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Author: Jamie Champagne

The Value of Business Analysis Late in Your Career

I loved that someone inquired of me about the value of CBAP and pursuing business analysis work late in their career.

There was even the question of value of CBAP in post-retirement.  I’m actually thrilled that some of my most valued colleagues have actually pursued their business analysis careers AS their retirement plans!!


The thing here is to highlight both the concept of business analysis and the value of certifications.  I’ll start first with certifications since yes, I’m a certification “junkie” and have plenty of alphabet soup at the end of my title.  Certifications make you dive deep into a subject matter and really refresh your view.  Sure, you’ve been doing the work for years, maybe never had the title as “business analyst”, but do you know the purpose of those techniques you use?  Do you know WHY you do the activities (those tasks) when you do those?  And where do you go when your tried and true approach didn’t work?  Or, more appropriate in today’s age, what do you do where there are no “best practices” as we enter worlds that have never been experienced before?  When you study for a certification, you dive into industry-level knowledge, vetted by practitioners, and maintained through the work people in all areas of the world and types of organization perform daily.  You refresh your view to increase your tool box with more tips, tricks, and ideas to be successful in that line of work.  I definitely agree that certification helps with employment – gets you highlighted in the applicants pool and helps you justify the salary increase.  However, the act of studying and prepping for certifications gives you the chance to validate skill sets.   And this is the part I find is the most value, back to the original question.

Certification gives you the chance to apply skill sets.  Business analysis is both the profession and the skill set.  When you certify, you’re getting validation of your skill set.  That skill set, especially in business analysis, is almost more valuable than many other specific certifications as you can use it the rest of your life.  There’s the ability to help define the requirements to run a successful fundraising campaign for your local church or community event.  There’s the skill set to know how to do strategic planning for the professional board you’re a member of.  And there’s even the ability to come up with a good business case for that girls-night-out you’re pitching to your spouse or explaining why the sports car was not the best return on investment.  All those tasks in the BABOK® Guide are things we do in any kind of business and work to deliver value.  Change is the only constant, so having skill sets to help you be successful with your approach, your delivery, and your follow-through on any change effort is what makes you valuable.  And getting your CBAP® or any other IIBA® certification is the validation you understand and can apply the concepts. 

So should you get the CBAP® certification, even when looking towards retirement?  Well, do some document analysis and look at the tasks, techniques, and approaches and ask if you might need these wherever your life (not just your career) may take you.  If you see some value in them, then getting the certification is your return on investment.  It gives you an industry-standard litmus test to validate your understanding.  And of course, it looks great on your resume for any future efforts you look for (could teaching, mentoring, and volunteering be in your future?  Certification holders are always welcomed as the teams know you have something of value to share with others!).  As a friend once told me.  Use my own business analysis skills and do the analysis if anything is worth the effort or the investment.  And generally, with certifications, especially business analysis work, the value is often a high ROI.

How to Figure the Detail of Process Models

I love that a fellow analyst asked me a question as they were having trouble being asked about putting “narrative on their process model.” 

We started with the first question – WHY?   Simple, yet seriously, we’re so good at OVER analyzing and getting into analysis paralysis that sometimes just trying to figure out what is going on can save others (but especially us!) LOTS of valuable time!

With the first question, the answer was easy – they want more information.  Okay, so then the next questions is then about what the PURPOSE of the model is?  What are you trying to accomplish with your process model?

Good foundational, IIBA® BABOK® Guide v3 (2015) states that the purpose of process modeling is to provide a “standardized graphical model…to show how work is carried out…as foundation for process analysis.”  So are we showing ONLY how work is carried out?  Or are your stakeholders asking for much more?

We have data models and stakeholder RACI matrices and other valuable tools because they’re great at what they’re used for!  They each have their own purpose!  So ask yourself if you’re ever having difficulty with your process model because you’re trying to do WAY more than model a process?


