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Author: Yaaqub (Yamo) Mohamed

IIBA Podcast Episode 1: Global BA Core Standard and Future of Business Analysis

Episode 1: Global BA Core Standard and Future of Business Analysis with Kevin Brennan

Key learning points:

  • Learn all about IIBA’s Global Business Analysis core standard.
  • How to make the standard useful in your practice as a business analysis practitioner.
  • High-level walkthrough of the different sections of the standard
  • Discover the importance of using a common language for anyone working in business analysis regardless of their role or industry.
  • The future of business analysis

Listen here:



Kevin Brennan has spent the last decade transforming the profession of business analysis, leading the development of multiple editions of the BABOK® Guide and driving the adoption of agile and architecture practices. As a senior executive in the social enterprise space, he has managed a product portfolio through rapid growth and built fully digital and virtual organizations. Kevin is known for his ability to deliver practical, effective and focused solutions to complex strategic problems and lead teams through periods of significant organizational and market changes. He has been a keynote speaker at conferences around the world and frequent author on topics including digital transformation, strategy, and leadership.

Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo, is a passionate and practicing business analysis leader, author, keynote speaker and consultant from Toronto, Canada. He has worked in diverse domains such as: Government, Retail, Auto, Property, and Life Insurance, Mutual Funds, Banking, Sales and Marketing, CRM, Cloud Computing, Mobile App Development and the Non-profit sector. Yamo believes in adding relentless value to the BA community and advancing the practice. He’s the founder of blog and hosts the #1 ranked BA podcast on iTunes to help business analysts throughout the world, do analysis better, by providing educational, relevant, and inspiring content.

7 Habits of Highly Effective BA People

When I was 17, I stumbled upon the fascinating world of audiobooks. The first audiobook that I ever heard was the life changing “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, read by the author himself. The riveting real-life examples, practical advice, and the passion in delivery made this book have a huge impact in my life.

In this post I would like to summarize the seven habits, and provide a parallel of how business analysts can adapt them to be more effective with 2 key BA lessons per habit. These habits have a universal appeal, and could be observed as a common theme with highly effective people.

Let us see what BA lessons we can derive out of them.

 Related Article: The 11th Powerful Business Analyst Lesson from the Life of Pi – This Will Surprise You!

1) Be Proactive

In Summary: I still remember the depth of meaning in this simple statement that I felt when Dr. Covey explained what it means to be proactive as human beings. Owning up to the responsibility for our own lives and the actions we take is the essence of this habit. When you dissect the word “responsibility”, it splits to mean “the ability” to choose a “response”. Being proactive means that you exercise this ability consciously without being reactive to changing stimuli and situations.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Be proactive with your career – decide where you want to go this year, and for the next few years in terms of career growth. Make growth happen, don’t expect it to happen on its own.
  • Be proactive with your work – for any business analysis work, planning, and monitoring are key aspects and often ignored. There should be a definite meaning in the BABOK having the “Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring” as the biggest knowledge area. Explore this area, learn more and implement it in your work.

The Flip Side: If you are not proactive, you will be reactive. A victim of the forces and circumstances surrounding you. Decide to act, and not be acted upon.

2) Begin with The End in Mind

In Summary: Mental visualization is extremely important. Covey says that all things are created twice: first, the mental conceptualization and visualization and a second physical, actual creation. Becoming your own creator means to plan and visualize what you’re going to do and what you’re setting out to accomplish and then go out and creating it. As a part of this habit, Covey adds: “The personal mission statement gives us a changeless core from which we can deal with external change.”

2 BA Lessons:

  • Set professional goals and milestones – if you are planning on a CBAP or PBA certification or completion of a course, set them as goals. Track your progress by marking milestones on a calendar.
  • Visualize success in your current project – conceive and believe that you will make your current project or endeavor successful. Visualize it.

The Flip Side: Lack of goals and milestones causes lesser focus and can lead to doing less than ordinary work.

