Monday, 16 November 2015 09:57

10 Essential Apps for the Business Analyst

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Let’s face it, a career in business analysis isn’t one where you’re at your desk from 9-5. It requires you to be out in front of people, having conversations, and collaborating. It requires you to be mobile, both from a physical sense and technological sense. People often laugh at (and maybe get a little annoyed) when others have their faces buried in a phone, but the reality is that most of us have our phones in our pockets at all times. Some of you are reading this on your phone at this very moment.

As I began pondering this world of “always-on” mobile connectivity, it became clear that there has to be greater value in having that phone in your pocket than just simply playing Candy Crush in your free time. In my quest to find value, I have identified 10 apps that can increase your productivity and help you collaborate and engage your stakeholders in a mobile world.

  1. BA Glossary – This app is a great reference for definitions of BA tools, techniques, and terms. It’s helpful when you need to look up a new term quickly or if you simply want to browse and review. It features an intuitive search function that narrows the results as you type which is helpful when you don’t know exactly which word you’re looking for. Its simple layout and multitude of terms makes this app an efficient tool for any BA. Available in the Apple App Store.
  2. MindTools – If you want to take your reference materials to another level, MindTools is right for you. This app features extensive material on many different techniques from strategy tools to communication tools to time management. You’ll have access to over 100 useful tools such as impact analysis, value chain analysis, and emotional intelligence. The app goes far beyond just providing definitions; it provides pages of information on each tool including links to external sources and videos that are relevant to the topic. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  3. Smartsheet – Ok, this app is more oriented for the project manager role but many business analysts perform both roles to some degree. With Smartsheet, you’ll be able to create project schedules, budgets, feature roadmaps, task lists with Gantt layouts, and more. A nice feature included with the app are templates so that you aren’t starting from scratch (although that is an option). One other great feature is that the app allows you to export and send documents in both Excel and PDF formats. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  4. SurveyMonkey – Surveying stakeholders is a classic tool for business analysts, but the SurveyMonkey app lets you quickly and easily create custom surveys that have meaning for whatever your topic is. The app lets you add many different question types such as dropdowns, multiple choice, matrix/rating, and more. Once you’ve created a survey, you can email it straight to your target audience from within the app. Recipients of the survey can complete it either in their SurveyMonkey app or online. The app collects and displays the results as they are received. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  5. Polaris Office – This app allows you to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office products such as PowerPoint, Excel, and Word. You can also view PDF documents. Using share capabilities, you can send documents to cloud storage services like OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox. The app also syncs to multiple mobile devices. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  6. CamCard – This app eliminates the need to save business cards by allowing you to categorize them in custom groups. It uses your phone’s camera to capture the card, extract the name, title, and contact information so that it can be stored in the app. It also retains the image of the card. You can also choose to export the information directly into your phone contacts. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  7. Paper; Notes, Photo, Annotation, and Sketches – Are you the kind of person that likes to capture an extensive whiteboard session via your phone’s camera so you don’t lose the information? This app allows you to create an idea board and add notes, photos, and annotations pertaining to the idea that you’ve created. This is a great way to capture a photo and add some notes to help you recall the conversations and important decisions that stemmed from your whiteboard session. Available in the Apple App Store.
  8. Sunrise – Sunrise is a calendar app that aggregates all of your other calendars into one. You can add Google, iCloud, and Office365 calendars as well as events from Facebook, Eventbrite, and many other apps. It’s a great way to see what’s really happening in your life in one view. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  9. Moxtra – Moxtra is a team collaboration tool that allows teams and workgroups to connect and communicate with each other. Chat, share files and images, assign work items, and schedule meetings with your team. The app can send push notifications to alert team members of new content. You can create multiple groups to help manage all of your teams. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  10. DrawExpress Diagram Lite – This app is great for creating diagrams when you don’t have access to your computer. Using touch controls, it’s easy to draw shapes and connections. The app will transform your imperfect scribbles into beautiful shapes. You can also select from a multitude of stencil kits including workflow, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), network, and wireframes. You can export your diagrams via email, Dropbox, and Google Drive or save it to your phone’s photo library. Available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.

There you have it. Using these apps will enable you to leverage your phone, a device that you always have readily available, to continue to innovate and engage your stakeholders even when you don’t have access to your computer. I am sure there are many other great apps out there that I’ve left off of the list, and I’d love to hear about them. What are your favorite apps?

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Josh Maxwell, CBAP

Senior Business Analyst at The Cincinnati Insurance Company where he is an active leader and advocate of his organization's BA Center of Excellence. He is currently serving as Director-at-Large on the IIBA Cincinnati Chapter's board of directors. Josh strives to help is colleagues grow through shared knowledge and experiences.  Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshMaxwell_BA

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