The President’s Corner

Debra Johnson

Debra Johnson

By: Debra Johnson
President
Orlando Central Florida Chapter, STC
president@stc-orlando.org

As a part of my research for this article, I really wanted to find out why business analysts get more in the way of pay, as well as perceived value and respect (based on my experience), than Technical Communicators.
I came across an online article the other day on a business analyst blog talking about how technical communicators can transition easily to the role of a business analyst for better pay and respect. …and we can. However, I am going to use this unknown author’s words to try and make a point, so bear with me.

The article starts out by talking about evolving economic and technological needs, and states that career moves are practically universal in today’s job market. It talks about how some of these career moves are actually leaps, such as an accountant transitioning to become a nurse, while others are much closer jumps, such as a technical writer or documentation specialist moving into the often similar business analyst role.

From my own experience, I have been in this position in my career. My title has been Business Analysis doing BA activities, as well as Content Development skills. That’s one person handling both the business analysis and technical writing roles, since the required skills often overlap so smoothly.

So even if you are content in your current technical communication role, you often wonder if you would benefit from considering other roles and making yourself marketable for more than one position. In every company I have ever worked for in the past 21 years, a business analyst position has always been higher paying and much more respected than that of a technical writer/content specialist.

Why is that?

Don’t get me wrong… I very much respect all business analysts. I work with highly skilled business analysts that are dear, dear friends of mine, and they are tops in their field. They are worth every penny of what they receive in salary and respect… My bone of contention is they are as good in their jobs as we are in ours…. So why is there such discrepancy in value, respect, and ultimately in pay…?

Think about it…

  • Both roles require diligence in tracking down subject matter experts and locating existing research. Like technical communicators, business analysts must develop a roster of experts that they routinely turn to in order to accurately document their work.
  • Both roles require strong interviewing and listening skills. Both have to search out details; where BAs ask “what and why,” …TCs ask “how and when and for whom?”
  • Both roles read between the lines to discover what they can’t afford to miss.
  • Both roles strongly benefit from close familiarity with the inner-workings of an organization’s products or services. Like you, a business analyst has to know every possible occurrence of a product or service (and know how to document those occurrences in clear and understandable ways).
  • Both roles require the ability to write clearly and precisely, including the ability to describe products or functions graphically (such as diagrams, tables, charts, etc.). Our step-by-step help manual probably requires much of the same creative thinking as a business analyst’s use case diagram.
  • Both roles actively solicit reviews and feedback for their work.
  • Both roles require the ability to evaluate and integrate that feedback as appropriate, and to keep detailed records of what changes were made and why.
  • Like you, business analysts are sticklers for details.

It’s just different deliverables. Methodical thinking through every aspect of a company’s business is an essential part of both a technical communicator and business analyst’s toolbox. Whether creating user assistance, system specifications, or requirements, they both have to pay close attention to all of the steps and features of the service or product and their potential interactions with other services or products, including the lesser-known ones. So why is it this way??? Why such a difference in perceived value and salary…???

I would love your thoughts on this. Email me at president@stc-orlando.org and I will incorporate you responses in my next month’s article.

Debra

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