Author: Gareth Jones

My Certification Journey – Avoiding a CBAPtism by Fire.

Industry Certification has always been one of my career goals. Ever since being first introduced to Business Analysis, the discussion of being certified by the most recognized industry body in this field, the IIBA, has been a consistent topic.

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This was only reinforced when I was first introduced to Business Analysis (BAPL), and its CEO Tim Coventry (a former president of the Australian Chapter of the IIBA). Tim and BAPL took me and many other lucky participants through an in-depth 10-month program detailing the ins and outs of Business Analysis. This course not only filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge, but it strengthened my passion for this every important role and understanding of the value it provides. And here I am today, 10 years from this introduction, and many more from my first furore into business analysis, a CBAP certified BA.

In this blog series I am going to take you through my journey. Starting with the Why (as all good BAs should), as well as the approach I followed, ‘The How’.

Why work towards certification?

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These answers will often vary between individuals so I can only explain this from my own position. In one word I guess I could say, pride. I wanted to do this to achieve a level of industry recognition for my own pride and self-belief. Many will say that being certified won’t make you a better BA, or that there is no need to be certified as “I already have the job”. Well part of this may be true. Whilst companies are not demanding certified BAs, there is no immediate barrier to gainful employment (though this is slowly shifting in the industry as certification is commonly desired by some large institutions). However, becoming certified and the understanding of the 6 Knowledge Areas (KA) of the BABOK v3 that comes with it, has made me a more aware BA. There were elements of the BABOK that have only recently made sense as I tried to understand as much of it as possible. At BAPL we have developed a CBAP Preparation Online Course, and one of the handouts with this is a context diagram of each KA, Task, and the inputs and outputs. Providing this level of visual over the text across the entire BABOK shows how interrelated each KA is and strengthens the applicability and scalability of the information contained within. For instance, at what point does a requirement or design need change approval or a change request in an adaptive initiative? Baselining is clear in a predictive approach, but adaptive approaches welcome change, even late in the game. The principles behind both are the same, even if the application differs.

The other driver for me, and I know this is a common feeling among many BAs is the self-imposed imposter syndrome. Exceptional Business Analysis drives significant value for organisations. Our role is significant. Often, we are in situations that can feel overwhelming and self-doubt creeps in. A friend once said to me, ‘Having certification gives me a comfort in knowing an industry has tested and approved of my level of knowledge. So, the situation is complex, but it is not because of my capability, it is simply a complex situation. Have confidence in myself in applying my knowledge, and work through the complexities one bit at a time’. As someone who also trains others in Business Analysis, and discussing Certification in these courses, I always felt a little empty or even fake when discussing the value of certification, knowing I had not followed through on the advice I was giving. For others it may be to provide a point of differentiation between themselves and other candidates in interviews. What ever your driver, set yourself a completion date ‘When’, and work through ‘The How’.

Customer Experience (CX) is the new black!

The customer journey is a great technique to improve the Customer Experience (CX).

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”
– Steve Jobs

The customer, not technology, must be the core of your strategy.

As customers are driving consumption in the digital age, it is necessary to understand that this shift in product or service delivery cannot happen successfully without keeping the customer in the forefront. I recently spoke with a previous colleague of mine who has helped his digital services team re-evaluate their position in service delivery. His opinion, they are now front line staff. Why? Well, who sits between them and the customer?


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This way of thinking is imperative for all businesses to incorporate when designing any new or improved service delivery channel. The customer experience will determine whether a customer transacts or re-engages with a company. But how do we understand what impression the customer gets from the product and service delivery methods? Enter the Customer Journey.

The Customer Journey Map is a visual representation of the customer’s experience across a company’s product and service lines. They are cross-functional in nature (ideally following the business value stream) and supported with data (something that is increasingly available and valuable in the digital age). They provide a sense of what the customer wants to achieve, and how effective the business is at enabling that desired outcome. This then enables the business to develop and deliver targeted initiatives to meet these customer needs.

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Customers who have good experiences with a company are more likely to stay on as customers, increasing their total spend, and just as importantly, increasing the likelihood that they will pass on positive sentiments to other potential customers. A poor customer experience then increases the chances for the exact opposite.

