3 Ways To Stop Getting Dragged Into Work Outside Your Business Analyst Role

Apr 29, 2022

Through understanding project principles, your role and your own mind you can put in measures to stop yourself getting pulled into work you shouldn’t that will protect your project, your career and your sanity.

So a programme manager once said to me - “You’re good with both IT and business, so you’re multi skilled, right?”

“Uh oh.” I thought as I realised what was coming next. “Yeah I’m good with both.”

“Ok, well I know you’re doing the business requirements work but I need you to help the test team with their test cases.”

I had two options: Yes, or objection. With a yes, I’ve just compromised myself.

But I didn’t have the capacity, so I said - “Can we just make sure the requirements are complete before thinking about testing, otherwise we’ll need to rework it. It’s about 75% done?”

I crossed my fingers.

“Yeah ok, let’s look at it in a couple of weeks then.”


And by then, the storm had blown over and they’d sorted out the test team. They didn’t need my help.

Why Do We Do Stuff We Shouldn’t

Business Analysts tend to find it hard to say ‘No’. We are nice, we want problems to be solved and we want to see success.

This is perfectly natural - after all, you are invested in seeing the business get what they want. You’ve worked really hard with the business and you feel like you’re part of their team. As you’ve visualised the end result in your minds eye, you’re driven to make sure the business gets that system that fits their needs, or overhauls that awful process that makes everyone unhappy.

It’s not uncommon then to feel like this project is ‘your baby’, and you start noticing the flaws that other project team members don’t. And as you’re a problem solver you want to fix those flaws to make sure things don’t go wrong. You might even have a fear of it all failing.

This can inadvertently drag you into project activities that overstep what a BA is meant to be doing - sometimes out of necessity, or perhaps something more sinister (like to use you as a scapegoat if things go wrong later).

Are There Things We Should Say ‘No’ To?

I get that projects are complex, and there are twists, turns and chaos that throws work our way. Organisations are also increasingly looking to cut costs and get more out of their ‘resources’ (ahem, I mean ‘people’).

So as a BA you should say ’No’ to a lot of things. 

Under pressure you should try to protect your principles of what a BA does and doesn’t do. There are 2 main areas you should look at when deciding what to say ‘No’ to:

1. If what you are doing (or asked to do) goes against the principles of good governance

An example - if you’ve ever been involved in system testing and you’ve also written the requirements then you’re at risk of marking your own homework. That goes against the principles of good governance because of segregation of duty.

2. If what you might be taking on could reduce your value as a BA

An example - your PM is running a meeting and needs you to be there just to write the minutes (and then for you to follow up on actions after the meeting).

How Do You Say ‘No’ Without Killing Your Career?

It’s not that you must give a resounding ‘No’ to any of the above scenarios. You have to use our own judgement, and also consider the wider team dynamics. After all, I’m not saying you’re so important that you wouldn’t help your PM write minutes - because that can be perceived as arrogant, and not being a ‘team player’.

My point is that you shouldn’t be taken advantage of. People should value you and the project should protect you from potential problems that come from blurring the lines of responsibility.

So if someone asks you to do something that is outside of your BA remit then understand the consequences and cooly present them back and allow them to decide.

In addition to protect yourself from ‘task bloat’, you can use two tools:

  • Status reporting: to continually show your own work stack and what needs doing

  • Championing: having your team (e.g. business stakeholders) bat for your side, showing that supporting them is your number 1 priority

What Do You Do If You Can’t Say ‘No’?

If you’ve tried your utmost to wriggle out of the tricky situation but just can’t, then fair enough. You need to resort to covering yourself so it doesn’t come back later to bite you.

So, it’s very important to calculate and present the risks if you can’t say ‘No’ (for example to do testing of a system you created requirements for).

Sometimes I’ve seen people escalate to higher management. However, doing that might create a mistrust within your team as it looks like you’re a ‘tell tale’ - so diplomacy is the need of the hour here.

The first step is to put it in writing, immortalising your objection. So definitely an email to your immediate manager (written politely, factually and firmly). That in of itself might resolve the problem and you may find that they back you out.

No luck with that? Then as you’re doing the ‘forbidden’ work, be triply careful on how you’re documenting it and communicating it. Make it a covert public protest (for example as you send out emails about the status on your testing of your own requirements). Because with this, people will notice that you shouldn’t be doing it and will start asking questions. You can gain sympathisers, and they might just help bail you out.


Understanding project principles and the BA responsibilities is so important as it makes you able to object to requests that might harm you later.

But it’s not just that. The tendency for perfectionism and ‘save the day’ mentality might drive you to blur your responsibilities and this is more emotionally rooted - which makes it easier to take advantage of you.

So the next time you’re asked to take on things which aren’t strictly part of your remit, think it through twice, thrice and make the risks known.

Lastly, get into the habit of status reporting to communicate your BA work stack, and get your stakeholder team batting for your side so it’s harder to pull you out of your main BA duties.

About James

James Compton is a Business Analyst Consultant and Trainer with over 20 years experience. He is on a mission to raise the profile and value of Business Analysts as highly valued members of any good project team. 

He has also recently been appointed as the Director of Professional Development at the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).

Follow James on LinkedIn and read the "Life As A Business Analyst" report which is designed to inspire you right throughout the journey.