A Conversation with BA Mindy Bohannon
Mindy Bohannon is an expert and thought leader who consistently shares best practices with others,
fosters professional networks wherever possible, and mentors young business analysts trying to make their way in a fast-changing economy. Because of that zeal for her work, I wanted to learn more about Mindy’s own career path and her perspective on all things BA.
How did you first become a Business Analyst? And what was that experience like?
I was a developer for ten years, then supported a content management system and finally tried being a Project Manager for a year. It was all good experience to figure out what I didn’t want to do in the long-term. I noticed I enjoyed interacting with the customers and working with the developers. For me, it was a natural progression to be a Business Analyst. It was tough at first. I was asked to do things I didn’t know how to do. Sometimes I figured it out and sometimes my leadership didn’t want to train me and gave the work to someone else. Mostly though, I had helpful managers and colleagues that took the time to teach me new methodologies.
From your vantage point, how do the realities of BA work today differ from when you started your career?
I started as a Business Analyst in a waterfall software development shop and the methodologies there are different in some ways. I learned and used UML since a developer manager there liked to use it. I strongly believe in UML diagrams and use cases. However, now I work in an agile team where UML would be considered heavier documentation which agile doesn’t believe in. At least I still get to use some of the diagram tools – pictures are universal! Also, I’ve been a Business Analyst for around ten years. When I started it was just then being recognized as a real profession like Project Managers. Today, the certification is gaining respect (CBAP from the IIBA.org) and we’re recognized as being more than notetakers.
What’s your favorite BA technique?
My favorite technique is drawing process flows (heart diagramming). With any data or organization or business process there’s a first step and a last step and many things that happen in the middle – in a system or manually. Understanding that current state and then future state usually reveals many unknowns to the development and business teams. Complexities are uncovered and stated simply for everyone in easy to understand symbols.
What are you seeing as you mentor more and more Business Analysts at the beginning of their careers?
I had a good variety of work experience before becoming a Business Analyst, as a consultant and in-house employee. More people are trying to become Business Analysts earlier in their career and I think it’s harder for them to understand the complexities and dependencies of their work in relation to other users and systems. I think everyone needs to do something for a year or two before becoming a BA. Many other jobs have some type of critical thinking and analysis in it and it’s easier to learn in other jobs before a team relies solely on you to do it all the analysis for them.
True or false: You’re a BA girl in an Agile world? Follow up question, how does Agile increasingly factor into your work?
True! I truly enjoy being a BA on an agile software development team. First, I have only ever worked IT and second, working in an agile world is what I consider working humanely. Before all else – agilists understand that we will work collaboratively, trust and respect each other and be transparent about our work to each other. Other team norms are created by the team and for team (not by a manager) – and so we are self-organizing and held to be responsible for ourselves and our team.