Author: Ananya Pani

I am an entrepreneur, building my brand to be a global name in the Business Analysis domain. My mission is to help business analysts to build a successful professional career. I have helped 2000+ BAs in choosing a better career and help them achieve professional success. I co-founded Adaptive US, a Business analysis skill development organization. I manage sales and operations at Adaptive US. Under my leadership, Adaptive is now established as a world-leader.

10 deadly failure traps to watch out for during your IIBA exam preparation

Business analysis has been identified as a key discipline in organizations across the globe. Business analysts enable the enterprise to articulate its needs, the rationale for change, and design and describe solutions that deliver value. Business analysis can be performed in a project or across the enterprise. It is used to understand the current state, define the future state and determine activities required for the transition.

This skill has been in great demand and seeing a significant growth pattern for the last few years and has been identified as the hot skill to acquire by LinkedIn Learning and the US Bureau of Labor statistics.

The BA profession is one of the fastest-growing occupations. Between 2014-2014* a 14% industry growth has been projected. BA career prospects growing are very promising.

*Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, many times we business analysts get caught up in our daily job. They perform only one part of this dynamic role over the years, keeping ourselves away from the practices/techniques beyond our organizational boundary. It is critical to get a holistic view of the profession and be skilled in the tools and techniques practiced across the industry to climb the career ladder and reach greater heights.

Industry certifications such as IIBA are proven ways to get oneself established in the industry and achieve much-aspired growth in the profession in terms of skill, visibility, personal branding, career growth, to name a few. In fact, it opens a myriad of opportunities for a business analysis professional.

This article is meant for those wishing to achieve IIBA certification on the first attempt without falling for the deadly failure traps.

The article will discuss:

  1. Strategy to ace the IIBA certification exam
    1. Choosing the certification to pursue
    2. How to come up with a perfect study plan for yourself
    3. Preparing with the best resources
    4. Choosing the right Mentor
    5. Putting up your application without breaking your head
    6. Preparing yourself with the right tools of exam simulators
    7. Learning the best tips to handle exam anxiety
    8. Getting the infrastructure set up to ensure a seamless exam experience
  1. The most common failure traps that many exam takers have stumbled on
    1. Memorizing BABoK instead of understanding the flow and the terminologies
    2. Relying too much on one’s experience as a BA
  • Lack of proper understanding of BABoK terminologies and expectation
  1. Not preparing with the right resources, right model questions, and simulators for practice
  2. Expecting direct questions from BABoK
  3. Poor time management
  • Exam anxiety / Getting stressed
  • Underestimating the exam complexity
  1. Inadequate preparation
  2. Getting stressed based on the initial difficulty level of questions

 


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Strategy to ace the IIBA certification exam

  • Choosing the certification to pursue

If you are looking at making your foundation strong in the Business Analysis role and want to be a distinguished BA, you should get formally trained, skilled, and certified in IIBA certifications.

IIBA Certifications are the most desirable BA certifications for business analysts to excel in their careers.

IIBA has three core business analysis certifications: ECBA, CCBA, and CBAP, and 4 specialized certifications, AAC, CBDA, CCA, and CPOA.

The core certifications have been around for a while. They have gained popularity as they focus on business analysis skills and techniques. They also have some eligibility criteria set by IIBA for professionals to qualify to take up the exam.

Here is a basic guide to help evaluate which certification should you be pursuing:

  • Beginners/newbies, college grads, and anyone looking to start a BA career or transition to a BA career should pursue ECBA.
  • Professionals with 2.5+ years of BA work experience in the last 7 years of work history should pursue CCBA.
  • Professionals with 5+ years of BA work experience in the last 10 years should pursue CBAP.

Many times, one may not be a designated BA but may be performing the responsibilities of a BA; some of those roles are (but are not limited to)

  • ERP Implementation
  • Product implementation
  • Process mapping and improvement
  • Change management consultant
  • Functional consultant

The biggest myth around IIBA certifications is one must complete the lower-level certifications before moving to the higher one.

You can go to any level without going through the previous ones as well.

 

How to come up with a perfect study plan for yourself

  • Plan 1 hour of study per day or 6 -8 hours of study per week
  • Plan your study based on the kind of a learner you are, e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic, or reading writing
  • An expert/instructor-led class may be the best to start with, followed by studying the concepts from the BABoK/KAs. The expert provides a simpler way of interpreting BABoK and underlying concepts, making it easy to understand and follow.
  • Do self-study of the knowledge areas, one by one, followed by quizzes or questions based on each knowledge area, to test your understanding.
  • Take practice exam question
  • Timeline
    • Training Sessions: 1 week (Fast track) /4 – 8 weeks (staggered class)
    • BABoK study guide: 2 – 3 weeks
    • BABoK reading: 2- 3 weeks
    • Flashcard, Video & Audio learning (optional): 2-3 weeks
    • Quizzes
  • Chapter-wise tests: 4 weeks
  • Revising the areas where you faltered: 1- 2 weeks
  • Revise study guide and key concepts: 1-2 weeks
  • Simulation exam: 2- 3 weeks

 

  • Preparing with the best resources

Though BABoK is the ultimate guide that one needs to prepare for the IIBA core certifications, the book’s sheer size makes it very intimidating. A foolproof plan for preparation should include additional study material to help absorb the main concepts of the BABoK.

A good step is to get hold of a good BABoK Study Guide from an IIBA endorsed training provider, along with other curated content like question banks, exam simulators, exam tips & prep plans, video & audio learning, etc.

Crisp and curated study content will reduce your study time and help you prepare in a more structured manner.

