You already know him as a Business Analysis trainer, blogger, and all-around expert. Now get to know Steven Blais as an author!
Filmed at Rizzoli’s Bookstore in New York City, Blais reads from his book, Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success, recalling the former “no man’s land” between IT and business—and how Business Analysis became the needed solution.
|Business Analysis Best Practices for Success: provides a complete description of the value of business analysis in solving business problems. Steve Blais has provided a must have guide filled with tips, tricks, techniques, and tactics to help execute the process in the face of sometimes overwhelming political or social obstacles, this guide is also filled with real world stories from the author’s more than thirty years of experience working as a business analyst.|
Step 1: Decide if Business Analysis is Right for You
The first step is to make sure that you really want to be a business analyst. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you like constant communication with users, stakeholders, and developers?
- Do you enjoy participating in, moderating, and facilitating meetings?
- Would you have a problem being in nothing but meetings all day?
- Can you define business problems as well as solutions?
- Can you deal with continuous ambiguity?
- Are you curious and patient?
- Can you mediate among business units that are in disagreement?
- Are you a critical thinker, or do you want to be?
- Can you grasp the big picture instead of dwelling on details?
Look around at the business analysts in your organization or elsewhere. Talk to them. Get opinions from discussion groups and from the IIBA. Make sure that business analysis is where you want to be first, and that you have a feeling for it, or are willing to learn the skills that you are lacking.
Step 2: Identify the Value
This step is important to help you gain a position as a business analyst even if your previous job experience is unrelated. Think back on your career thus far and identify what value you brought to the organizations you worked for. If you were a consultant or contractor, what value did you bring to the client? List every instance along with an assumed measurement, such as dollars saved. Then, assess what you are doing now and determine how that adds to the organization’s value. Continually record the value you are providing to the organization. Be on the lookout to modify your activities so that you are adding more value. Identify business problems to solve. Ask more questions.
Step 3: Observe and Do
If you are not currently a business analyst and are working in some non-related field, or if you are totally technical, find those business analysts who are respected in your organization or in the field. Observe their actions and activities. Try to emulate what they are doing. This can have one of two effects: you will start acting like a business analyst and then start thinking like one, or you will dislike what you are doing, which is a good sign that another field of endeavor might be better.
Steps 2 and 3 will assist you in gaining a job as a business analyst because you will have more pertinent information to put on your resume (step 2) and will be more comfortable talking about the position and role during an interview (step 3).
Step 4: Join and Research
Become a member of a business analyst organization in your area and attend meetings and volunteer. Most business analyst organizations do not require that you have a job as a business analyst to become a member. Read articles and books on business analysis (such as my book Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success). Subscribe to online periodicals and blogs. Join discussion groups on LinkedIn, Google+, and other social networking platforms. You do not have to participate; you can lurk and read and get up to speed. Absorb all you can about the field and the profession. Talk to business analysts at meetings and conferences. Find out where there are large numbers of business analysts in companies. This will tell you the most likely organizations at which to seek employment. Organizations with large projects or large populations of business analysts are more like to hire novices and have more training available.
Importantly, find a mentor who can assist you in your career choices and progression. Sometimes even an online mentor will help considerably. Find someone who can offer advice and counsel and will take an interest in your career and advancement as a business analyst.
Step 5: Start the Transition
Get your resume out after adjusting for the value-adding activities you have performed. Go on interviews with the sole purpose of learning about the state of the industry and what people expect, not necessarily to get a particular job. When you are going on an interview just to find out what organizations are looking for in the way of a business analyst, you can go in more relaxed and have a better interview. You will achieve your goal by learning about the position and organization, and as a bonus you might even get an offer! Plan for this transition period to take a while as you start to learn more, adjust your resume accordingly, and are better able to respond in interview situations.
Stakeholder Management is about managing the relationships of the people that will be impacted by the solution to the existing problem you are proposing to solve. Having effective stakeholder management can be the difference between outstanding success and a terrible failure. Successful stakeholder management will result in agreements on the vision, the objectives and the end value. Also included in the results are agreements on requirements, scope change process, and overall BA performance.
An important aspect of stakeholder management is to manage the expectations of the stakeholders. There are so many ways that we can misread the expectations so we need to find a way to be sure the expectations are met. The first problem we face in this area is that we do not know who the stakeholders are. This is a result of not doing proper stakeholder identification. Each stakeholder should be considered from the standpoint of determining what’s in it for him/her. Knowing our stakeholders and knowing their concerns goes a long way in helping to manage the stakeholder expectations.
A simple approach to managing the stakeholder expectation is to find out what they expect out of the project. We must get agreement on what the solution is and how it will impact them in the future. Their agreement on the solution and solution approach determines how they receive the outcome in the end.
