Author: Giorgos Sioutzos

Giorgos Sioutzos is working at business consulting industry as a business analyst. He holds a BSc in Management Science and Technology from Athens University of Economics and Business and Msc in International Business & Management from ALBA Graduate Business School. Numerus articles about business and technology issues have been published in most reputable Greek and foreign media. Certifications: CCBA, PRINCE2, ITIL Bio - Short.

4 Tips that can help you in your new job as a Business Analyst

You have just been hired as a business analyst in a new organization. Many new processes and unknown business terminologies can make you feel confused and feel stressed. This is absolutely normal, and time is required to understand how the things are working.

Below are some tips in order to successfully adapt to your new role.

#1 Understand the approach towards BA

Try to learn the approach of the company toward business analysis field and the attitudes of your team towards the tasks of a business analyst. Search and ask about standard processes your company is following when it comes to business analysis. It is vital to know what your organization is perceiving as good work and what is valuable. You need to take your time and dive deeper and not to be misled by the first impressions.

#2 Understand the Context

In the first period erase if possible, from your memory the way things were done in your previous job. As it is widely stated there is no one size fits all. Give some time to understand the context and how the context is affecting the way the things are done. Try to find the usefulness and the why behind the approaches that are used in your new environment. Most probably the context will give you some answers.

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#3 Understand the Business Domain

Try to figure out the characteristics of the industry your company provides solutions for. Try to learn as much as possible for the specific industry, trends, rules ,processes and standards. You can ask for information more experienced colleagues or search in previous artifacts that may exist in company’s knowledge hub. You may also request from your manager a short training in basic industry related topics. When you like your job and you are passionate about it learning is not actually so hard.

#4 Understand the Τools and Techniques

Try to figure out which are the techniques more commonly are used in your new job. Then try to gain knowledge and practice on mastering those techniques. For example, you can understand that a business process diagram is commonly used. Spend some time to develop your mastery in creating this kind of diagram. You may attend a short e-course or check previous such diagrams prepared in the past from the team.

In a new beginning you need to figure out first the as-is situation. That needs time and willingness to learn. Try to understand, make your own homework, and then ask question. Do not underestimate the need for comparing the information you receive with other sources of information. Moreover, remember not to propose a change if you have not understood first the context and the reason behind some approaches that are established in your new team.

The Business Analyst’s Approach to Problem Solving

As a business analyst you will have to understand your clients’ needs and constructively provide valuable solution options. You will have to find the real roots of the needs and approach problems in a way that will enable change.

Your task is not just to collect requirements. It’s to elicit requirements in order to ensure long – lasting change. It is common for clients to come up with the solution in mind. For example, a client may request an addition of a step to the process. Diving more and trying to figure out the actual need behind this request may reveal that there is another way of treating the actual need.

The following stages are commonly used by Business Analysts when problem solving is required.

1) Problem Definition

Τhe first step in the approach is the problem definition. Gathering information, ascertaining its validity against other sources of information, and analyzing the available information are key at this stage. The way a problem is identified first and then defined can have a significant impact on the alternatives that may be emerge. Identifying the problem will also delineate the goals and objectives that the alternative solutions should cover. The more complete a problem statement is, the easier it will be to identify alternatives, selection & evaluation.

Common pitfalls in this stage include:

  • Too wide or too narrow definitions of the problem can impact the quality of the solution. Analysts are asked to find the balance between small and large range so that there are several alternatives.

 

  • Focusing on the symptoms rather than the causes is a common mistake in defining a problem. Of course the subjectivity involved in characterizing the symptom often makes this mistake inevitable. Many techniques such as the “5 Whys” can help in avoiding this pitfall.

 

  • Choosing the right problem means that while there may be parallel problems we must choose with a systemic approach the problem that is most possible to some extent another problem. Systemic thinking is of paramount importance as there is usually an interdependence between seemingly unrelated problems.

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2) Alternative Solutions

Once the problem is identified, the analyst, should, together with the technical team to search for possible solutions.

Solution options has to be aligned with the project scope, the overall business needs and the technical feasibility. Solutions options must be realistic from business and technical side and of course valid in the eyes of the stakeholders.

A common mistake in this step is to abandon an alternative too quickly. This often happens under the pressure of time and other circumstances. However, because an alternative seems convenient, this does not make it ideal. It may have harmful side effects, or it may be less effective than other alternatives that would result if given enough time at this stage.