Additive’s best-selling free eBook, 200 IIBA® Exam Prep Questions, is an amazing resource to accelerate your journey towards becoming a highly paid and sought-after IIBA certified business analyst. Utilized by 1000s of BA professionals globally, this book has everything you MUST know to ace your IIBA Exams along with 200 IIBA sample questions!

  • Choosing the right Mentor

A crucial part of the IIBA certification exam preparation is that you should choose the right Mentor. A mentor is usually an IIBA certified trainer/coach who is an expert in the business analysis domain. Make sure that your trainer has not only gone through the rigorous IIBA exams and aced it but also knows what it takes to crack them.

Having someone qualified to guide you through the certification exam preparation can make the entire process less daunting. The help that your Mentor can provide in decoding BABoK is priceless not only for your IIBA exams but also to become a high performing BA and stand out in your BA job.

  • Putting up your application without breaking your head

The application for the IIBA certification exams can be filed through the IIBA website. The Handbook- core-ba-certification-handbook.pdf (IIBA®.org), gives the detailed steps on filling the application form.

Adaptive US offers an Application Simulator as a part of its Certification Prep Training, that takes care of all the requirements from IIBA for the certification exams.

  • Preparing yourself with the right tools – Exam Simulators

A good set of simulation questions prepares you for the various kind of questions that you will face in the actual exam.

Go through the explanations given for the answers during the test. They will help you in assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Study the areas that you have faltered in once more.

Remember, these simulation practice tests give you the most accurate feedback on your exam readiness. They let you know how well you have understood the BABoK and able to apply it in a given case or a scenario. This gives you extremely valuable knowledge to apply in your BA job as well, where you need to put your concepts/techniques to use.

You can consider yourself ready for the exam once you consistently score over 80% in each knowledge area of your simulation exams.

  • Learning the best tips to handle exam anxiety

For BA professionals who have most probably not written any exam for quite some time, maybe decades, the thought of writing an exam can be pretty stressful. While it is quite normal to be a little nervous about giving an exam, you should not allow exam anxiety to be debilitating.

Some tips for handling your exam anxieties:

  • Eat healthily and exercise regularly
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Have a positive mental attitude
  • Keep to a regular and structured study routine
  • Do not feel anxious about the ‘Inadequate Preparation’ feeling
  • Take an adequate number of practice exams. Once you score well on these exams, the anxiety level should reduce.

 

  • Getting the infrastructure set up to ensure a seamless exam experience

The IIBA exams are now available online. This is an excellent step from IIBA as it allows BAs around the globe to appear for the exams and allow them the ease of giving the exam from the comfort of their homes.

The exams are now live and remotely proctored, requiring a desktop or laptop, a good internet connection, a working webcam, and a microphone.

The infrastructure requirements that you need to ensure-

  • Your identity proof copy
  • Make sure that you have the hardware required for the exam.
  • The online proctored exam is dependent on the Internet connectivity, firewalls, VPN, and camera quality. Make sure that these are of good quality and functional.
  • Perform the compatibility test on the scheduling website- https://home.psiexams.com/#/home. This will ensure that there are no kinks during your exam time.

The blog Ground Rules for IIBA Online Examinations gives you a detailed view of all the infrastructure requirements and the rules for the IIBA certification exam.

 

The most common failure traps that many exam takers have stumbled on

  • Memorizing BABoK instead of understanding the flow and the terminologies

IIBA exams like CBAP and CCBA are competency-based. To answer the IIBA exam questions, you need to understand the concepts in BABoK and their application, rather than memorizing the book. You need to understand the tasks, techniques well, and their relationship with each other. Though it is useful to commit some of the concepts in BABoK to memory, you cannot answer the questions by rote.

  • Relying too much on one’s experience as a BA

The answers to the IIBA certification exam questions are based on the concepts, tasks, techniques and definitions of BABoK rather than your individual experience as a BA. Instead of using your work experience to answer the questions, you need to apply the concepts from BABoK to the real world and then answer the questions. The inability to correlate the knowledge of BABoK can be detrimental to your exam performance.

  • Lack of proper understanding of BABoK terminologies and expectation

IIBA exams like ECBA are knowledge-based, and thus, you need to know the terminologies to answer the questions correctly. In the higher-level exams, there may be terms from BABoK that are not generally used in your organization. It is essential to know the terms used in BABoK and relate them to the terms used in your organization. Therefore, you need to familiarize yourself with the terms used in BABoK to pass the exam.

A good BABoK Glossary explaining the various terms is a very helpful and valuable resource.

  • Not preparing with the right resources, right model questions, and simulators for practice

If the learning material, practice questions, and simulators you are using are not adequate or based on BABoK, it will be challenging to clear the exam.

Attending an IIBA Certification training course will help not only with the resources required to prepare for the certification exam but will also help you identify the study methods that work best for you.

You can attend the live Interactive Exam Tips Webinar with Adaptive experts and ensure your chances of passing the exams on your first attempt

  • Expecting direct questions from BABoK

Another reason why many people fail to clear the exam is that they expect direct questions from BABoK. Exams like CCBA and CBAP have no direct questions. The questions are lengthy and complex.

  • Poor time management

Time management is the key skill to cracking the IIBA certification exams. There have been cases where people have struggled to complete the exam. Several of our past students have told us that they could finish the exam just in time.

Some questions, like case-based or mathematical questions, require more time than the others, so it is essential to keep track of the time you spend on each question.

You should formulate a clear time management strategy that will help you optimize your time during the exam.