This is the analysis skill – identify what questions are being asked or needing to be answered and facilitate getting that information to the needed decision makers.  If people ask lots of questions about who is doing what on your process, then maybe we do need greater detail on the stakeholder ownership.  Perhaps there is no ownership?  Or don’t overanalyze and just add a new swim lane if it makes the users happy (and of course understand better!).  If people ask lots of questions that revolve around data, do we need a data dictionary and some data modeling or data flow diagrams?  This is common when you meet with stakeholders of different levels of focus.  Too often process steps, decision points, data elements, stakeholders and end products are thrown at the analyst.  Do not feel compelled to write everything on the process model.  Write PROCESS on the process model and make notes on the side.  Then look at your notes.  Are all the notes about data?  Then your own notes tell you that you need some data definition.  And don’t be afraid to acknowledge that there’s a mix of high-level overview requests mixed in with the “give me the technical details down to the line of code” demands.  Just then make your model flow so that each view or screen or page is only showing ONE level.  Then with technology today just link it to the page with the lower level of detail.  Don’t over complicate it trying to take a full course on modeling software or anything.  Simply list high level functions with overall business areas on your main page.  Then for each one of those functions, create a “clean page” with just that function’s information.  And then you can work WITH your stakeholders to define as much information as they at that deeper level, while keeping everyone on the same page at that higher level.  Even better, with this approach, you just created a strategic, overview perspective as well as tactical or operational details.  Now you’ve helped multiple groups from starting with a single model!

See what information comes up from the stakeholders on what is missing or needs to be added to make the process model USABLE.  You are creating a process model for OTHERS to use.  If the level of detail is high and you’re not sure it’ll work – ask!  Share it out and see if people have questions.  If they have none, then you’ve done what is needed to help others get things done!  Analysts process model to facilitate, not own.  The model is the stakeholders’, teams’ or client’s.  It’s for them to get their work done, complete projects and create great new products.  If they ask lots of questions, then help them get the answers.  And as you do, always think what is the most efficient and effective way I can get them the answers.  Just because they want all the information on the same visual, does not mean that it will help them answer their questions.  But to know what to capture appropriately on process models, means you need to know what everyone is trying to accomplish by using your process model.  Make it an actionable document.  Anything you produce should be reusable over and over again – from decision making to operations and troubleshooting – and by people other than you!  That’s the true value! 

So next time someone tells you that your process model is lacking lots of information or needs other data and elements added, ask why and get clarity on the stakeholder’s need and what they hope to accomplish WITH your model.  Then work with them to help develop a model that answers their questions and supports their decision making.

Definition of Business Agility

Business agility – we’re talking well beyond just simply “doing agile” – has been a term that businesses have been starting to adopt and take to heart in the age of digital transformations, IoT (internet of things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence).

But having an entire organization be flexible and nimble is more a mindset then simply an organizational chart change or a business process update.

Right now our world, and especially our workforce, is changing faster than ever. For those struggling with how to achieve “business agility” you simply need to be aware of your dynamic surroundings. What does business agility actually look like? How do you know when you’ve achieved it?

Let’s take the idea that for certain worldly events, organizations are deciding to shift to having employees work remotely. And so consider your own organization, whether you have or have not, had someone walk in and say “Okay – everyone work from home tomorrow!” How does your team, your company, you react? Are you excited, get the essentials from the office (don’t forget the leftovers in the fridge that could grow into their own organism…!), and ramp up to be more productive than ever tomorrow? Or do you ask a million questions and no one knows what’s going on by the time the end of the day comes around? This is the mindset portion of agility. How do you look at the challenge at hand? Is it a view of uncertainty and trepidation? Or do you see an opportunity to overcome and learn, grow and strengthen?


Moving to virtual environments, some managers worry of people not working when out of the office. Instead of “Nobody’s productive right now” thoughts, do you turn towards yourself and ask “How am I being productive?” The agile mindset would actually think about the fact that working from home keeps me more focused without constant interruptions of the office chat and meetings that go longer just cause you can sit and talk with your colleagues (just cause you can doesn’t mean you should!!). So actually in a time when I’m pulled away from a corporate setting is the perfect time for me to finally buckle down and study and obtain a certification!! Talk about adding value – working from home, being productive AND growing my own career and skill set! So the business that embraces this attitude, that encourages, supports and even demands personal growth and attention – that’s business agility! Taking advantage of a situation! As analysts we all talk about SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) – what opportunities can you now exploit to gain more value? What opportunity here, such as this to grow a weakness into a strength? And is your organization encouraging this?