One way to limit the error of the incomplete “pool of alternatives” is to involve key stakeholders in discussions of identifying different solutions. It’s a good way for different perspectives to be presented and contribute to different solution alternatives.

3) Identify the best solution

For every solution option an assessment shall be done against the other solution options. The business analysts in collaboration with the key stakeholders identify the criteria that will be used for this comparison.

A cost-benefit analysis is commonly used for each solution option in order to figure out the benefits against the costs. However sometimes the full benefits or costs cannot be monetized, and indirect benefits or costs may be derived by the implementation of a solution. So, it is not a good idea to compare different options based strictly on a cost – benefit analysis as it is not easy to think about all costs and benefits and give them a value.

An analyst understands the cognitive limitations of human information processing capabilities and the difficulty of making optimization decisions. It is worth noting that the best alternative is choosing an environment of delimited rationality. An environment of delimited rationality is created as the limits of the decision-making process are set by the available information and the context.

Problem solving is vital in all aspects of business from people problems to technical problems and from short-term to long-term problems. And problem-solving involves two completely different, possibly conflicting thought processes: creativity and decision making. A business analyst shall continuously try to improve problem solving skills by implementing in practice useful techniques and approaches and continuously following up the outcomes.

Problem Definition – The foundation of Effective Problem Solving

The problem identification task is about really asking the question, what problem are we solving and we’re looking to try to answer.

But before we can identify the particular problem and really understand that we first need to understand how does this gets initiated? How does the problem identification task get started? What causes us to start looking into this? Well, there are really two ways that this can be initiated. Number one is through the organization or client. This is done through some type of request. The other source of problem identification there from a self-initiated discovery and kind of move forward to understand, is there value in fixing that or adjusting for that potential change?

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Below you may find four tips for the most effective Problem Identification

  1. Don’t Start with the Solution

It’s very important to only focus on the problem and the structure of this problem at the step of problem identification. Just naturally, as we hear a problem, we start brainstorming and thinking through the solution. However, in that way probably fail to identify the real problem.

  1. Find the root cause

It’s not only about identifying the problem but it’s about identifying the right problem and really getting to the root of the problem. What I mean by that is one problem may actually be the effect of another lower-level root problem. A common technique used is the 5 whys. The method is remarkably simple: when a problem occurs, you drill down to its root cause by asking “Why?” five times

  1. Keep it Simple

Simplicity does not mean a lack of understanding. It may mean a good solid understanding. Try to approach any complex situation by breaking it down into more simple elements.

  1. Exploit the collective wisdom and synergies

None can go far alone. We need collective wisdom and accepting different perspectives. It’s the only way a complete understanding of the problem to be achieved. Don’t forget to leave yourself open to different ideas and perspectives that may be contrary to your established beliefs and thinking patterns.

As a business analyst, there are many cases where the customer comes up with claims on changing something, like changing something in a standard process by inserting an approval step. Instantly we naturally try to find a solution contrary to trying to identify the real problem. Instead of instantly focusing on the solution alternatives trying to figure out what is the real problem can really provide a path towards meaningful solutions that will provide value to users.

Identifying the real problem and determining it in the most effective way is the fundamental step for having an effective solution. Problem identification is the first step of the rational process of problem-solving.

Developing a “Sense of Purpose” for a Business Analysis Initiative

Βusiness analysts can contribute in delivering the sense of purpose and worth concerning a business analysis initiative. This sense of purpose will contribute to the better effectiveness of the work that is performed between the BA team and the different stakeholders. As the business analysts are continuously communicating with different stakeholders and deal directly with their needs, they are the best source to contribute to the capturing and the diffusion of a common purpose that may also serve as a success criterion for the initiative.

The capacity to effectively lead a business analysis initiative is directly related to the pursuit of a worthy purpose. The purpose may be the most powerful link to join people and processes in a common effort. General/ Organizational purpose can be transformed and decomposed into more specific and detailed initiative purposes. The degree to which we pursue an ennobling purpose is the degree to which we attract others.

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Purpose attracts and therefore serves as a unifying force. There is unity of effort and energy to the degree of shared purpose. Our level of satisfaction and our level of energy is directly related not only to our understanding of our own purpose but also to whether the organization and specific project to which we contribute, share that same purpose.

