Friday, 08 February 2019 10:57

Can Business Analyst Boot Camps be Effective

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Boot camps are intense training opportunities that are fast paced.

When you hear the word boot camp, the first thing that pops into your thoughts is a drill sergeant yelling in a military fashion and pushing you to perform an exercise. In the military you need to be tough and boot camps build military personnel with grueling exercises over a period of weeks. In business, boot camps are fast-paced learning environments that teach students specific skills.

Learning under pressure in a fast-paced environment works for some, but not all learners. What makes boot camp learning effective is focusing on the key areas that are the most important to your career or your organization’s objectives.

Boot Camps are Effective Experiences for Some, But Not All

Business Analysis is highly specialized work. According to a recent Bloomberg article, the Silicon Valley recruiter Mark Dinan characterized the boot camps as "a freaking joke .” Not all Business Analyst boot camps are created the same. Why are some boot camps failing?

This happens for a few primary reasons. Training organizations not providing real work examples to learn from because they focus too much on theory.. Another reason boot camps are not effective is that they are not focused and are too broad in their training.

Boot camps are effective when the training focuses on real-world practical examples that are highly focused on select skill areas. With our Bob the BA partnership, the Uncommon League is focusing on relevant, real-world, practical training - training that is focused where you need it most.

Top 10 BA Boot Camps By CIO Magazine

The Uncommon League and Bob the BA are listed as one of the Top 10 Business Analyst boot camps by Sarah K. White Senior Writer at CIO Magazine. Not all boot camps are created the same and they fill a specific training purpose. So let’s dive into the world of boot camps.

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How Organizations Can Use Boot Camps

First things first. Evaluate your team’s skills and determine their needs. The IIBA competency model is a good starting place if you are an IIBA member. Another good starting point is to create a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. Look for patterns and try to get to the root cause of the problems your team is having. Retrospectives, post-project reviews, and interviews with stakeholders also help form a picture of where to focus your training. Boot camps work best for organizations when their outcome goals are clear and focused.

Focus your organization’s approach

Focus means working on your organization’s weaknesses and areas where it wants to improve. If your organization is having difficulty with eliciting good requirements, you will need to dig deeper into the reason why that is happening. Is it building relationships and trust with stakeholders? Do you Business Analysts understand how to Influence Without Authority? Are the requirements getting too technical?

Organizational approaches to boot camps

Organizations typically use the boot camp approach for a few different reasons:

  • Filling a skills gap that everyone on the team has in common.
  • Standardizing work quality so all team members perform elicitation of requirements, analysis, design, or other key areas at the same level of competency.
  • Using the boot camp to bring a team together on common ground to help each other create a support system or informal mentoring.

Choose the right approach for your team that effectively addresses your organization and team goals.

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How Individuals Can Use Boot Camps

For the individual, think about your career objectives. A thoughtful self-evaluation of your career will help guide you. Ask yourself the questions:

  • Where do I want my career to go in the next 5 years? Think about the tasks you will want to be doing on a daily basis. Forget the titles, they are different for every organization. Focus how your day will go in the future and what types of projects you will be working on. Would this boot camp help you reach your future?
  • Certification or skills growth? Certification demonstrates to potential and current employers you are committed to your craft and meet the expectations of an outside standards body. Are you ready for certification? Do you have all the skill sets needed in order to thrive in a Business Analyst role? Remember certifications require years of experience before you can apply to take the certification test. The choice here is whether or not to focus on sharpening your skills or for proving your skills.
  • What skills am I missing now? Retrospectives, post-project reviews, and open thoughtful feedback from colleagues can help you figure out what skills you are missing. Are they skills the boot camp will provide you?
  • Your best learning experience. What was your best learning experience? Was it high pressured? Interactive? What made that experience the best and most useful? If you learn better in a slower collaborative environment than a boot camp might not be right for you.

Align the answers to the questions above to the boot camp. Does it cover the topics you need? Is it focused on your needs or on topics that are not of value?

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Virtual Boot Camps

Augmented reality (AR) has proven to be effective in learning quickly. UNIMERSIV states, “The armed forces are incorporating VR into troop training in a wide variety of ways, making training more interactive and engaging than ever. As a result, troops acquire skills more quickly and retain the knowledge they learn through a personal connection.” Virtual immersive training works because it is dealing with real-world situations.

AR training for business analysts is a ways off but virtual training without AR goggles produces effective outcomes.

Many organizations use virtual or online training as an effective way to deliver high-quality training. According to virtual learning experts, The Training Industry publication points out 4 key areas for effective virtual training:

  • Instructor Personality. The instructors engaging personality ensures learners are engaged and actively learning while in the virtual training session. It is very easy to get distracted or bored when the instructor doesn’t actively engage the learner during the training.
  • Application Conversations. The instructor needs to engage the students by asking “how would you use this in the real world?”. The student needs to know how to apply this training in their day to day tasks. The instructor should provide stories from their own backgrounds into why the technique or skill worked for them - or didn’t work for them.
  • Ensure Engagement. The instructor needs so facilitate student engagement and verify the students are fully engaged in the materials.
  • Smart Visuals. “Death by PowerPoint” is not something you want in your training sessions. Large text, bright colors, and meaningful engaging pictures are needed to bring concepts to life.

The Uncommon League focuses on ensuring we meet these objectives for the optimal boot camp training experience.

Face to Face Camps

Boot camps are highly effective in face to face training too. Organizations with smaller teams of less than 24 Business Analysts tend to lean this direction. This option works best for organizations that have their teams located in one location or are willing to pay for travel expenses for training.

Face to face brings your team into a safe space where new ideas and concepts can be experimented with in an effort to bring them into the workplace. This team experimentation also builds team relationships as they work to solve common problems.

Boot camp training sessions are great for team building and for skills building at the same time because the team is face to face solving issues and learning.

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Bob Prentiss

Bob the BA provides business analysis training, consulting and mentoring services. He is CBAP certified with 25+ years of experience in corporate America; with a background in managing BA centers of excellence, assessing and managing BA maturity, quality, and competency.  He has presented numerous keynote, workshops, seminars, conferences, and training sessions across North America. Bob is a founding member and past President of the IIBA MSP Chapter.

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