3) Put First Things First

In Summary: With your power of independent will, you can create the ending you want to have. Part of that comes with effective time management, starting with matters of importance. Then tasks should be completed based on urgency after you deal with all the important matters. If you deal with crises, pressing problems and deadline-driven projects first, your life will be a lot easier. The essence of time management is to organize and execute around priorities.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Prioritize the sequence of analysis work – when analyzing needs of the stakeholders and assessing solution options, prioritize the resolution of core issues and needs first. One of my favorite mantras has been “an hour of effectively prioritized business analysis now, will save two hours of project management later.”
  • Read and apply “getting things done” – I would highly recommend you read “getting things done” by David Allen to start understanding the core principles of productivity.

The Flip Side: Not having priority causes you to do easy things first and may jeopardize the time that you would have available for more important things.

4) Think Win-Win

In Summary: If you believe in a better way to accomplish goals that is mutually beneficial to all sides, that is a win-win situation. “All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan,” Covey wrote. “One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.” If you have integrity and maturity, there’s no reason win-win situations can’t happen all the time.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Always think of win-win for the business and the IT – ask yourself, how can you make a given situation a win/win for your team and the business? Even if doing a small thing can change the way business or your team feels about a decision or an outcome, you have achieved win/win.
  • Build effective relationships with your stakeholders – to understand win-win properly it is imperative that you know the real expectations and attitudes of various stakeholders.

The Flip Side: You will fall into a win-lose, lose-win, or a lose-lose situation, which is not the best outcome.

5) Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood

In Summary: If you’re a good listener and you take the time to understand a concept, it will help you convey your opinions, plans and goals to others. It starts with communication and strong listening skills, followed by diagnosing the situation and then communicating your solution to others.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Practice listening skills – leave some silence when needed. Listen with an intent to paraphrase, act like a news reporter where every detail from the person you are listening to, matter.
  • Diagnose before you prescribe – do the ground work for any situation that you encounter. Explore the various facets of a fact or truth and then arrive at a conclusion. Sometimes it’s best to park your ego.

The Flip Side: Missing out on the true intentions and ideas from others (by not giving them a chance to be understood first), can cause apprehension within the team.

6) Synergize

In Summary: Synergistic communication, according to Covey, is “opening your mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options” This applies to the classroom, the business world and wherever you could apply openness and communication. It’s all about building cooperation and trust.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Focus on building strong relationships with your team and stakeholders. Build trust, deliver what you promise – build cycles of promising and delivering on your promise.
  • Buy lunch or coffee for a team member or a key stakeholder – if you haven’t done that yet; do it.

The Flip Side: You cannot succeed as a business analyst without adequate cooperation and trust.

7) Sharpen The Saw

In Summary: Sometimes you’re working so hard on the other six habits that you forget about re-energizing and renewing yourself to sharpen yourself for the tasks in front of you. Some sharpening techniques include exercise and nutrition, reading, planning and writing, service and empathy and commitment, study and meditation.

2 BA Lessons:

  • Sharpen your hard skills – learn more about a technique that you already know by applying it to a different fictional scenario or problem.
  • Sharpen your soft skills – join a Toastmasters club, read books and attend workshops that will help you become a better writer, speaker, and listener. Listen to the podcasts, read blogs, etc. to learn real tips on how to improve your hard and soft skills.

The Flip Side: If you don’t sharpen your skills and keep yourself rejuvenated you won’t be in an optimal state of performance.

Have you read “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?”

Which is your favourite habit? Do you have any additional BA lessons to add?

Please use the comment space below to add your comments and thoughts.

6 Audiobooks Every Business Analyst Must Listen To

Let’s say on an average you commute 2 hours everyday (to and from work) – which I do. So, that’s 10 hours a week and roughly 520 hours a year. If an average audiobook is about 8 hours in length, then technically you can listen to 65 books in a year!

Well, practically speaking that might be a lofty goal. You will also have to mix in music, podcasts, reading or just observing strange behaviors of your fellow-commuters. Right?

However, what about a goal of listening to 6 books? Much more achievable, eh?

Related Article: Want to Improve?  Don’t Make Resolutions.   Play Games and Keep Score!

If you have never heard of audiobooks and you always thought listening was for music and radio only, think again!

Your world of learning is about to change!

In this post I will share 6 must-listen audiobooks for business analysis practitioners. Read on to start your audiobooks journey.

The first one of the list …

1. Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their successes over and over? People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others or who wants to find someone to inspire them.

What’s in it for a Business Analyst?

