Is your Learning Curve like a School Bully?
One of the most difficult things for a business analyst to undertake is moving from a business domain where the Business Analyst has significant experience, into a new business domain where they have little or no experience.
The first few days for the Business Analyst in this new business domain sector is typically reserved to grasp and understand the ‘new’ business domain.
The expectations are high from Project Managers and stakeholders. The Business Analyst is expected to hit the ground running. To avoid getting lost in this transition from the old business domain into the new business domain, the Business Analyst can keep these four tips in mind to quickly learn a new business domain.
1. Search Far and Wide
Go far and wide by looking at Domain specific websites, Government Regulatory Bodies, Training Manuals, Intranet, Google searches, or any knowledge sharing depository in your company. Start looking for valuable information. You may find an Excel calculator or testing results with screenshots explaining a few process or system behaviors.
Skimming through technical documentation can reveal information about different system interactions, system boundary, input/output file, and so on. For example, reading about Redbook API or RMS API or Payment Gateways would help you to understand the constraints and boundaries within which the existing system is expected to function.
Don’t forget to write it down for later reference. Quick notes and diagrams can jog your memory.
2. Speak Up and Volunteer
Let your team know that you are ready to learn and to lend a hand where possible. Your team members may have creative ideas to use your skills. For example, helping to put together a presentation for a senior sponsor would provide an opportunity to learn more about business and stakeholders. It would also give the Business Analyst the chance to build and strength stakeholder relationships. This engagement can help you gain valuable information and connections.
Get in touch with change management team. Armed with a wealth of information such as Training Manuals, User Guides, and previous communications to users, the organization’s change management team is helpful in quickly learning the new system. Even if these documents are not the latest versions, they will provide insight on the way systems works and are often rich in screen shots & diagrams. Discover more about the organization’s hierarchy by looking at the creator, author, or approver names on these documents. Using this technique can broaden your list of people to speak to and gain valuable information.
3. Scenarios & Customer Point of View
You can always try to gauge how business and processes need to react when a customer (“Human Actor”) approaches with a certain request. That helps to build on the scenarios on which you can build understanding quickly since you can pretend to be the ‘customer’ requesting information in these scenarios.
You can perform scenario analysis using “use cases” technique to write down different scenarios and get that reviewed by peers / Subject Matter Experts. You may draw use case diagram during this phase. However, this would have to be supported by narrative (e.g. actors, trigger, pre-conditions, post-conditions, normal scenario, alternate scenarios).
For example, if you are expected to document high-level requirements for a new customer banking portal, look up what is offered by different banks to their customers and create a list of potential enhancements for items you feel are missing. Using this benchmarking approach of comparing your organization’s capabilities with those of the organization’s competitors gives you a deeper understanding of the system even if you haven’t worked on a banking project previously earlier.
Use a Gemba approach or respectful observation. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and walk through the process from beginning to the end. Get a feel for the ups and downs a customer experiences when dealing with the organization.
4. Look for Patterns
A Business Analysts experience in dealing with processes, issues, and solutions would help in the journey of exploring and discovering this new business domain. Using your experience with a capability such as a fee calculation in a previous business domain can be used by the Business Analyst in the new business domain where similar calculations. Exception handling, error handling routines, mathematical calculations and other functions learned in one business domain can be applied to the new business domain.
You can also group or link similar issues or stories together to build the bigger picture in a current project. That would help you trace the hanging parts together. This is especially useful when working with data in the data analyst role. For example, if you have worked on outbound documentation earlier, then you would be familiar with the involvement of different teams – legal, content, business, development, mail house, etc. – when working on adding new capabilities to your project. This would help you to understand where to look for information and who can provide what for bridging the gaps. This in turn builds up your understanding of this domain and linking it to the bigger requirement.
Eliminating the learning curve is of course not possible. However, the tips above would help you in channeling your time and efforts in a more structured way allowing you to wade past the tides of the new work and challenges that this new project throws at you. Being proactive and not holding back would add to your credibility, knowledge, and experience rewarding you with more opportunities and referrals enhancing your career further.