Conversations with Authors – Steven Blais

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.

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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.

Top 5 Business Analyst Skills Essential for a New BA

by Ben Russel

In pursuit of a career with this particular field where there is high demand and competition, the best skills are sourced. The people with the best talents are the ones who get these opportunities as they are accorded the mandate to be economic challengers especially in the highly competitive global market environment. To be a top notch analyst however, you require particular skills that are important to put in mind. We shall focus on these skills and understand their importance.


1. Communication Skills


According to top management of, which is a college paper writing service, a great deal of time an analyst is spent interacting with clients, the managers the developers and the users. Projects success is highly dependent on the ability of the analyst to communicate precise details about the requirements of the particular project that they are carrying out, request any kind of changes that may be necessary. Further, they should be able to test the particular project and report if it is able to meet the intended functionality within the business environment. Outstanding communication abilities are extremely important in ensuring the success of the business.


2. Technical Skills


It is vital that an analyst is able to identify a problem within the business environment, or a potential threat that is likely possible to arise. The analyst should be able to have prerequisite knowledge on information technology to be able to come up with particular software to help solve that particular problem. They need to be updated with the current technology software that best suits that particular business environment.


3. Analytical Skills


They are termed as business analysts because they posess the analytical skills that are fundamental in the business environment. The business needs to be well interprated into specific operatinal requirements and also particular business applications. An analyst should be able to analyze data and at the same time carry out the input surveys that determine the workflow. Through these analyses the analyst should provide a clear course of action that should be used to help improve the standards of the company to a higher level. To ensure that a business remains competitive, then a highly skilled individual is imperative in ensuring that the business is successful.


4. Problem Solving Skills


There are challenges that arise within the business. The ability to creat workable solutions to overcome these challenges lies with a business analyst. This is part of their job in a business and is a fundamental requirement that they must possess. The business environment is a dynamic platform that is prone to constant changes. This means that due to the fluid nature of the business environment, there will be so many problems that will arise. A business anslyst should be able to come up with appropriate solutions that will help the company adapt to the changes that arise.


5. Decision Making Skills


The analysit acts as an adviser and a consultant to the management. This means that they will be required to make some decisions that are complex and involve analytics in their field of specialization. An analyst is required to have credible decision making skills that are vital in making urgent and complex decisions in a business. These skills are very much important in determining the viability of the particuar business.

The above skills are just but a few of all the prerequisite skills that are fundamental for a new business administration individual. To become a credible business analyst, then these are the most important skills that you need to brace yourself with.


Author Bio: Being a professional writer and academic consultant, Ben Russel is currently working on “how-to” essay writing guides for high school and college students, e.x. how to write a thesis for a research paper. He is also a frequent contributor to a number of educational magazines and academic journals.

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International Institute of Business Analysis appoints new President and Chief Executive Officer


Stephen Ashworth brings decades of experience, collaborative style to global BA community

TORONTO, March 21, 2014 /CNW/ – Following an extensive search, International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) announced today that Stephen Ashworth has been appointed its new President and Chief Executive Officer.

The appointment, by the international Board of Directors, is effective immediately. Board Chair Indira Mitra said Mr. Ashworth’s appointment is critical to better positioning IIBA – an independent non-profit professional association – to support and serve the global BA community.

“Stephen has the vision, practical experience and leadership to guide IIBA and the global business analysis community into the future,” Ms. Mitra said. “He has nearly three decades of experience in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and also has the organizational and collaborative leadership skills required to lead a growing and dynamic global organization.”

Ms. Mitra added, “Throughout the search process Stephen demonstrated a deep understanding of the challenges facing business analysis professionals and a shared commitment to supporting the wider business analysis community.”

An educator by training, Mr. Ashworth is a recognized leader on issues relating to higher education and curriculum development, leadership as well as business operations and management. An accomplished author, he has six years senior experience with Junior Achievement of Canada most recently serving as acting president and CEO. In addition to owning and operating several businesses, Mr. Ashworth spent more than 25 years in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. He has been actively involved with Financial Literacy at the provincial and national level.

“I am honored by the opportunity that IIBA has extended to me,” Mr. Ashworth said. “I’m excited to be joining such a dynamic and ambitious organization and look forward to bringing business analysis professionals together to improve business outcomes.”

Mr. Ashworth will assume the President and CEO responsibilities from acting President and CEO Alain Arseneault, who will also serve IIBA through a transition period. “The Board wants to thank Alain for his ongoing leadership and guidance,” Ms. Mitra said. “He took on a challenging role leading a team focused on improving the value that IIBA brings to business analysis professionals across the globe.”

About International Institute of Business Analysis
International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) is the independent non-profit professional association serving the growing field of business analysis to the international business community. The organization has over 26,000 members worldwide in fields ranging from requirements management and requirements analysis to project management and consulting. IIBA® has over 100 chapters in more than 60 countries, and is committed to developing and advancing standards for the practice of business analysis and for the certification of practitioners.