Learn about the “Golden Circle” and how great companies work from inside out of that circle. Go from “why” to “what” to “how” and apply this in your practice to understand the “why” of a certain area of analysis. This concept could be applied both at macro (strategy) and micro (detailed analysis) levels in an organization.

2. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a top seller for the simple reason that it ignores trends and pop psychology for proven principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity.

What’s in it for a Business Analyst?

This was the first audiobook I listened to, and that’s how I started my audiobooks journey about 15 years ago. There are many things to apply to your business analysis practice, including being proactive and setting goals.

3. Getting Things Done -The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

From core principles to proven tricks, Getting Things Done has the potential to transform the way you work – and the way you experience work. At any level of implementation, David Allen’s entertaining and thought-provoking advice shows you how to pick up the pace without wearing yourself down.

What’s in it for a Business Analyst?

If you want to master the art of getting things done, and take your personal productivity to the next level, this is a must-listen book.

4. How To Win Friends and Influence People

For over 60 years, the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this audiobook has carried thousands of now-famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

What’s in it for a Business Analyst?

We deal with people side of analysis on a daily basis. If you want to learn how to form friendships, bonds and build trust with your stakeholders, listening to this book will help you go the extra mile.

5. Linchpin – Are You Indispensable?

Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations. Like the small piece of hardware that keeps a wheel from falling off its axle, they may not be famous but they’re indispensable. And in today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom. Have you ever found a shortcut that others missed? Seen a new way to resolve a conflict? Made a connection with someone others couldn’t reach? Even once? Then you have what it takes to become indispensable, by overcoming the resistance that holds people back.

What’s in it for a Business Analyst?

I am a big champion of Seth’s work. He is one of the inspirations behind my first book and also TheBACoach brand. My key takeaway from this book was that everyone now can be an artist. According to him:

An artist is not just some person who messes around with paint and brushes, an artist is somebody who does “emotional work.””

Work that you put your heart and soul into. Work that matters. Work that you gladly sacrifice all other alternatives for.

Business Analysts are artists of the knowledge work, and this book will help you discover this in various ways.

6. Just Listen – Discover the Secret of Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

You’ve got a business colleague who’s hostile, a client who’s furious, a staffer who’s deeply cynical—how do you get people to do what you want in tough situations like these? In Just Listen, veteran psychiatrist and business coach Mark Goulston reveals the secret to how to get through to anyone, even when productive communication seems impossible.

What’s in it for a Business Analyst?

From the audiobook page:

Here’s the challenge,” Mark says. “People have their own needs, desires, and agendas. They have secrets they’re hiding from you. And they’re stressed, busy, and often feeling like they’re in over their heads. To cope, they throw up barricades that make it difficult to reach them even when your goals are in sync with their own.” But the good news is that there are simple strategies that can make you compelling, and break down the walls that keep you from getting through to the people you need to buy into your ideas and goals.

Which one of these have you listened to and/or look forward to listen to? Do you have any additional recommendations?

Please use the comment space below to leave your comments, feedback and questions.

How Project Managers Can Engage Business Analysts Effectively – The PERFECT Formula

As a business analyst you can get only two distinct images of your project manager:

A supportive and motivating project coach.”


A slave driver asking the perennial question: ‘So when will you get the done?

Sometimes, both these styles can be exhibited by the same person at various phases of the project. To a large extent, the way it surfaces depends on the personality, experience level, and the background of the project manager.

So, my questions to all the project managers out there are:

Related Article: The Project Manager vs the Business Analyst

Is there a way that the project management community can engage business analysts to improve the synergy between them?

How soon do business analysts need to be engaged in a project?

What can project managers and business analysts do together to elevate the team performance?

Well, the reason we can be perfect together is:

We have complementing skill sets that when combined well together can produce results on time, on budget, and on scope, with every project focusing on the right business objectives, required functionality, and with desired quality.”

Too idealistic, eh?

The PERFECT Formula for Engaging Business Analysts

Well, skill set is just one side of the equation. The other more important side is that both business analysts and project managers have the shared passion for helping the business achieve its objectives. Both project managers and business analysts when collaborating well and nurturing the healthy tension that exists between them, can deliver better quality projects.

