The unlikely link between Karaoke and Business Analysis

Karaoke microphone in spotlightSo, it’s confession time.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I love Karaoke.   I really enjoy the atmosphere in pubs and bars on karaoke night, and I really enjoy hearing the good (and bad) renditions of songs that people sing.   I don’t actually sing myself (with a few rare exceptions), but I try to get to a karaoke night once every few weeks and soak up the atmosphere.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I wandered into a karaoke night at my local pub and ordered a round of drinks for me and my friends.   As I was queuing at the bar, I noticed that the singer seemed really good—which seemed a sure sign that we were in for a good night!  Then, singer after singer came up and they were all really good.  This came as a surprise to me. Normally once the beers start flowing, there are some—well—less than good performances.  I was intrigued…

 

I got closer to the front and I watched the karaoke DJ closely.  As I got closer, I noticed the DJ was making subtle adjustments to his sound deck.  As a singer started, he added echo (reverb) to their voice.  He decreased the volume of the vocals and increased the backing track.   At certain points, from behind the scenes, he sang along into a second microphone, ‘filling out’ the singer’s voice.  In some cases, he turned down the singer’s vocals quite a bit and turned the backing track up a lot!  The karaoke DJ was doing everything he could to make each singer sound as good as possible—even if they had no natural singing ability—to avoid embarrassment and ensure everyone had a good time.  And he was doing this seamlessly, unnoticeably and in the background.

 

Sure, you could still tell the really talented singers from the less talented ones, but the DJ’s work ensured that nobody got embarrassed and everyone enjoyed themselves.

 

As I thought about this an ordered another round of drinks, it struck me that we fulfil a similar role as business analysts.   OK, we’re unlikely to DJ in a karaoke bar (unless we’re on a very specific type of project!) but we often work in the background, tirelessly to make sure that our stakeholders get the best outcome.  Not only this, if we do our job right, our stakeholders will probably be the people that (quite rightly) step into the limelight.  But for every person in the limelight, there are countless others supporting them in the wings.

 

Take the following examples:

 

  1. Ensuring strategic alignment:A project is about to be launched, but it’s clearly out of line with the organisation’s stated strategy.  We subtly raise this with the executive sponsor, and suggest that either the projectis wrong or the strategy needs to be revisited.   The executive takes this opportunity to revisit the organisation’s strategy, and we’ve saved the embarrassing situation of things not seeming ‘joined up’ and aligned.

 

  1. Helping negotiate requirement conflict:Two stakeholders are arguing about a requirement. Rather than escalating, we get them together to discuss in detail.  We are able to foster agreement, and move the project forward, ensuring that the stakeholders are both seen in a really positive light.

 

  1. Providing objective support to decision making:A project sponsor is about to make a decision.  We suspect that it will cause problems in the future, so we do a quick ‘back of a napkin’ calculation to show that it won’t (necessarily) achieve the outcomes they are looking for.   The sponsor defers the decision and asks us to do a quick feasibility study.    The sponsor then makes an informed decision, based on the information we’ve provided them.

 

These are just three hypothetical examples and there could be many more.  However, in each case we’ve worked ‘in the background’ to ensure that the business gets the best possible outcome possible. We bring objectivity and healthy challenge to our organisations. And in doing so, we make our stakeholders look as positive as we can.

 

So…karaoke anyone?

 

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About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com

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