  • Exam anxiety / Getting stressed

Exam anxiety has the power to wreck weeks and months of hard work and preparation. There are several strategies, as discussed earlier in this blog, that can help reduce exam anxiety. Practice those steps diligently to be stress-free on your exam day.Exam anxiety / Getting stressed

  • Underestimating the exam complexity

Sometimes professionals with ample BA experience feel that their experience will help them sail through the IIBA exam like a cakewalk.

Underestimating the exam, its difficulty, and becoming complacent are some of the main reasons for failure in the IIBA exams. You need to remember that though BA experience is important and it helps, that is not the only thing required to become successful in the exam. To achieve your certification goal, you need to dedicate time to read through and prepare from BABoK and apply the concepts learned to answer the questions.

  • Inadequate preparation

Some of the reasons why the exam preparation is not adequate are-

  • Going for the exam too soon- If you are unsure of your preparation level, wait until you are comfortable with BABoK and then submit your application.
  • Inadequate preparation time- IIBA exam needs a dedicated amount of study time. If you do not devote adequate time to study, it is more likely than not that you will be unsuccessful in passing the exam.
  • Not being guided by the right Mentor/ Coach
  • Not attending a proper IIBA certification training under an EEP (highly recommended by IIBA)- Statistics have proven that people who attend a prep course tend to have a higher chance of achieving their goal.
  • Inadequate question preparation- It is well known that practice makes a person perfect. Thus, it is imperative to practice as many sample exam questions as possible. Simulation tests help you understand the level of complexity of the questions you will face during the exam.

 

Getting stressed based on the initial difficulty level of questions

Many exams follow the approach where intentionally, the initial questions are tougher. This is done to test the candidate’s mental strength, confidence level, and ability to handle complex tasks.

Keep your cool, and don’t get flustered, as the stress will negatively affect your performance.

This will help you chalk out your certification path that will lead to success in completing your IIBA certification goal. The above strategies and common mistakes will definitely the points you want to make sure to follow and ace your IIBA exam on the first attempt.

DON’T FORGET TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF EBOOK OF 200 IIBA EXAM QUESTIONS TODAY!

How to Thrive as a Business Analyst in the New Normal

The Pandemic hit us suddenly and yes it came without any notice to our lives as a transient thing but became the new normal way of life.

Some of us were initially worried thinking about what lies ahead, some were shocked, some found pleasure being relieved from the daily commute, time on the road, and traffic jams.

With the COVID 19 pandemic hitting us globally, organizations have embraced remote working as the new way for 2020, and some have announced it for 2021 also.

Moving to WFH

IT industry has moved to this new model in a relatively easier way, and the transition is relatively smoother.

But for the traditional industries, it’s a big shift, and the mode of working and infrastructure needed rethinking, planning, and to be worked out.

In most countries, the pandemic hit so suddenly that it left no time to prepare for the upcoming times. Going remote isn’t an easy task for many, as we may think.

However, as it’s popularly said, every cloud has a silver lining; similarly, every challenge comes with an opportunity. It’s up to us to step up and embrace this change and take benefit of the opportunity.

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Though many are happy with the new way of working for the reasons like: 

  •           The extra time gained from the commute
  •           The better work-life balance
  •           Increased productivity
  •           Saving of money and resources
  •           Lesser distractions

However, many challenges started to unfold as the new normal started sinking in, and this seemed like here to stay for some more time.

For this article, we will take a deeper look into the business analysis profession, what seemed to have worked well, the new challenges thrown, and how we can make the best of it in the new normal.

As a business analyst, one is responsible for:

  • Leading change and bringing new technology and products to the organization
    •     Gathering existing and new requirements/processes/features as part of the automation/new product
    •     Coming up with solutions to business problems/needs
  • Developing new systems/solutions to take care of any manual process / better performance / better revenue stream / more efficient process / better user experience
    •     Elicitation of requirements
    •     Modeling of requirements
    •     Signing off on requirements from the stakeholders
    •     Managing changes, if any to requirements.
    •     Development and implementation of the solution
    •     User acceptance testing
    •     User training

The business analysis profession is primarily involved in communication (written, verbal, visual), and the absence of face-to-face meetings brought new challenges.

Practical challenges for BAs in remote working

As part of the solutioning, requirements elicitation, user story reviews, prototyping, or any other phase of the project a BA needs to have close interaction and work with stakeholders, the tech team, the QA team, and other BAs.

Some specific challenges are:

Staying Engaged with Stakeholders

Most of these tasks were done traditionally with stakeholders using pre-dominantly following techniques such as Workshops, walk-throughs/Reviews, Brainstorming, and Observations.

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Here is a list of challenges and a few things that worked for many business analysts as shared by them when we asked them – https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6687061335701778432/

Challenges most of the business analysts faced:

  1.      Getting stakeholder engagements
  2.      Getting to know the non-verbal cues
  3.      Meetings can get off track.
  4.      Getting clear communications
  5.      Getting approval and clarity on requirements
  6.      Staying updated with the status
  7.      Bonding with the team
  8.      Figuring out the way everyone’s schedule and style of working
  9.      Making everyone comfortable and be participative in the meeting
  10.      Multiple time zones and the work timings followed with the new way.

Here is a set of guidelines for business analysis professionals to work effectively and efficiently in this new way and to make the transition smooth.