Being an obsessive, compulsive ‘acronym-ophile’, I created an acronym for “How PMs can engage their BAs” in seven different ways – PERFECT – which expands to:

1. P – Plan Together – It can be fruitful to involve a business analyst in the project planning activity. Business analysts normally create a requirements management plan (RMP), and if a project manager can work with the business analyst to integrate this into the bigger project plan, it would be a great way to involve a business analyst.

2. E – Enterprise Analyze Together – Finding out the reasons for undertaking a project together can be a great activity to increase synergy. Nailing down the scope items and objectives of the project in the project charter can become easier when a business analyst is involved. Unfortunately, most of the times a BA doesn’t get involved in the project charter creation. I would love to see this changing in the days to come.

3. R – Radar for Risks – Using business analysts as a “project radar” to sense risks in advance is another great way to involve BAs. Since they work so closely with the stakeholders, business analysts have a better understanding of the business requirements’ priority, and overall a tighter knowledge of the assumptions and constraints of the project.

4. F – Frequent Communication – It is extremely important that project managers and business analysts establish solid communication trust between each other. Relationship building is at the seat of establishing this trust. When I asked my current project manager about what is one thing she values the most in business analysts, she said, “I like it when they proactively come to talk to me.” In order for this to happen, both PMs and BAs need to establish that free flowing communication channel.

5. E – Evangelize Together – At the end of the day, both project managers and business analysts are working towards achieving a common business goal and delivering value to the business. Being project and value evangelists is another joint activity that PMs can engage their BAs in. This can mean passionately advocating the value that the project is delivering to the business, valuing everyone’s contribution, and celebrating hitting the milestones.

6. C – Challenge Each Other – This is the seat of the healthy tension that exists between the PMs and BAs. A project manager can constantly challenge the analysis, and a business analyst can reason and trace back the extended analysis to the critical business requirements. This dialogue prevents the trap of analysis paralysis, which some business analysts sometimes tend to be guilty.

7. T – Team Whisper – It is going the extra mile to be a project whisperer. It is understanding that tools and methodologies are just one side of the equation. The other, more important side, is people. A project manager can involve a business analyst to remove the barriers for the team. This is the moment when both start to look beyond the Gantt Charts and the Business Process Flows.

The PERFECT Mind Map

I hope that gave you some food for thought. I have also created a mind map to summarize some of these points and added a few other pointers.


Nothing is perfect in this world, and so is this formula for engagement. So, I now invite you to list your thoughts on this using the comments section below.

What do you think about the PERFECT Formula? Are there additional things that could be done? What would be some of the challenges that will prevent a BA/PM from applying any of the steps?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

5 Easy Ways to Make the BABOK® an Irresistible Read

“Are you kidding me, Yamo?”  If that was one of the first thoughts that came to your mind when you saw this post, I wouldn’t be surprised.

A few business analysts think that the BABOK® is a dry read. It may be for various reasons, and we will explore a few of them and what to do about it by diving into five ways to make the BOK talk to you. The latest edition of the BABOK® is version 3 and adds new elements to how you could leverage it as a practitioner.

After all, BABOK® is about showcasing a disciplined approach and framework to help businesses change effectively. And anything that entails discipline is not necessarily a gripping Star Wars trilogy that will get you hooked from the first word to the last.

So, why do you think BABOK® comes about as a dry read?

There are a few aspects of BABOK® that make the readers miss a few essential elements. For example, not being able to relate to a few tasks, detailed explanations of a few tasks that you “think” that you never did, or just the overwhelming feeling that you have to remember too much.

Reading and getting hooked to the BOK is an acquired taste. If you have ever had the experience of trying sushi for the first time (you know the very thought of eating raw or semi-cooked fish can be a big turnoff) and transitioning from anxiety to eagerly looking forward to eating it – you will know exactly what I mean.

In this post, I would like to share five ways in which you can make the BABOK® really interesting to read as a practitioner.

1. Understand how the Knowledge Areas, Underlying Competencies and Perspectives Are interrelated

One of the most useful ways to understand the different knowledge areas is the WHW practitioners’ narrative. Whenever I am teaching a prep course or speaking to practitioners on how to apply the BABOK®, I make sure to illustrate this. This essentially translates to understanding how each of the knowledge areas aligns with what we do as business analysis
Practitioners, in conjunction with underlying competencies and perspectives. According to BABOK V3.0, a Knowledge Area can be defined as:

… areas of specific business analysis expertise that encompass several tasks

and it’s also important to emphasize that:

Knowledge areas are not intended to represent phases in a project.