And in our agile mindset, how is reflection happening? Does your company try a virtual tool to have lots of frustration? So what do they do? Keep forcing it, try to get people to give you training? What about asking for feedback and trying another tool? Asking what you use when NOT at work? How do you collaborate with others? The video on Facebook messenger works great for me for international calls and meetings – could that work for some work conversations? Keeps me feeling connected by SEEING the other person? That’s almost faster for me (one click button) than setting up a full webex (and trying to figure out how to login or call in with my phone cause VoIP isn’t working…) to just clarify a question with a colleague!

For business analysts, business agility means more than just agile, but in being flexible, adaptive and using creativity to focus on what CAN be done in a world of “can’t.” As an individual you can still drive agility by exemplify the behaviors. Adapt your analysis techniques to doing online. Need people to respond in a virtual meeting? Then try a poll in your web conference tool every 10 minutes or so. Use digital sticky notes and turn on the white board so that people can contribute! Present status reports from the view of the customer, not what you did. Help view the value of what you and your team are delivering, not just working on. When you model the behavior you are looking for, it makes it easier for others to follow and together, your team and your organizations can operate with greater agility that doesn’t only survive pandemics and world changes, but can actually survive and provide the world with greater value!

Feedback is a Gift! Accepting and Utilizing Feedback

How often do you thank someone for the incredible feedback you have just received?

Whether it is about your work product, your ability to conduct a meeting or the way you look? Can you remember the last time you said “thank you” to feedback? Whether the feedback feels positive or negative, be thankful that a stakeholder took the time to give you feedback. While business analysts and project managers are often facilitators, helping others achieve their goals, we work with people who often have “day jobs.” They are having to help our current project or change initiative in addition to doing their regular work. They took the time to read what you had created and gave you feedback. That is a gift!

So why does it feel so hard to receive this feedback when it is negative? It is because you took the feedback towards yourself, not your work product. Yes, you spent 6 hours producing a requirements traceability matrix that you validated with numerous SMEs to ensure all elements were captured. Yes, the presentation was very clear and concise with aesthetically pleasing visuals. But your job as the BA or the PM is to help the team deliver their solution. This is part of getting behind the best idea regardless who came up with them. You do not own the end solution – your stakeholders do. The first step with feedback is letting go of personalizing the feedback.

Once you have let go of your own ego, you can take a moment and be proud that you were able to elicit feedback. Knowing if you are going down the right direction or the wrong direction is better than having no direction. Put on your analysis hat and look at what kind of feedback you received. Was the feedback about the presentation style? Your content could have been correct but came across unclear due to presentation style. Or was the feedback about specific requirements? You might have not discussed the requirements with a particularly knowledgeable SME who knew additional details to include. Be specific on your analysis to clearly articulate what the feedback is focused on.


Then work WITH the stakeholder to make it ‘right.’ Ask the person giving feedback what they would do to make it correct. A different presentation format? Additional requirements? Modify the acceptance criteria? And then literally make the updates right then and there WITH the stakeholder. They get to see you take the gift they have just handed you and apply it. Make the stakeholder part of the solution, not the problem.

This is a great consideration when you are trying to facilitate feedback. Rather than walking into a meeting with chest puffed out excited about how awesome your business requirements document (BRD) is, go in with an attitude of what’s missing. Business analysts practice asking good questions all the time. They often know there are risks with leading questions when you are talking to a stakeholder. If you lead them into an answer, then you will get that answer. You want a different answer, then you need to ask a wider question. If you are wanting feedback on your BRD, do not walk in telling people how awesome it is. In some cultures, they will simply smile and nod at you, giving you the impression you are right. Only the stakeholders are too scared to say anything and will discuss all the ‘wrongs’ only after you leave the room. Walking in with a more open attitude geared towards developing the great solution with those in attendance gives more space for the feedback needed for a successful solution. Do not forget why you need the feedback. The feedback is not about how well you’ve completed the task. Feedback is meant to help your stakeholders define, deliver and leverage a successful solution. That is your ultimate measure of success.

So treat your feedback like any gift you may receive this holiday season – always be thankful that someone has thought of you. Later you can decide whether to keep it, return it, exchange it, get rid of it or re-gift it for someone else but remember feedback always starts with a gift.