts them into insights, organizes possible solutions into a plan, and then is responsible for executing and delivering a solution.
For a wide swath of non-computer people and a persona in certain executive suites this function literally describes product management.
The IT Business Analyst is a Shadow Product Manager.
Out of non-linear curiosity, I posted a survey question on professional and personal social networks asking if people knew what “shadow IT” meant.
The results from LinkedIn:
And from Mastodon:
The survey responses likely reflect the biases of professional vs personal networks: people in corporate enterprises are more familiar with the term.
In the Information Age, ignorance is a choice.
In James Gleick's 2011 book "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood", he provides a comprehensive exploration of the timeline, technology, and impact of information management. The book covers humanity's history with information technologies over the course of 5,000 years, from drum signals in Africa to the invention of writing in Sumerian civilization to the application of empirical data as a principle of modern science.
Gleick delves into the modern flood of information resulting from the internet and digital technologies.
It is estimated that 90% of the world's data was generated in the last two years alone.
Basically, we’re all dealing with a glut of available information, as a result of technology.
With all that information at our fingertips, it’s easy to forget what “IT” means.
Tech you use to communicate information is a product.
Email is an IT product
Excel is IT product
A smartphone is an IT product
An Information Technology Business Analyst is any people person who attaches a spreadsheet to an email on their iPhone.
Substack or LinkedIn or Medium are information technology products. They are also modern-day forms of pamphleteering.
Some people with a bias for institutional authority and deference to elite power condescend to the idea of blogs or citizen journalism.
My hypothesis: part of the reason is the word ‘blog’ sounds funny and people feel self-conscious saying it out loud.
In some ways, American exceptionalism is the ability to memory-hole first-principles, history, and the meaning of words better than the rest than the rest of the world.
Log: sailor’s “log-book” from Age of Discovery (1670s) became “log”, or a “record of observations, readings” in 1842.
Web: the Old English “webb” meant “woven fabric, woven work, or tapestry”; the Internet sense shortened from World Wide Web ca. 1990.
A “web log” is a recorded set of observations on the internet (i.e. a weblog) shortened to “blog”.
You’re reading a blog using an IT product that is the digital device on your desk, in your hand, or lap.
See, you don’t have to be a computer person to do IT.
Bob Sutton is an organizational psychologist and a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University. He wrote a great book titled The No Asshole Rule, about building a civilized team.
He also co-authored this article on how collaboration tools overwhelming enterprise teams.
It highlights how it is:
“common for managers to buy subscriptions to digital platforms for their teams — without alerting the IT department — by simply charging the small monthly fee to their company credit cards. Many tech companies design their pricing strategies so managers can make these purchases without going through a lengthy corporate approval process.”
To battle the overload:
“one midsize company…instructed the accounting team to flag all purchases made to software vendors on the corporate card. Each subscription that was not authorized by IT was cancelled.”
Tools not authorized by the corporate Information Technology department lead to “shadow IT”, because people facing friction will often still try to solve problems any way they can.
Those who aren’t computer people will just go around the official IT department.
Some responses to my survey:
Experienced [shadow IT] while on consultancy assignment...it's IT that is "business" driven, without going through IT .. messy and difficult to bring into maintenance.
Almost every well established development or software-driven concern has [shadow IT], whether or not they recognize the phenomenon. Bringing shadow [IT] under control is one of my accomplishments that is invisible to most of the company.
I read up a little bit on [shadow IT] and oh my is it a scary yet unavoidable concept
[shadow IT is] the bane of my life.
the company had lots of departments where the central IT group couldn't or wouldn't maintain everything we used. Mostly the central IT group lagged behind the company's needs…the company tried to centralize. Then they would deputize people in the working departments to provide more focused support. Later they would try to pull it all back into the headquarters…where the support people would again have no idea what was really needed. (Repeat forever)
wasn't aware of [shadow IT] - incredibly common in smaller companies in my experience.
ooh not just the small ones necessarily
when your corporation gets large enough, various business units/departments/whatever want to do things that require ”IT” but they either don’t know how to properly interface with corporate IT or can’t be bothered (which is frequently totally justified due to unresponsiveness, etc.), so they just fund “IT” stuff themselves.
From the perspective of IT Business Analysis (i.e. Product) the news that Microsoft is bringing Python to Excel may have an impact, making the challenge of enterprise data governance even worse, by proliferating “shadow IT” and making valuable internal data assets even more ungoverned.
One comment from Mastodon:
“The Microsoft [Business Intelligence] stack evolved from the most lockstep easy to implement high quality reporting solution (MSSQL -> SSIS -> SSAS -> SSRS/ProClarity/etc) to the wild fucking west.”
It’s already simple enough for business users to prompt ChatGPT to generate a Python script.
And, like it or not, the world relies on Excel.
“The pandemic really exposed the vulnerability that finance teams have as a result of their dependence on Excel.”
From a organizational perspective, if you think your internal documentation, wiki or Confluence was a mess, just wait until you have to contend with machine-written articles and Python critical to business operations…all ungoverned by IT.
Whether you like it or not, it’s happening ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After all, humans are meat-based APIs which the IT department has provisioned to access authorized systems.
To maintain high-performance, teams have to be accountable for collaboration, manage stakeholders, facilitate communication, and coordinate with leadership to make information technology products work for them.
In 1999, at the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Music Awards, Prince presented the “Online Pioneer” award to Public Enemy and warned the audience:
Don't be fooled by the internet. It's cool to get on the computer, but don't let the computer get on you. It's cool to use the computer, but don't let the computer use you.