So, what is the “WHW Narrative“?

When you look at the diagram below from the BABOK®, you realize that there is an interrelationship between the different knowledge areas:


(Source: BABOK® V3 – used with permission from IIBA®)

The WHW Narrative looks at the relationship between knowledge areas, underlying competencies, and perspectives. It does this by asking the following three questions and grouping the Knowledge Areas (KAs) under them:

W – What Does a BA Do? – These are the innermost KAs. The tasks that are part of these knowledge areas are “What” we do as business analysis practitioners (at the core of it).

H – How Does a BA Work? – These are the KAs surrounding the inner KAs. The tasks that are part of these knowledge areas are “How” we go about doing business analysis.

W – Who is An Effective BA? – The ‘Who’ encompasses the Underlying Competencies, BA core concept model and perspectives. Treat this as skills, knowledge, and personal traits of an effective practitioner as well as the ability to understand how to apply business analysis tasks in different contexts and project types. So, this defines “Who” is an effective BA.

So, if we were visualize this, our diagram above would look like as shown below:


In Conclusion: Use this narrative to relate back a task to your practice. As you go through the different tasks in these knowledge areas, use the WHW practitioner’s narrative to help you see the trees and also the forest.

[Hat tip to one of my friends, Jonathan Nituch to introduce a part of this to me]

2. Open the Doors of Curiosity – The Secret to do it

When you read the BABOK®, how can you create curiosity?

George Loewenstein, a professor at Carnegie Melon University, came up with what’s called “the information gap theory of curiosity” and it’s, hands-down, one of the best ways to create curiosity on demand.

Quite simply, curiosity, as defined by Loewenstein, is an innate human behavior that’s triggered when people feel there is a gap between what they know and what they want to know. (Source – The Itch of Curiosity).

Loewenstein then goes on to explain how this gap influences people to take action (such as reading more, using information in BABOK®, or performing better business analysis).

But the question remains: How can you do it?

Here is how: When you are reading the BABOK®, try and do the following two things to help propel your curiosity:

  1. The form and shape in which you do this task currently – introspective or retrospective curiosity.
  2. How can you do this task better – prospective curiosity.

3. Use a Real-World Case Study (Past or Current)

Some of us learn better by using examples and by using something that we can relate to. If you have used wireframes or screenshots as part of your requirements package or even provided a written example of a formula for a mortgage loan or amortization calculator, you will know what I mean. Examples standout and help with greater understanding and make the study material more relatable.

Sometimes your brain responds better to something that is more tangible. For example, if I use the following formula to tell you that force increases as mass and acceleration increases – it may not make immediate sense.

F = m*a

[Force = (mass) times (acceleration) ]

However, if I tell you that a 100 kg ball falling from a height of 10 meters will create more damage than a 10 kg ball falling from a height of 1 meter (or same height) – you will be able to visualize the impact.

So, when you read the BABOK®and when you are going through the different tasks, create your own “fictitious” case study to relate the tasks to. You could also pick your current project (or one from the past), to relate the tasks to.

4. Turn Headlines to Questions

The tasks and techniques in the BABOK® have a standard repeating structure. It is useful to convert these repeating elements into a set of questions that can help you better understand the material. Questions, by their very nature, help develop your comprehension.

For example:

Techniques – could be “How to conduct stakeholder analysis?”

Stakeholders – could be “Who all could be potentially involved in this task?”

Elements (Slightly different) – could be “What are the key considerations to keep in mind?” and a self-directed question for every element:

Type of project or initiative – could be “What kind of project am I working on?”

Communication formality – could be “How formal should my communication be?”

5. Plan to take CCBA or CBAP Exam

After you’ve gone through and rationalized the “Why Should I do CCBA or CBAP?” question, you should consider prepping for the exam. One way to make the BABOK® “irresistible” is to use the “fear of failure”.

So, when you have set your eyes on taking up the exam, you will be forced to study the BOK, and you will hopefully apply the first four ways of this post to make it an interesting read.

Which of these five would be your favorite way to make the BOK irresistible? Do you have any tips of your own to share?

Please use the comment space below to provide your comments, questions and feedback.