I suspect few of us in 2019 anticipated we were entering a year that would see a pandemic causing tragic loss of life and difficult decisions for policymakers. 2020 has been a year that has seen many of us working entirely remotely, for months, for the first time. It’s led to questions about whether organizations even need the same amount of real-estate. Everyone’s experiences will have been different: parents balanced home-schooling with work, extraverts will have missed the conversations, those that share a house might have fought to find work space. Some countries are coping much better than others, and international business travel has all but disappeared.
I suspect the first challenge that many of us had was staying connected with our colleagues and clients. A whole series of technologies and virtual spaces have emerged or been repurposed for this: greater use of instant messaging, video conferencing as well as the occasional online ‘pub quiz’ or social event.
As time goes on a question that becomes more proximate is how do we stay in touch with the wider BA community? People outside of our organisations? In retrospect we have been absolutely spoiled in the past, with real-world IIBA chapter events, conferences such as Project World, BBC and many others. These opportunities to meet other practitioners provided us with the ability to share stories, learn from our peers, and acted as a virtual, global ‘community of practice’ that kept us together. So what happens now? How do we ensure that we keep up the momentum until we can meet each other again in person? Here are a just a few ideas:
1. Drop in on multiple IIBA Chapter virtual events:
One positive impact of the various global ‘lockdowns’ are that many IIBA chapters are running an increased program of virtual events, and most will welcome international visitors. Depending on your timezone, why not drop into a virtual cafe session at IIBA Brussels, and then into the virtual IIBA UK ‘Brown Bag’ session. These are both discussion and networking sessions and are a great way to meet and stay in touch with other practitioners. Of course, these are just two examples, check out other IIBA chapters for a range of different events.
2. Run an experimental event (E.g. ‘Open Mic’):
I’ve been running an experimental ‘BA Open Mic’ session for a few months now, and it has worked really well. The rules are simple: anyone can come along, and those at the event can opt to take a 3 minute speaking slot about a topic of their choice. There’s also the opportunity for general discussion, allowing people to contribute in a variety of ways. This was relatively easy to set up—the two main tools were Zoom and social media—the key is to organize it far enough in advance that people can attend.
This isn’t the only possible format. Perhaps you’d like to run a virtual fishbowl session, or a world cafe, or something else entirely. With the collaboration tools we have at our disposal, it’s achievable. Get a couple of colleagues to help out, and a few more to agree to attend and you’ve got the basis for an event—and once you share it on social media it’ll grow in recognition. If ever there was a time that we should all step forward and give back to the community together, it is now.
3. Support Online Conferences:
You may have been considering attending a real-world conference this year. If you were, I’d encourage you to consider attending a virtual conference instead. They are undoubtedly different but retain the same ability to learn and network, plus you don’t even need to leave your home.
4. Reinvigorate forums:
So many LinkedIn forums have become empty or even worse full of irrelevant content. Yet when someone decides to reinvigorate a forum and act as moderator, it can go from strength to strength. I’m experimenting with a new forum on LinkedIn, I’ll let you know how it goes!
5. Stay in touch:
Whether it’s picking up the phone, dropping an e-mail or LinkedIn message to someone from the broader BA community you’ve not spoken to for a while, why not take 5 minutes out to do this today? It might spark a conversation that is beneficial for both of you.
I hope you find these five ideas useful, and I hope that they provide practical ways of staying in touch with your global BA contacts. Of course, there are many other possibilities besides these five. If you have found a way of staying connected to the community that works, please do get in touch via social media, I’d love to hear from you!