Few practices that worked well for most:

  1.      Breaking the ice – to get better participation from stakeholders and team
  2.      Give some background and the solution’s objective to get everyone talking for the requirements elicitation meetings. Silence kills participation.
  3.      Having catch-up calls, one in the morning for planning and one at day end for a status update, is good to keep everyone updated.
  4.      Scheduling meeting with clear agenda well in advance.
  5.      Starting the meetings by giving a brief background of past discussions and agreements.
  6.      Spend initial 5 minutes in setting out expectations and responsibilities like who will take notes, who will take responsibility for which part, who is expected to share inputs or information, who will get sign off, etc. A RACI matrix may be of help here. Meetings with clear agenda, expectation, success criteria, ownerships, and tasks assigned to members are more effective.
  7.      Wrapping up the meetings with the major discussion points and decisions made.
  8.      Being better prepared for the meetings/requirements elicitation sessions having gone through all the previous documents, changes suggested, and the mockups/processes/documentation.
  9.      Keeping all the documents needed open in the background for the meetings
  10.      Schedule 1:1s with colleagues and mentors to get feedback, schedule 1:1s with customers to check on them.
  11.      Get stakeholders/team take accountability and responsibility to stick on to the commitments and deadlines.
  12.      Following basic rules like muting when not speaking and using the chatbox to communicate points instead of disturbing the flow
  13. Use visuals and demos to gather better inputs or feedback. Start showing similar applications to gather/understand requirements and collect feedback instead of doing it verbally. Some popular visual/diagramming tools are
    1. Visio
    2. BizAgi Process Modeler
    3. Zoom white Board
  14.      Use collaboration tools to be more effective, like:
  •      Zoom
  •      Webex
  •      Go to meeting
  •      Go to Webinar
  1.      Being open about being away from work/break timings. Transparency is the key; keep everyone up to date, even if it’s good or bad. In this new normal, trust keeps us going –
  2.      Stay connected with the team through IM or chat options.
  3. Most draw a line between work and family

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Many say they love the new way since they can avoid the commute and have a good cup of tea at home in the morning before starting their day.

They can avoid office distractions and have their best productive time put to work.

Some say they can have a good time with children and pets, and having them close brings their best self out


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Overcoming the CHALLENGES

Maintaining Work Discipline

Few things that will help when you start as a practice/discipline:

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  • Setting up a workspace –
    •     Comfortable – A work desk/table with comfortable sitting arrangements. Couch, Bean bag, a bed should be avoided.
    •     Clean – Keep your workspace organized and clean to have a better/ productive day.
    •     Organized with your daily needs – Notebooks, drawing board (if you are a visual BA), pens, markers, etc.
    •     Good to have a green view
  • Avoid noise/distraction-free environment –
    •     Have a workspace set up in a place that’s away from the sounds of a pet, dishes, or cooking.
    •     Invest in a good pair of headphones to cut down on noise for conference calls.
    •     Make sure you are in proper attire if you are expecting a video call.
  • Keep back up for power and network outage.
    •     Most of the smartphones can be used as a mobile hot spot as the internet back up.
  • Make your availability known.
    •     Communicate your break timings (lunch, coffee, etc.) to your team and others
    •     Sign out of the instant communications applications like chat, IM, etc, when taking a break.
    •     Ensure your availability as per your official working hours

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  • Keep track of your tasks and plan your day.
    •     Keep track of your tasks and time spent.
    •     Plan your day at the beginning of the day
    •     Make your day plan known to others in the team with dependencies and support needed from the team.
    •     Share your day-end update with the team to ensure smooth working with the team.
  • Time Management
    •     Stick to your work timings – Remote working doesn’t mean you can start anytime you wish and end it at any time you wish.
    •     Be self-managed by keeping distractions to the minimum.
    •     Have your tasks for the day seen in front of you either as a sticky note or a day planner

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Upskill to keep yourself updated –

As the famous saying of Dr. Deming goes, “Learning is not compulsory nor is survival.”

Time and again, it has been proven that upskilling and getting certified puts one at the forefront in the job market, makes one eligible for the best opportunities and promotions.

Hence please keep some time booked or marked in your calendar for learning new skills, tools, or a certification.

Organizations have realized the importance of having highly skilled and matured BAs to enhance their delivery capabilities. So, when the demand for BAs is on the rise, how do you set yourself apart in a highly competitive world? Well, the answer is certification is one of the best and independent ways of showcasing your skills.

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IIBA Certifications are the most sought-after BA certifications for business analysts to excel in their careers.

If you are a BA and looking for upskilling and certification and unsure of the level of certification that you should seek, then here is a basic guide:

The beginners and newbies without any BA experience should pursue ECBA.

For professionals with 2+ years of BA, work-experience should pursue CCBA.

For professionals with 5+ years of BA, work-experience should pursue CBAP.

There are many other intangible benefits of learning and certification like

  •     Improved confidence
  •     Making one a trusted leader by management
  •     A huge help in navigating the job market
  •     Improved ability to guide and mentor team members
  •     Ability to provide better business opportunities/decisions to stakeholders
  •     Improved ability to lead successful change efforts
  •     Higher productivity and better self-esteem

Handling Yourself – Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally

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  •     Exercise – Find time for exercise to keep yourself physically fit – it’s proven that exercise helps us release chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine that boosts our sense of well-being and suppresses hormones that cause depression and anxiety.
  •     Meditation – Helps you remain calm among stressful and hectic schedules and when things go out of your control.
  •     Emotionally – Stay in touch with friends and immediate family members over the phone, messages, video calls to make one feel connected and emotionally secured.
  •     Pick up hobbies that make you happy like cooking, painting, music or gardening, etc, which can be done without getting out or risking your safety.
  •     Unwind during the weekends and try to destress yourself.
  •     Share responsibilities at home with your partner. Teach your kids to take responsibility for keeping their room clean, picking up things after their play hours, helping you with chores like watering plants, laundry, pet care, etc.

Cut yourself from negativity.