Another way we can manage expectations is to keep the proper level of communication going with our stakeholders. We need to keep them informed, let them know what is going on and what to expect. A good example of this was during the time the Coal Miners were trapped in Chile. This is a classic example of managing expectations. In fact, the way they handled the communication with the media was almost picture perfect. The end was a success, but the long engagement of saving the men had to be handled in a way that the families, friends, and the public were informed of the right information at the right time.
So, a key ingredient to stakeholder management is to manage expectations.
If you follow The Busy BA Facebook page, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been doing some traveling. I’m heading back to Dubai later on this month for a free networking event sponsored by IIBA UAE Chapter & IIL Middle East. You won’t want to miss it if you are in the area.
WHEN: Wednesday April 24, 18:00-20:00
WHERE: Tulip Inn, Dubai Knowledge Village
I’ll be delivering a one-hour interactive session on the “Top Trends in Business Analysis.” Some of the trends that will be discussed are:
- Creation of a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Business Analysis
- BAs involved in developing the Business Case
- Growth in Certified Business Analysts
Seats are limited to 20 so they will fill up quick! To RSVP, contact email@example.com.
~ George Bridges
If you are interested, I will be teaching a Business Process Modeling Class in Dubai next month. This will be an extremely interesting class, because you can bring a project to work on. Then after class, take off and see all the wonderful sights in Dubai. If you are in the region or near by and want to take this class. Send me your email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you more detail. Or if you want to combine a busy trip and vacation, this will be the place to go. Believe me, you just might want to go to the Burj Khalifa and hang out. For a limited time this week, you can contact me on skype at george.bridges52 if you have any questions about Business Analysis. This is only available this week and the call will be limited to about 5 – 10 minutes. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you. ~ George Bridges, IIL.
Business Analysis: Another Quality Movement? (Or, “What Would Dr. Deming Say About Business Analysis?”) By George Bridges, PMP, M.Sc.
You may not think of quality when you are talking about business analysis, but one of the benefits of doing business analysis correctly is to ensure that we can deliver a quality product to our customer. There are many quality principles that can be applied to business analysis and its processes.
A concept that relates back to quality in business analysis is that of stakeholder analysis. The quality movement strives to deliver the intended results to the customer. So, the goal of conducting stakeholder analysis is to understand the customer and determine their needs so the team can build the right solution.
The concept of verification and validation is also related to quality concepts. Validation is the process of working with the stakeholder to ensure that we build the right solution. Verification is working with the technical team to ensure that we build the right solution the right way.
These are just a few examples of how business analysis is related to quality and how the BA can provide the quality concepts in their efforts to solve problems for their companies.
Other areas of the IIBA®’s BABOK® Guide that tie back to quality are:
|BA Knowledge Area||Quality Concept|
|Requirements Management||Building the Right Solution|
|Enterprise Analysis||Justification/Gap Analysis|
|Solution Assessment and Validation||Evaluation of Options|
|Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring||Understanding Customer Needs|
With these ideas in mind, my guess is that a Business Analyst working with others may be considered a good idea to Dr. Deming. I am by no means a quality expert, but quality should be everyone’s business.
A few years ago while attending a graduate-level class in IT, a few of us students were lamenting over the laborious process of creating a business case. We thought about the long hours and the 10 – 50 page documents that would make up a business case. Of course, the justifications included in a business case take time to develop and this can be a long, slow and painful process. One of our colleagues in the conversation would always laugh, because his process of getting funding for a project of around $50,000 was very simple. It was so simple that we would look on with amazement as he explained.
He stated that he could write his proposed business case on a napkin, schedule time to speak to his boss, and go in and get his project funded and approved. This process was simple, fast and cheap! For him, there were no long hours of developing a business case, collecting the data and doing all types of analysis to make a point. There was one thing that was different about our friend’s environment: he worked in Research and Development and they had a lot of funding for new ideas and projects.
Suffice to say, this may not work for everyone; however, you can create a one-page business case document that contains the following information:
Use this as a guide to prepare your business case. You may not be able to fit all of it on a napkin, but you can get most of the information on one or two pages.
A Business Analyst is empowered to ask questions, and lots of them. One of the roles of the BA is to elicit information from the stakeholders involved in their initiative. Throughout the life of a project there are many opportunities to engage stakeholders, and the technique that you use can be the very activity that makes or breaks the project! Elicitation techniques as specified in the IIBA®’s A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) consist of, but are not limited to, the following:
- Job Shadowing
- Focus Groups
- Structured Walkthroughs
An interview is a cornerstone technique that can be used to get information from sponsors, executives, champions of the project, and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). What are the best types of questions that the BA can ask in an interview process?
Here are some to consider:
- 1. Structured Questions – Questions that have been formulated in advance of the interview.
- 2. Unstructured Questions – A seed question is used to start the interview, but the flow of questions can take its own direction.
- 3. Open-Ended Questions – Allow the participants to give a free flow of information and provide an open-ended dialog for a response.