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Friday, May 26, 2017

The business analyst “career ladder”



I have answered the question of where the business analyst goes after a successful business analysis career, other than retirement, several times in the past, but the question becomes relevant again over time as the profession evolves.  The "ladder" still leads directly to the executive suites in any number of positions. Considering the business analyst is the corporate problem solver and generally is quite versed in both the business processes and practices and the application of IT to support or drive those business processes and practices, the Business Analyst is in a prime position to help the company move forward, make decisions, and lay out strategies for the future.   Intermediate steps on the ladder include senior positions in an organization's PMO (or equivalent), product manager, and director positions.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quality business analysis



A writer recently posed a question on one of the blog sites. He asked if there were any quality business analysts around, and by that he meant people doing “quality business analysis”. He specifically referred to business transformation and process improvement as areas where quality business analysis was needed, but was not being provided.  I would say that the issue is not limited to business transformation and process improvement. In general there is not enough quality business analysis done in business period.  Business decisions at all levels are being made without eliciting and analyzing the appropriate information.  And that is business analysis.  Too much "business analysis" is focused solely on defining requirements for software development when the real business analysis is needed for strategic decision making and overall business operations.  Simply put, many of the business failures of the past decade could have been avoided with solid business analysis.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Advancing the career ladder as a business analyst



Since we business analysts are expert communicators, communication central in the organization, we naturally build relationships and those relationships will be valuable to our future career choices.  Some relationships will be mentor-like and others will be networking assists. 
When choosing a path to follow, use the relationships you have built while building solutions.  You will have demonstrated your ability to solve problems and now you can parlay that ability into the career path you wish to follow.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Curiosity



You may not believe the client or some stakeholder when they tell you something. What they are saying might contradict what another stakeholder had to say.  But let curiosity outweigh judgment.  Why is this person saying what they are saying?  Even if it isn’t right there must be a reason for it. As my friend Karl Weigers says, “The customer may not always be right, but he always has a point.”  Do you know what the point is? Be curious, ask questions.  As George Nathan Miller says in what is now called “Miller’s Law”: “If you truly want to understand what another person is saying, first assume that it is true, then find out what it is true of.”  Value curiosity over judgment.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

BA without IT knowledge



A recent posting on LinkedIn was by a training company looking to attract prospective business analysts to their classroom to learn how to gain IT knowledge in order to become a business analyst.  The pitch was based on some idea that all business analysts are IT based and need IT experience and knowledge, and this training company could provide those elements and make you a business analyst.
We have to remember that there were business analysts (and there still are) who do not work with IT.  They do not prepare requirements for software development.  There are business analysts who analyze the business for purposes of merger, acquisition, divestiture or other organizational change. There are business analysts who analyze the market for new products potential, or the competition for weaknesses that can be exploited or the business climate to identify new investment or market potential.  There are business analysts who assist executives in making strategic decisions.  All of these business analysts existed long before computers were used for business, long before software developers needed requirements. 
If you are coming from a business based background do not be concerned about getting into business analysis.  There is a wide range and big need for people who can communicate, analyze, understand the business, and solve business problems, with or without computers, IT or software development.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Not all business analyst jobs are created equal




I have a client who is a systems integrator, that is, most of the work the client does is for other clients.  We are working on a business analysis process for the company.  My point of contact asked me if there is a difference in the activities or approach of business analysts based on whether the business analyst is doing work for a client or for an internal project.
Clearly the job of business analysis is basically the same regardless of whom you are doing it for.  The business analyst still has to determine the real problem, analyze the environment and problem domain, and come up with solutions.  Then the business analyst has to define the solution in such a way that the solution team can implement the solution. And this is done whether the problem is the organization’s problem or a client’s problem. 
But there are some differences.  The obvious one is in documentation.  Different companies and organizations have different standards for documentation. So a consulting business analyst will have to be fully cognizant of the client’s standards before starting the project.  As much as we hate to admit it, as human beings the output format has a direct effect on how we do the job.  We will actually focus on different aspects of the problem or problem domain depending on how we have to document the result.  For clients this is not a bad thing. If they want UML diagrams of the solution or fully dressed workflow diagrams of the problem domain, they are, after all, paying for it.
Keep in mind that the client has another agenda.  In house we may not be as concerned about the documentation because we can always have a quick meeting and discuss the issues and make changes as necessary.  The client cannot be sure that your company will be around for the length of the contact to fully implement the solution, and most likely will not be around after the job is done.  So the client has to protect itself and make sure that everything you do is fully documented to a state that the client can pick it up without loss of momentum or progress, or hand it off to another contractor to finish.
It is easy to complain about having to be a documenter especially if your solution team is doing an Agile development process.  But remember your point of contact is only concerned about getting the problem solved. The client organization is concerned about getting what they paid for. The client organization wants to limit dependency on you as a contractor and be able to continue to use the solution you install long after you have gotten your last check in payment for a job well done.
There are more differences that are important to know if you are considering changing jobs from an in house business analyst to a consulting company or, indeed, if you are thinking about going out on your own to be a consulting business analyst.