We don’t control many things in our lives, but we certainly control the way we react or respond to it Hence, it’s important to keep the positive side up and negativity at bay, be it negative people, news, incident, or thoughts.

Focus on the IMPACT you create

  •     See the value you bring to the table in your project.
  •     Acknowledge the contributions you make to the stakeholders.
  •     Value the effort saving with automation you made
  •     Value your impact on your family
  •     Don’t measure things with the number of unsuccessful attempts to see your resilience and persistence.

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Remember that it’s not the situation that makes or breaks you; it’s how you respond to it that makes all the difference. When you stay positive, you pass on the positive energy to your team and your immediate family, and the people around you.

Your organization, team, and family need the most positive version of you NOW.

Product Owner vs. Business Analyst – Demystifying the ambiguities

Agile projects, due to the short cycles of delivery, require a collaborative team, substantial leadership support, and a robust, agile culture to be in place to be called as working and successful.

The two key pillars for a successful agile project are the product owner and the business analyst.

The product owner works almost like the director of a movie, envisioning the macro and micro-level details for the product. At the same time, the business analyst ensures smooth execution of the sprint and manages the epics and stories’ details.

However, there are many ambiguities between these two roles due to some overlap of skills and responsibilities.

Let us look at both the roles to seek the similarities and differences –

1.        Product Owner

The product owner has a vision of the product keeping the domain/industry experience and the market need.

His/her job is to ensure that the product meets the market and stakeholder needs; he/she conducts a market analysis followed by an enterprise SWOT analysis to come up with the product vision. The PO also works on the go-to-market strategy for the product.

The product owner tries to leverage his/her experience/expertise in the domain, need of the market, the industry or the domain that it is into, the organization’s market position, and the customer expectation of the product as seen over the years of experience.

Critical Responsibilities for Product Owner

  • Market Analysis –
    •     Analysis of market need/demand
    •     Availability of similar products in the market
    •     Underserved customer needs
    •     Potential trends in synergy with current offerings
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  • Enterprise Analysis
    •     SWOT analysis
    •     Due diligence on the market opportunity
    •     Product offering decision based on the due diligence report
  • Product vision and roadmap –
    •     Product vision keeping the need analysis in mind
    •     Product roadmap with high-level features and timeline
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  • Go to Market Strategy –
    •     Go to market strategy.
    •     Marketing messages/communications
    •     Channels of marketing
    •     Modes of advertising
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  • Managing Product features
    •     Managing stakeholder expectations and prioritizing their needs
    •     Prioritization of the epics/stories/features based on criticality and ROI involved
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      The PO works closely with the stakeholders and the BA in giving more details to the product..
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  • Managing Product backlog
    •     Prioritization of user stories
    •     Reprioritization based on stakeholders’ needs
    •     Epics planning
  • Managing overall iteration progress
    •     Sprint progress review
    •     Reprioritization of sprints and epics if needed
    •     Sprint retrospectives with BA

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2.        Business Analyst

As we know, business analysts are the change-makers, problem solvers, questioners, facilitators, the bridge between the users/stakeholders and the agile team. They question assumptions and requirements, assess the needs, find gaps, and work closely with the stakeholders/SMEs to detail the requirements/features /user stories and understand/elicit the requirements. They work closely with the product owners to manage the user stories and epics.

  •     Requirements modeling and elicitation
  •     Data flow diagrams
  •     Business rules
  •     Dependency mapping
  •     Smooth execution of the sprints
  •     Requirements clarification to the team
  •     Maintaining the dependency map and the traceability matrix.
  •     Facilitation support for users in UAT

The Business analyst role supports the Product Owner in delivering detailed artifacts. We often consider the business analyst as a proxy product owner. This allows the agile team to have a higher amount of access to product owner’s perspectives.

Critical Responsibilities for Business Analyst

  • Managing User stories –
    •     Prioritizing the user stories
    •     Clearing the impediments if any
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  • Detailing the requirements as per the stakeholders’ needs and expectations
    •     Requirements elicitation
    •     Business rules
    •     Modeling
    •     Requirements walkthroughs
    •     Requirements workshops
    •     Acceptance criteria
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  •     Clarifying the details of requirements with stakeholders
  •     Coordinating with the development team to get the stories developed
    •     Day to day support in requirements clarifications and business rules
    •     SPOC for the agile team for all requirements related queries
  • Impact analysis for changes–
    •     Maintaining the traceability matrix and dependencies.
    •     Components mapping
    •     Impact analysis for changes
  • Work closely with the PO on the sprint execution –
    •     A representative of the PO in the agile team in clarifying questions and issues.
    •     Assists the PO in managing the sprint and the product backlog
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  •    Take a lead role in the sprint retrospectives

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3.        Final Thoughts

As we saw, there is indeed a fair amount of overlap of skills and responsibilities between the two roles. As the name indicates, a Product owner works like an owner of the product, envisioning almost every detail of the product and how to make it market-ready. And on the other hand, the BA gives colors to the vision and makes it a reality. But the lines get somewhat blurred sometimes. Here is a simple Venn diagram depicting the tasks/responsibilities and the skills involved for both roles.

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Won’t you laugh at me if I say a good collaboration or teamwork is like a happy marriage where things run smoothly, the needs are taken care of without stressing about it, and happiness is delivered.

The same thing applies in an agile team, between the PO and the BA role. They are required to work closely to push it to a successful release to the market.

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We can’t stress enough how important it is to have a clear set of requirements and a well-defined problem to be solved. A well-understood and well-defined problem mean half the job the done.