SOURCE International Institute of Business Analysis

 For further information:

Nicole Bourjot
Head of Marketing and Communications
International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA)
Office 647-426-3735 Ext. 126 | Cell 416-768-6454
Toll Free 1-866-789-4422 | International 1-801-590-2380

Next Generation Modeling Tools: Modeling Tool Showcase – Visio


by George Bridges

I use Microsoft Visio ® for business process modeling for my work project and teaching assignments.  Visio has been around since 1990 and was created by the Visio Corporation before being sold to Microsoft for $1.5 billion dollars in 2000.  Visio has been what I consider to be the “bread and butter” or the “go to tool” for business process modeling.

In working with Visio, there are a lot of options for business process modeling.  Over the last 3 -5 years Visio has gotten a lot better and a lot easier to use.   If you use Visio software today you can quickly create: a flowchart, a dataflow diagram, activity diagram, use case diagram and even business process modeling, mind mapping, organization charts, work flow diagram, state machine diagrams, sequence diagram, entity relationship diagrams, etc.

There are many ways to model business processes and the capabilities of Visio for modeling is only limited by your imagination.


To use Visio you must make an investment in time and energy to learn the tool.  However, the best way to learn how to use the tool is to open the software  and start modeling your processes.

One of the best features of Visio is that once you have created your model or diagram, it is a stress-free effort to port the diagram into other applications such as PowerPoint, Word of Excel.  You can also transform the Visio drawing into other useful formats such as jpeg, gif, pdf, sml and many other useful layouts.  Converting drawing into other formats gives the business analysts the ability to communicate to their stakeholders using the tools that work greatest for them.

Over the last five years, in teaching hundreds of BA professionals around the world at IIL public classes and classes for specific businesses, my collection of diagrams and models has grown.  In fact, the number of diagrams that I have advanced for teaching and the diagrams that have been looked over as result of class work by my students have grown so large that I have to keep a repository for future reference.

I like to keep this folder of all my drawings for reference and for future enhancements for projects.  This folder can be used to house diagrams that can be used for lessons learned reviews. My folder for Visio diagram is quite large as I model and teach modeling to Business Analysts.

Most companies have licenses that they acquired and use to make the software available to their employees.  Most universities also have a license and make the software available to the students at a low cost or at no cost at all.  If you can get access to Visio in your organization, it will be a good investment of your time to start building your business diagrams with this tool.


Here are a few samples of diagrams created in Visio:

  1. This first diagram is a flow chart with swim lanes.  This diagrams gives the viewer an opportunity to see the task of the process workers involved.  This diagram is created to help the business determine the flow of task, work, events, and deliverables needed in a business process.  Visio will have several options to choose from to create a Work Flow Diagram.

2. Context Diagram (Data Flow Diagram Notation) – Context Diagrams are often used in the early business analysis process phase.  It serves as a representation of the boundary of the scope of the solution for the project.   The context diagram is the highest level of the data flow diagram methods.  You will have no problem in developing this diagram in Visio.

3. Use Case Diagram ( UML Notation):

One of the most common ways of displaying a system from the user perspective is to create a Use Case Diagram.  The notation used using this method is minimal and you can create a diagram for your situation with Visio in a few short sessions. In practice organizations that deal with mainframe and legacy applications will create use case descriptions and not the use case diagrams.


These are three examples of what you can do with Visio.  One of the primary purposes of developing a model is to communicate, and Visio is the tool to help with the creation of the model. Models are a means to an end and should be treated as a step that, when done correctly, can support the entire BA Process. The BA Body of Knowledge and current training in Business Analysis emphasize the importance of the Business Analyst to develop and communicate information for greater impact and quality of the requirements generated to specify a solution.  Models are often used in the verification and validation in the business analysis arena. Models can serve to communicate ideas, generate solutions solve problems and explain complex business processes.

I recommend that you get started using Visio today, if you own or have access to the software.   In our next installment, we will  highlight another tool to use for business process modeling.



Fore more Business Analysis resources from IIL visit us here.


March Business Analyst Social Media Sale 20% off Virtual Classroom & Select On Demand Courses


International Institute for Learning is featuring a March sale for our social media community members – use the discount code IILMARSCL at the checkout for 20% off the following courses for Business Analysts:


Virtual Classroom (instructor led)

Business Analysis for Project Managers

Business Analysis Fundamentals

Writing and Managing Requirements Documents 

Business Process Modeling 


On Demand 

Business Analysis Fundamentals

Business Process Modeling

Microsoft® Excel in Depth

Organization and People Change Management 

Requirements Management for IT Professionals

Facilitation Skills for Business Analysts 


As always, if you have any questions feel free to email or call 800-325-1533


Identifying the ‘REAL’ Stakeholders in Your Life

by George Bridges


When asked to identify the stakeholders for our work, we can almost name them without having to go through a very long labor process.  They are the sponsors, management, employees, HR dept., IT dept., safety department.   They could be our customers, suppliers, government entities, joint venture clients.   Based on the project, we have good idea of who the stakeholders are.


