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Business Analysts Need to Learn from Developers

Kupe_Nov_9There was an article in the November issue of InformationWeek that made me think of this title.  Developers just get it when it comes to keeping up with new technology and finding ways to stay current.  Yeah, some developers try to use their new toys on our projects even if it is not really needed, but they also do it on their own time.

Years before the BA community had online communities like this one, BA Times, developers have been sharing knowledge and experiences online. I remember being very impressed when a developer I worked with was struggling with a way to code a feature we needed.  He told me to come back the next day and he’d have an answer.  He asked a few simple questions on an online community and poof, potential solutions came rolling in.  I’m glad to see us engaging around the world on the various communities.  I realize our answers are never quite as exact as a solution for a developer, but at least we give each other options to consider.

When mentoring BAs either looking for a job or trying to excel in the one they’re in I often hear things like “I don’t have time for that”, or “I can’t do that at my company”. Lame excuses if I ever heard them.  This is where BAs are falling short and a place we can learn from our developers. The article I read was talking about developers working on open source software projects where only 9% of contributors are paid.  If you are not paid to do something you are volunteering.  Why do developers volunteer their time?  The article discussed the main reasons are they find it fun to solve problems and it is a sense of accomplishment.  The other reason that stood out to me was contributing was a way to master a new technology.   These developers don’t say they have no time or sit idle while they work on necessary projects at work. They make time so new technology does not pass them by. You need to do this too.  If you want to grow, if you want new opportunities, do not pass up volunteering…make the time. 

Success story time! A friend of mine is a director of a BA group.  She had an acquaintance that had zero BA experience, but wanted to move into the field.  With no experience she was getting nowhere fast.  My friend was working most weekends and offered up the option for this person to come in on the weekends and help her for free.  In return she gains valuable experience working with an expert in the field. For 3 or 4 months (I can’t remember exactly) every Saturday this no experience BA worked as a BA.  My friend was so impressed with her passion an aptitude for BA work that when an opening came up, she hired her.  She has since excelled in her role and has had the opportunity to get some formal training. 

 I try to find ways to use my BA skills in every opportunity. I recently signed up to lead a math team at my kids’ school to help a number of students prepare for a math tournament coming up in January.  Since I was new to this role, I was not sure how the system worked (like the various communication methods I needed to use to contact parents and their children, when to work out details with the teachers, how to work with the principal, the process for scheduling math team practices, etc).  So, I used a few BA techniques do document the process and the business rules. If you ever had to work with PTA (Parent Teacher Association) you know there are rules.  Many of you volunteer already in varying organizations.  Think how you can use a BA technique in your current volunteer work.  It is a great place to try out these techniques without being judged.  This is a great opportunity to try out a technique you want to add to you repertoire but have not had the opportunity at work. More than likely people will be impressed.  The downside to that is you’ll keep getting calls to volunteer!

We can learn a lot from developers about how they learn and stay current.  Stop reading this and go grab lunch or coffee with your favorite developer and see how they are staying current. 

If you have a story related to learning methods to stay fresh please share them in the comments.

Never stop improving,


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