Like all other partnerships, this also becomes successful with a close collaboration between the BA and the PO. The better the two roles collaborate, the better value delivered, and the better managed the agile team and the sprint is. Overall, it’s the collaborative effort of a team that makes it a winning one.

Having a PO with sound domain knowledge helps put across the right features. An experienced BA helps in excellent sprint execution and perfect collaboration between the numerous stakeholders and the agile team.

To summarize, the PO manages the bigger picture of the market expectations and the product. The BA manages the close monitoring and executions of the sprint, thereby delivering great products and building winning teams. The result is a winner product and a happy and successful agile team.

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10 Steps to Transition from Your Current Job to an Amazing BA Career

Over the years, professionals wanting to pursue a career in business analysis have been seeking my advice.

A few of the questions posed to me:

  • “How do I launch my career as a business analyst?”
  • “How do I switch over to BA role? “
  • “Is it possible to move to a business analyst position for someone working as a sales engineer?”
  • “Is it possible to become a business analyst without having BA experience?”
  • “How can I take up a career as a business analyst? I am currently working in freight forwarding and operations.”
  • “I’m working as a software developer since last 3 years and planning to change my career to be a business analyst. Where should I start from?”
  • “Can I become a business analyst after BBA?”

My response to them is that in the field of business analysis, business experience, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, counts. This is because Business Analysis is not restricted to a particular field but in most cases, cuts across diverse fields.

If you are a self-motivated professional with strong analytical skill, have excellent written and verbal communication skills plus the ability to work well with employees at all levels of an organization, a business analyst position is a great fit for you.

Business Analysis is one of the fastest-growing professions with an all-time high growth rate of 14%, while the average growth of any profession is 5%, as per the US Bureau of labor statistics.

Here’s a data insight from SEEK on the job opportunities for BAs and how the job market is trending:

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Business Analysis is a career which is filled with a good balance and proportion of leadership skills along with technology exposure. It makes one step out of their comfort zone and realize their full potential while performing the role. It’s challenging as well as rewarding at the same time. This is one of the careers that puts one to a High Growth Path Leading to a C Suite Role.

Business Analyst is a role where one can contribute to the organization’s strategy, its offerings, its revenue, and its margin. A ‘Business Analyst’ helps the business to grow and become more efficient, organized, and more successful.

Business analysts, understand the problems and goals of an enterprise, analyze needs and solutions, devise change strategies, drive change, collaborate with stakeholders and also advise organizations on improving efficiency, finances, and various other aspects of business.

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A business analyst works in a multifaceted world. In order to meet all the business needs a business analyst has to act as a mediator, moderator, facilitator, connector, and ambassador. They are the bridge that fills in the gap between each department throughout every step of development. Business analysts must be great verbal and written communicators, tactful diplomats, problem solvers, thinkers, and analyzers – with the ability to engage with stakeholders to understand and respond to their needs in rapidly changing business environments.

In short, a BA is the backbone of the growth and advancement of the organization.

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The image below talks about a few professions from where it is easier to foray into the business analyst profession.

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Having said this, crossing over to the land of business analysis demands you to learn and hone new skills and tools.

So, here are some steps, that will help a professional to carve the path to a successful and rewarding business analysis career

1. Learn the basics of business

The very first step to understand is how businesses run and what they do. One also needs to have a good background of the various functions of the organization and how directly/indirectly serve the internal as well as external customers. A good starting point would be to go through the generic process classification framework provided by APQC. You can download the free personal version of the APQC process classification framework from the APQC. It also would be a good idea to read up basic books on business strategy, marketing, finance, HR, and operations.


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2. Learn the business analysis process

Like any other activity, Business Analysis also follows a process. The best resource, which is available free, is the Business Analysis Core Standard from IIBA. It is a fairly short document of about 50 pages but is very informative. It will give you a good idea about how business analysis is actually performed.

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3. Develop behavioral skills

As a business analyst, one must learn how to interact with a sponsor, Domain SME, End users, and all other business-side stakeholders including suppliers. This requires honing one’s skills in behavioral aspects. Key skills for business analysis are communication, stakeholder interaction, active listening skills, facilitation, conflict resolution, creative thinking, etc.
Behavioral skills are very essential for a BA and the best way to hone these skills is to practice it extensively.

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4. Learn requirements modeling tools and management tools

Business analysts use many tools as part of their work. Some of the popular tools are business process modeling, state modeling, and use case modeling. Download the trial version of Microsoft Visio. This tool is very popular with most organizations. You can also learn other free tools such as Lucid chart, BizAgi Business process modeler.
Here’s an opportunity to access BA books and tools to practice- https://www.adaptiveus.com/adaptive-inner-circle/.

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Image curtsey: MCAL Global

5. Learn the domain of the organization/domain of your interest

There are good resources available on the internet almost on all domains and maybe within your own organization. Another good advice we suggest is to look for a handbook on your domain. For example, if you are in the retail domain, look for a book by the name Handbook of retail. Go through the handbook, you will get a fairly good idea about how retail domain functions. When you understand your domain and you understand your organization, your stakeholders’ acceptance for you as a business analyst will increase manifold.

6. Participate in professional groups, conferences on business analysis

There are many professional groups, virtual and physical conferences on business analysis. Participate in these events to understand how business analysis is changing, what are the trends in business analysis and how you can bring new business analysis concepts to your organization.
Become an IIBA member, join their events, volunteer for the local events and chapters. This not only opens new doors for you but also expands your professional network and experience.

7. Use stepping stones: Explore roles which are gateways to business analysis

Find mid-position careers between your current job and the job of a business analyst. Roles such as business process analyst, reporting analyst, customer support analyst – such roles teach you certain aspects of business and make you ready to be BA. Keep taking small jumps – in a few years, you will find yourself in your dream role.