Below you can find four considerations for effectively managing the sense of purpose as a business analyst:

  1. Big Picture

Being able to see the things holistically and the long-term value and effects of any task can help you embrace a worthy purpose that will give you energy and motivation but also distribute this sense of purpose to the other stakeholders

  1. Respond to “Why”

In order to successfully spread a sense of purpose, you need to instill a sense of worthy purpose. It is to answer the why question, why should work overtime for this project? Why should I sacrifice? Why should I dedicate my time to achieving high-quality deliverables? The answer has to be something that is worthy, something that is ennobling.

  1. Focus on the Perception

You may feel you have communicated effectively the purpose to the other stakeholders but do the others perceive the purpose as something worthy and important? Perception is reality. What people think they hear is the truth according to them.  So, we have to think through our communications in a very deliberate manner, in a planned manner, thinking through how it’s going to be received on the other end and making sure that people are receiving the message that we want them to receive.

  1. Align with the Organization Purpose

The organization’s purpose and the core values of your organization should be aligned with the project-specific purpose. Projects or initiative specific purpose may be derived and be a more detailed and case-specific purpose of your general organization purpose.

Effective execution of business analysis tasks requires convincing key stakeholders (both internal and external) that your analysis and your conclusions are valid so that you can transition from your analysis to implementation. As such, you must be able to summarize your findings in a message that makes a persuasive argument that aligns with the sense of purpose. An argument that mirrors progress towards the realization of this purpose. Therefore, defusing a sense of purpose and then communicating results towards achieving this purpose is an integral part of your effort in any business analysis task you are engaged with. One that is worthy of careful consideration.

5 Characteristics of Effective Business Analysts

“Business Analyst” is not just a title. Is not a job. It is a mindset, a concept and a structured process executed by people in different positions inside an organization. It’s more like, an approach of making the things happen from the realization of business need towards the final implementation.

It’s easy to call yourself business analyst but difficult to be a good and effective business analyst. The field can be great fun, and very rewarding, but you need to be prepared. People who take on business analysis roles typically believe they need three things: skills and experience, a bit of marketing, and an interest in working in a variety of environments. However successful business analysts know they need much more than a technical expertise and specific skills. They need a mindset and a specific attitude in order to serve with the best possible and feasibly way their clients business needs.

What is expected from business analysts can vary widely. And what they actually need you to do can be completely different from what they expect. Business analysis is an exciting, dynamic form of work. You can have a positive impact on your clients and be well paid for your effort. But you have to be appropriately equipped.

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To be an effective and successful business analysis you need to continuously develop some specific characteristics.

The first is technical depth. It’s critical that you have the technical background to satisfy your clients’ needs. This means you have experience in a variety of environments. The more breadth of experience you have in your technical area, the easier it will be to apply your skill as a business analyst.

Second, effective business analysts need to understand quickly and accurately what’s happening in their client’s environment. Your power of observation needs to be well tuned. Being able to listen carefully and patiently, observe the behavior of your clients, and make sense of what is happening is very important.

Third, effective business analyst care about the welfare of their client’s business and the clients themselves. You need to be able to put yourself in your client’s shoes and appreciate the difficulties they may be facing or have faced. While what you do may seem routine to you, it probably isn’t routine for your client. You need to appreciate that fact and behave accordingly.

Another important characteristic is emotional intelligence. Often clients will engage you because they’ve had substantial difficulties. They may have a skill shortage, or they may not be sure how to manage what you’ve been asked to deliver. All these conditions create stress. On top of that, you’ll be striving to learn as much as you can as quickly as you can, so you’ll be under stress as well. Dealing with all that requires personal emotional maturity and the ability to assess and deal with the emotional state of your client.

Also, you have to develop the observation and effective listening as a personal characteristic, make recommendations based on sound business judgment, and be patient. As trust builds, the direction your client provides will likely become more reasonable. Work out your contract. Understand your client’s needs and desires, and establish a good relationship with your contract manager, and you could put on your superhero costume to celebrate your success. Observation helps towards a really robust problem definition statement. So as you look at your problem-solving, and you’re getting ready to start pursuing that initial set of ideas, you need to go through that prioritization and pick the highest value one that’s going to have the biggest impact on your overall solution.

Business analysis is performed on a variety of initiatives within an enterprise. Initiatives may be strategic, tactical, or operational. Business analysis may be performed within the boundaries of a project or throughout enterprise evolution and continuous improvement. No matter their job title or organizational role business analysts are responsible for discovering, synthesizing, and analyzing information in order the best solutions to be derived and the clients’ needs to be accommodated in the best possible way.



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