One giant leap – from a Business Analyst in the public sector to IT consultant
This blog describes my transition from working as a BA in a large, public sector organization to an IT consultancy, the challenges I faced and some helpful tips if you find your BA career at a bit of a crossroads.
Are you, or have you been in a situation where you feel that your career as a BA is a bit ‘on hold’? Could be that you found yourself on a project where the BA role is misunderstood, so you’re just managing risk logs (for example). Or your service is in Beta with very little product development going on and you’re actually a service manager responding to issues from users?
I was in a similar position and as a civil servant for 14 years, with the last five as a Business Analyst, the decision to move to an IT consultancy was a big one. No, change that, it was huge!
One giant leap….
When I was first approached via a message on LinkedIn, I was apprehensive to say the least. After all, working for the same organization for 14 years puts you in a comfort zone. After a few conversations and weighing up my current situation as a BA, I thought ‘what the hell, it’s worth a look if nothing else’. I felt I had nothing to lose.
One conversation led to another, and within the space of three weeks, I’d left the organization I had been part of for a significant portion of my working life and had become a BA for an IT consultancy. I hadn’t considered moving away from my role in the public sector before but after employing some BA techniques such as SWOT analysis (on myself), evaluating options available to me and risk analysis, I was able to come to a decision I believed would allow me to fulfill my ambitions as a BA.
Do you believe things happen for a reason and that fate plays a part in some of the important events in your life? I certainly do and believe this was one of those very occasions that fate played a big part in my decision. First of all, I was able to speak to people who had not only heard of the consultancy, but had either recently worked for, or were currently employed by them. The biggest single consideration I had was the fact I would be leaving a very secure job for a potentially less secure one. Of course, no one can predict the future, but from the people I spoke to, the company was secure and was growing. A good sign.
Here’s my first tip: If you are approached by a firm, or you are thinking of working for another organization, do your homework on them. After all, you’re a BA right? So employ some of those BA tools and techniques to understand the organization. What is their mission? How important do they view their staff? Do they have a revolving door with high staff turnover? Think about what you want out of your career as a BA and whether that company can help you get there.
Don’t underestimate your skills
One of the questions I had was, ‘am I good enough to be a consultant?’. The big question right? And how do you actually know? You might get feedback from your line manager, but if they’re not a BA, or one with not enough experience and knowledge as you (believe me, this often happens in a grade-based organization), then their appraisal of your performance means very little. If you want meaningful feedback, get it from your scrum team. After all, they will be appraising your performance every sprint. In other words, if they’re not happy with your performance, they will let you know. Working in a scrum team is about open and honest conversations, and that includes if you’re not hitting the mark (and vice versa).
Another thing you can do is carry out a SWOT analysis on yourself. Give yourself an honest appraisal of your skills and where you might need to improve. It will also help you in deciding to whether to move on or not. Here’s my SWOT analysis:
- Experience as a Business Analyst
- Experience working in a scrum team
- Active in BA Community
- No recognized BA qualifications
- Hadn’t worked in private/commercial sector as a BA
- Had not practiced the full range of BA techniques
- Specialise as a BA
- Work with Bas from different backgrounds
- Work in different agile frameworks
- Job security
- Downturn in the market for Business Analysts
Carrying out a SWOT analysis allows you articulate what you believe are your strengths and more importantly, what your weaknesses are and can be worked on. It also allows you to evaluate the organization you might be moving to and the risks associated with it. You’ll see I’ve identified only two threats because as far as I was concerned, these were the only things out of my control. I felt that as I had the opportunity to specialize as a BA, I would make sure I was able to build on my strengths and work on my weaknesses. And at the same time maximizing the opportunities.
My next tip: if you are committed to being a great BA, be aware of your weaknesses and work on them to turn them into strengths. And constantly evaluate them. Don’t become a BA who says they have ten years’ experience as a BA when you’ve actually got one years’ experience repeated ten times.
If, like me, you find yourself at a bit of a crossroads in your BA career and you’re not sure what to do, don’t settle for the status quo. The only person who loses out is you. Evaluate yourself, get feedback from others and strive to be a better Business Analyst. There’s so much information out there for you to tap in to, so make the most of it.
It’s a rewarding career as a BA and a role that is highly sought after in the business world. Don’t let your current circumstances stop you from being a great BA if that’s what you want to be. If it takes a leap of faith to join a consultancy or another organization, then weigh up your options and go for it. After all, fortune favours the brave.