8. Get yourself certified

Along with a degree and experience, getting a Business Analyst certification carries a lot of weight with organizations and also helps the candidate to acquire the requisite knowledge and meet their professional goal. Certification can improve overall performance, remove uncertainty, and widen market opportunities. A certified business analyst has a broader perspective of the BA techniques and approaches. It also shows commitment, as preparing for these certifications and clearing the exam is not an easy task. Organizations also recognize individuals for the hard work and commitment which the candidate has put into it.

For those who are making a foray into the business analysis domain, ECBA certification from IIBA is a good choice. ECBA not only gives a rock-solid foundation for getting into the BA profession but also helps with global certification. The ECBA certification does not call for any eligibility criteria in terms of education and covers aspects related to requirements elicitation, requirements analysis, and management, stakeholder management, techniques used by BAs, etc.

It is strongly recommended that you undergo proper training from a seasoned BA coach. This will help increase your chances of passing in the very first attempt and in the shortest possible time. My organization Adaptive US (adaptiveus.com) is an EEP with IIBA and has helped scores of professionals get ECBA certified and step into a successful BA career.

For more details- ECBA Training

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9. Start from within your organization

Upon completing the training and certification, you can utilize your newfound learning and experience in your industry/domain to start looking for opportunities within your current organization.

The first thing to do will be to look for possibilities for an internal transfer. Discuss your career goals with your manager and seek opportunities to practice BA skills/techniques. Show interest, gather knowledge, and be proactively involved in the requirements gathering and documentation process. Shadowing the business analyst for a particular project in your organization would allow you to practice the concepts that you have learned.

If finding an opportunity with the current organization is not possible, you could update your resume accordingly to highlight your ‘functional knowledge’ in your industry/domain, along with your certification details. Showcase how your past experience qualifies you for business analysis roles and how your profile is enhanced with the ECBA training and certification you have completed.

10. Learn to network and leverage it

If you wish to climb higher in your career, you need the right push. Sometimes, this push comes from those you are surrounded with. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are experts or passionate about their BA jobs, learn from their experiences, share your thoughts and ideas, identify opportunities and devise strategies on how you can advance in your career.

Many times, we are limited by our mindset and comfort zone to switch careers, which prevents us from utilizing our full potential. Our minds get overwhelmed with “What-ifs” and we stay stuck in situations, which we want to overcome. However, there have been professionals who have shown the grit to change, took action in the right direction, and worked their way to reach where they wanted to. What is inspiring is that they have been very successful too.

A good business analyst is one of the best assets that an organization can have. Having a good and competent BA in the organization is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

So, plan ahead, learn & hone the skills needed and forge your way ahead with one of the fastest-growing and exciting professions. 

5 Trusted Tips to Move Your Business Analyst Career to a C-Suite Role

I am sure you have come across those corner offices, those suave personalities, and aspired to be one like them someday.

Well, these are the C-Suite roles like CEO, CDO, CIO, CFO, CTO, COO, etc.

The top executives of the company are its C-suite members. C-suite is a term used to refer to the C-level (senior executive) positions in a company, notably those that begin with the word ‘Chief’.

These are strategic roles in the organization that sets the path, strategy, and often the directions which are being executed by the middle management and the others in the hierarchy. The c-suite is deemed the most important and influential group of individuals and hence the most admired designations. They are the ones who almost always are the highest paid in the organization, ones who yield the maximum amount of authority along with the major responsibilities.

But as they say, “With great power comes great responsibilities”, and so notably the C-suite professionals have the largest portion of responsibility in the organization.

Every professional’s aim is to reach the top echelon of the organization. As a BA if you are good at your work, are creative and innovative, complemented by having a proactive nature, you can take your business analyst career path as far as you would like, progressing through management levels to the topmost level, inhibited only by your expertise, talents, and desires.

Business Analysts are the bridge between the different departments of a company. They are in high demand in every area of business, from finance to IT to corporate management. In today’s multifaceted world, business analysts bring the business needs together with IT resources. BAs are in essence the conduit between business problems and solutions. They, therefore, understand the various areas of the business very well.

Typically, in an organization, the CEO develops the vision and the Business Analyst does the research and groundwork to make that vision more clearly understood. Richie Bello, CEO of White Dove Bird, explains. “In terms of vision, a CEO is the developer while a business analyst is the researcher.” Hence, a BA is already aware of what it entails to be a CEO, they just need to gain the experience, skillset, and knowledge to don the hat of a C-suite level professional.

Business analysts who aspire to the topmost leadership positions and who are looking to expand their career horizons need to be multidimensional professionals with broad business, IT, and leadership skills. They must seek out and create their own opportunities beyond their comfort zones, hone their existing skillsets, and acquire new knowledge and skillsets required for the coveted role.

In this blog, we discuss some broad guidelines which a BA can follow to take their career to the top level.

Business analysts should broaden their cross-functional experience.

According to Andy Salunga from Forrester Research, “Business analysts looking to expand their career horizons must seek challenges outside of their functional heritage.”

For a BA to grow into a C-suite role, they need to deepen their functional expertise and broaden their knowledge of the various departments and domains of an organization. A business analyst already possesses cross-functional knowledge and by honing up these they will be better placed for taking on broader responsibilities.

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Business analysts should increase technological knowledge & skills and become familiar with process & IT management methodologies.

A business analyst, to move forward on their career path, requires a higher degree of technological fluency. Executives who neglect their technical skills might be passed over. In a fast-changing global economy, dated technical skills can hamper resource-allocation and strategic decisions.