What about the spouse, the children, the cat or the dog?  Most of us will understand why we would include our spouse. Let’s say we are working on a project and are asked to spend weekends and long hours, we have to work out arrangement with our families so that we can get our work done.    Don’t forget to remember the family after the project is over.   Plan a long weekend trip or plan to go to that vacation spot that you have been talking about for years.    Take them out to dinner or spend more time at home watching their favorite movies.    Find a way to express your appreciation of them for allowing you to work on that deadline and complete it.


How about the cat and the dog.  At first glance, I don’t think so.  However, a team of people were working on a stakeholder analysis and they included their pet.  The pet had to be considered when they went on a long trips. One lady who travels for her company has to check her pet into a “pet hotel” for extended stays.  Another lady had a very expensive surgery done for her cat and perhaps had to arrange for time off for the pet’s surgery.   This may be extreme for some, but for others, this is the world in which they live today.


Our expanded definition of a stakeholder is that it is anyone that may be affected by or impacted by a project or the results of a project either positively or negatively.  Not all stakeholders have a concern for the results and not all stakeholders have power of influence over the outcome.    Each stakeholder should be considered, and all issues should be put on the table for discussion.


Who are the real stakeholders on your job, your project, and in your life?  Do you know what a win would be for each of them?    Do you fully understand their concerns, and have you shaped options to meet their needs so that you may be able to drive for a win-win for all stakeholders?  In doing either a formal or informal review of your stakeholders, be sure to broaden your horizon on who are the “real” stakeholders on your project and in your life.  You may be surprised at the answer.

2013 Year In Review Business Analysis Resources Sale – 30% off


As the holiday season approaches and the year 2013 winds down to a close, for many individuals and organizations it is a period of reflection, introspection, and goal-setting for personal and professional growth.

With a turbulent economy, emerging disruptive technologies, and a global emphasis on organizational efficiency and effective resource allocation, taking the time to look back through your initiatives in 2013 and see what worked, what exceeded, and what could be effectively improved is an undertaking that is essential to ensure the continued success of your career and your organization in the year to come.  Surely, 2014 will be the year to get lean, seen, and green.

With that in mind, IIL wants to provide you with the resources you need to accomplish your organizational transformation.  So, we’re offering 30% off a selection of essential Business Analysis guides and resources now through December 31st.

Enter discount code ba2013 at checkout to receive 30% off the following books and courses that will give you the hard skills and technical know-how to help guide your company to the next phase of business excellence.


Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success by Steve Blais

Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success explains the value of business analysis in solving business problems. Steve Blais has delivered 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.  The book is filled with real world stories from the author’s more than thirty years of experience working as a business analyst.


Agile for Business Analysts

Is the role of the business analyst being marginalized by agile development? What does the business analyst need to do in the new agile environment? This course answers that question by defining the variety of roles and options a business analyst has in agile development approaches. The program also describes real-life techniques for business analysts to be agile in any environment and to help you lead your organization in becoming more agile.


-Writing and Managing Requirements Documents

Once a business analyst has completed the information gathering and analysis to produce the solution to a business problem, the results must be documented for all stakeholders to see and understand. This course will enhance the skills needed for effective writing and managing the complex readership that business analysts interact with on a day-to-day basis.


Effecting Business Process Improvement

Business Analysts facilitate the solution to business problems. These ideas are put into practice to help change the way people perform in their organizations and the tools that they use. The Business Analyst is a change agent who must understand the basic principles of quality management. This course covers the key role that Business Analysts play in organizational change management.




Modeling for No Good Reason

by George Bridges

The process of analyzing requirements will call for the modeling of the information you collect from your group of stakeholders.  Business Analyst are often torn with what to include in the model and how much details to include in the model that they build.   In our Business Process Modeling Class (3 day course) at International Institute for Learning, we ask small groups of people to diagram the process of going out to lunch from your office.  The scenario is vague and is meant to be that way for the exercise.  Here are a few of the models that we have gotten from a few classes:

When looking at the models, they all seem to be logical and make sense.  What is missing in these models?  Are they good representations of the process? Are they accurate? And are they clear and well understood?    Because of the simplicity of the process, these models are not difficult to develop.  What is missing from these models?  They all use different symbols to describe the process. Some things are very similar, and some contain more emphasis on certain aspects of the process.

Which one do you think is the best?  This question is a very difficult one to answer or almost impossible to answer.  What we need to know is the purpose of the model?   How will we use this model to aid in the understanding of a problem, communicating the process, or providing clarity on the possible solutions?

Here are some guidelines and tips to follow when creating models:

  • When you develop a model, always model with a purpose
  • When you create a model, model what you know
  • In creating a model always model only what you know
  • As you build a model, keep the model simple
  • When creating a model, use a standard modeling language (UML, BPMN, etc)



Always model with a purpose.  Business Process Modeling is a form of communication that will help the Business Analyst communicate with the relevant stakeholders about the process on which they are working.   A picture will facilitate discussion among diverse groups of people.  A picture will help to minimize ambiguity, help clarify the scope, and will provide a basis of consensus that is difficult to achieve using other methods and approaches.   Whenever you model, consider that it is both an art and science that when properly combined provide the basis for problem identification, solution identification validation, and verification.  You should have a good reason for your model.