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An Essential App for the Business Analyst: Paper by Fifty Three

I’m going old school in a new way…Paper.

Paper is an application for iOS that is distributed by Fifty Three. I know a lot of individuals will comment that Paper doesn’t “do” enough, but what it does do is simple, elegant and, most of all, useful to a business analyst with a creative bent.

Did you ever sit in a meeting and start riffing with someone, but the whiteboard is marked up and there is a “Do Not Erase!” circled in the corner? Or, worse, no whiteboard in the room.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the agony of having a great idea on how something should flow when you are sitting in a car on a long drive with a colleague, but you don’t have any paper to write it out?

Maybe, like me, you just need a visual to really solidify the ideas people are sharing.

If these situations irritate you, and you have your phone, look no further for a quick and handy solution—Paper!

Paper allows you to draw things freehand, take a picture and draw on the picture, or just take notes. The product is easily shared and can really help in those situations where you need to do something NOW, but you don’t have all of your normal tools at hand.

Related Article: 10 Essential Apps for the Business Analyst

In addition, Fifty Three makes a product called Pencil which is a pretty sweet stylus. Not as utilitarian as I usually need for work, but if you are an artistic soul (which I am in my free time), this stylus rocks.

Here are just some of the examples where I’ve used Paper while I’m on the go to help with my project management/business analyst activities:

  • Quick screen mock ups
  • Process flows
  • Checklists
  • Photograph of a whiteboard and then marking it up for edits

Here’s an example of the power of Paper by Fifty Three. Let’s say you’re reviewing your traditional pen and paper interview notes and you find a statement, “Client requests an interactive dashboard that shows project ROI by fiscal year.” You begin to wrack your brain trying to understand the client’s vision because you neglected to jot down the details. Adding to this stress, you come to the realization that you must swallow your pride and return to the client to grab the details. Now, here’s how Paper by Fifty Three can help.

For this example, I’ve made a private space for the interview. Within this space, I’ve included the same vague interview note; however, I’ve sat with the client to sketch out a high-level framework of this dashboard. Note how the level of “interaction” is really limited to “VCR” buttons – a detail you would’ve never known by the interview note alone.


As a PM/BA, I find that every added bit of functionality and efficiency can help. Paper works for me.