Therefore, it’s important to learn tools for business process charting, modeling to draw the current and the future vision of the process. Tools like MS Visio, Lucid Chart, BizAgi Business process modeler, etc., come in handy here.

A BA should seek to understand and utilize methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, CMMI, ITIL, etc., to improve processes and enable broad-scale business innovation and to improve IT performance and align IT with the business.

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Business analysts should nurture and strengthen their behavioral skills.

Every BA should have a unique blend of interpersonal skills, but some behavioral skills are worth their value in gold as one climbs up the ladder in their career. A few notable amongst those are

  • Problem-solving Skill
  • Decision Making Skill
  • Creative & Innovative Thinking
  • Analytical thinking Skill
  • Team Building Skill
  • Presentation Skill
  • Questioning Skill
  • Communication Skill
  • Listening Skill
  • Negotiation Skill
  • Conflict Resolution Skill
  • Facilitation Skill

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While vying for the top jobs in an organization, it is imperative to be good at building relationships with people across departments to be effective. BAs must hone their organizational change management skills, conflict resolution skills, leadership skills, and other interpersonal skills as they envisage leading ever-changing teams and initiatives while climbing up the corporate ladder. 


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Certification & Training, a sure-shot way of ‘Moving Up the Ladder’

Most successful people, I have spoken to and even read about agree that a continuous thirst for knowledge is one of the key elements in building a growing, and thriving career. Certifications not only increase the professional value of a person but also enhances the skills by making one learn new things beyond their job.

Certification tells your organization, future employers, and your professional peers that you’re well-qualified and that you take your career seriously. Simply put, certifications can be considered as a ‘stamp of excellence’.

One of the most important reasons to get certified is that it helps you stay ahead of the competition. If you truly want to succeed in your career, you need to stay current in all the technologies and regulations that affect your profession.

For a business analyst, there are a number of industry-recognized certificates that they can acquire. Business analysis certification is a specialized education that works as a credential for a business analyst professional. Several specialized certifications can be pursued as you go ahead in your career.

Read about all the different BA certifications available in the market in this blog – Business Analysis Certifications

The certification space for the BA community has been dominated by IIBA. IIBA has been promoting the business analysis profession and certification for more than a decade now with its certifications ECBA (entry-level), CCBA (intermediate level), CBAP (Advanced level) and specialized certifications like AAC (Agile Analysis Certification), CBDA (Certification in Business Data Analytics) and CCA (Certification in Cybersecurity Analysis), each requiring a different level of experience.

As the C-suite role is the most experienced position in the organization, for a BA, it would be highly desirable if they have the CBAP certification along with specialized certifications like CBDA and AAC under their belt.

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CBAP

CBAP is essentially is meant for senior business analysts and is the most coveted BA certification in the world. CBAP certification has proven results in terms of salary benefits, career growth, and opening up new opportunities in the global markets. CBAP exam has case study and scenario based questions based on Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABoK).

IIBA-AAC

IIBA Agile Analysis Certification recognizes the competencies of BA professionals and is ideal for Agile BAs, BA Consultants, Trainers, Project Managers, Testers, etc. The IIBA-AAC exam is closely aligned to the Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide, version 2 and tests one’s ability to answer questions focused on real-world scenarios.

IIBA-CBDA

CBDA recognizes a BA Practitioner’s ability to effectively execute analysis related work in support of business analytics initiatives and is an indication of one’s commitment, passion, and competency in performing business analysis on analytics initiatives.

Business analysts should hone & develop Leadership Skills

Leadership is all about motivating others to dream higher, do things, and act in ways that are conducive to achieving goals.
In any business, leadership skills are one of the most prized assets that an employee can possess, and when it comes to positions at the C-level, they’re considered an absolute essential.

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For BAs, leadership skills are not an unknown territory. They generally use leadership when facilitating discussions, guiding teams through ambiguous situations, articulating and inspiring a clear vision of the desired future state, encouraging stakeholders to think in new ways, and collaborating with stakeholders to work toward common goals. Given this, it should be easier for BAs to hone up their leadership skills.

Business analysts can hone their leadership skills through the following activities:

  1. Taking initiative
  2. Being decisive
  3. Guiding others in their tasks
  4. Setting clear directions and goals
  5. Influencing others
  6. Being an example for others to emulate
  7. Continuously learning from others & situations
  8. Listening actively & Communicating clearly
  9. Having empathy & positivity
  10. Resolving conflicts

At the C-level, knowing the organization’s goal and where to reach is only a small part of the equation – knowing how to get others to follow you there is the harder and more important part. And in this leadership skills of the professional makes a lot of difference.

In short, the skills needed by a business analyst to step-up to the C-level of a company cover a wide range of subjects, from working with and leading others to know oneself and striving to expand skills and knowledge at every career phase.

A business analyst is a generalist who is proficient in functioning completely in different positions. The future of business analyst is prosperous in the global market. Following the steps mentioned above, you can reach as high as your aspirations and diligence takes you. Following a well thought out road map will be a lucrative and rewarding move.

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As a business analyst aspiring to reach the top-tier of the organization, you should prepare a road-map and follow it diligently. Mastering business analysis skills, to have the business acumen necessary to ascend to the top, along with following and honing the aforementioned steps & skills will definitely aid in climbing the ranks and become a prized executive.

You can learn more about earning your Certified Business Analysis Professional certification with Adaptive US today by following this link here – https://www.adaptiveus.com/cbap-certification-training You can find a large library of information there as well that will help guide you in deciding whether or not to take the next steps.

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