The customer journey doesn’t just need to be externally focused. Internal processes have customers also. Onboarding new staff can be an expensive and frustrating experience. Ever turned up to a new job only to be told you have no place to set-up, and nothing to set-up anyway? What about when you request an asset via the on-line self-services portal? How often does this result in increased time trying to find a number to call, out of sheer frustration? Capturing this data and modeling these experiences will provide a greater context for the improvement ahead. By putting the customer at the forefront, the business can make the necessary changes to improve that experience and subsequently improve one of the first impressions a new employee has on their new employer.

It doesn’t matter if your business is implementing a new product or service or improving an existing one. Nor does it matter that your focus is internal, not external, the customer experience matters. Not focusing on this customer journey will reduce the likelihood of project and business success. Businesses exist to service customers, why would you look at it any other way?

Business Analysis as a Practice

Business analysis is a broad subject that can cover anything to do with innovation, people, process, and technology—and this is on top of supporting the six knowledge areas that underpin both large iteration and Agile approaches.

It stands to reason that, given the complexity and growing streams of business analysis, no single individual can be an expert in all areas.

So, what can an organization expect when it goes to market for a business analyst? What capabilities do you need to look for? Where will the applicant’s strengths lie? Will their weaknesses be in areas critical to your project’s success? How will you know? At what point might you find out?

More often these days, BAs specialize in a particular aspect of business analysis. They might be an Agile BA, Digital BA, Technical BA, Strategic BA, Finance BA, software-specific BA, SAP BA, Oracle BA, or EDRMS BA. But your organization has budgeted only for a single business analyst, even though you might need assistance in strategic alignment and benefits identification for a web-based initiative to be delivered in an Agile environment.

When you need different areas of business analysis expertise but can’t afford to hire several BAs, which areas should you compromise in? The answer is none.

Why work with a business analysis practice?

Although no individual can be an expert in all areas of business analysis, a business analysis practice can foster expertise. A practice supports a number of business analysts with capability and experience across all the business analysis knowledge areas. By engaging a specialized practice, not only do you get an experienced consultant, you get the sum of experience from all the other members of the practice, the practice team, and service delivery team in the background. One person’s experience will complement another’s, and practice can deliver expert business analysis services and outcomes because of the people and experience it can draw upon. As an organization, you may interact daily with a single BA consultant, but you can have confidence in the support they have behind them.

Finding the right practice

For an individual business analyst, the content of what they do is very important. If they want to develop in their career, they need variety, and they need mentoring. A supportive practice whether internal, external or a blend within an organization provides the breadth and support that propels business analysts to achieve at their best. A supportive practice helps clarify the approach, method, estimates, and necessary detail required to achieve the desired outcome. Individuals may over-document and complicate business analysis, while a supportive practice encourages just enough agility, speed, and quality. Because of its breadth of knowledge and experience, a practice can also be proactive in providing support (i.e. the support is provided without affecting any project delivery timeframes). Practice is structured so that all BAs experiences are continuously fed back into the practice, so all consultants are constantly developing which in turn provides additional benefit to your BAs and your projects.

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A Business Analysis practice should always have the following key elements to be successful:

  • Approaches, methods, techniques, templates, and tools—the ability to adapt to different delivery approaches, customized methods depending on the selected approach, a wide range of techniques to suit a variety of stakeholders and situations and customizable templates and tools for the requirements of analysis and estimation.
  • Service and quality—services are defined, and a review process is managed, so the quality of business analysis is validated and verified.
  • Career development—there is a career pathway for this role within the organization if performed internally.
  • Training and development—business analysts should be continually developing so they can achieve excellence in business analysis.
  • Organization—across the organization business analysis maturity is developed, and any external BA sourcing strategy supports this, so there is growth in business outcomes.

So, why risk your project by putting all your eggs in one basket? Engage a practice and share the risk. Work with a specialized business analysis practice and enjoy the outcomes. Remember: It is impossible for an individual to know everything about business analysis, but a specialist business analysis practice can cover all areas.