Skip to main content

Tag: Career

Best of BATimes: 3 Reasons Why the BA/PM Hybrid Role is So Difficult

There are many variations of the BA Hybrid role, but the Business Analyst/Project Manager hybrid is the most widely discussed.

 

While there may be disagreement on whether there should be a blended BA/PM role and where the two roles differ and overlap, I think we can all agree on one thing: this hybrid role can be very challenging. It is also a hybrid that is gaining popularity as organizations look for ways to become leaner and more flexible. In this article, I will highlight the top three reasons why this hybrid role can be difficult for many and some suggestions to overcome the challenges.

 

1. The BA/PM role requires expertise in both disciplines.

The BA/PM role requires highly developed competencies across both disciplines which require education and experience across both to execute well. The problem is, many organizations, whether intentionally or circumstantially, assume that a good BA can quite naturally take on project management responsibilities and the same goes for PMs being able to take on business analysis tasks. The reality is that while one person could do both, there will most likely be a marked difference in the level at which they execute if they are experienced in one and not the other.

For example, an excellent PM with limited BA experience will likely get the project done but the value delivered may be less than initially expected by the stakeholders. Why? Because project management focuses on delivering the project according to the project requirements, but business analysis looks deeper at the meaning of the requirements and how the solution will be best implemented. A PM who is inexperienced in business analysis may take the requirements as stated by the stakeholders at face value, something that a more experienced BA would look deeper at and inquire more about. A BA with little or no PM experience may produce well-defined requirements but would likely struggle when it comes to managing multiple project constraints because they do not have the experience needed to make professional judgments that will keep the project on track.

 

2. This role only works well with small changes.

The IIBA Competency Model states this concerning hybrid roles, “The dual hybrid role is typically associated with small or less complex work efforts, where it is possible for a single person to perform both roles effectively.” This is true when it comes to the BA/PM hybrid and those performing these roles are certainly aware of this reality. This becomes an issue when an organization is immature in either discipline or is undergoing organizational restructuring. While it may be well understood that smaller is better with this kind of role, when an organization is not mature in performing project management and business analysis, the cost of failure and the loss of value is not easily identified.

When an organization is undergoing organizational realignment, they often take an “all hands on” approach to getting things done, which may leave one person managing large or risky efforts while holding multiple responsibilities. From the outside, it can appear as a great way to maximize resources because no one truly understands the real costs of having one person doing both.

 

Advertisement

 

3. The role may not be well-defined or adequately supported.

Any role that is undefined or poorly defined is likely to cause problems. With the BA/PM role it can be even more evident. Many BA roles already have a lot of presumed tasks that impact the nature of their work. Many PMs have roles loaded with other responsibilities outside of project management. When the two roles are combined into a BA/PM role that is ambiguous and undefined, it can produce a lot of issues, not only for the individual in the role, but also for the organization.

Many times, the BA/PM hybrid role is not even officially acknowledged as a hybrid role and appears out of necessity where the person keeps the same job title but assumes more responsibility in the other domain. These situations can also make it hard to find the right person for the role. It is not enough to simply take two full-time job descriptions and merge them together into a double job description. There must be much thought given to what they will be asked to do and what they will not be asked to do. If this boundary is not created, it will set up the BA/PM to manage their work by urgency only, because there won’t be enough time to do everything they are assigned.

 

Increasing the Odds of Success

To ensure that the BA/PM role is successful, organizations must pay attention to the role and what is needed to increase the odds of success. It is not enough to merely assign additional responsibilities to an existing role. Organizations must take the time to define the role considering the value they expect to receive and the inherent limitations of the role. Once the job is defined, there must be a concerted effort to keep assignments within the size and complexity that will best enable success and have mechanisms in place to measure that.

Additionally, there must be some consideration given to what will be needed to support the BA/PM. Are there other team members who can assist with tasks that would normally be associated with one or the other function? I have been successful in BA/PM hybrid roles where I had an oversight role on the business analysis side and was expected to review and guide the work of other BAs, rather than do everything myself. A successful support structure will also include access to the education, training and mentoring needed to allow those performing the role to sharpen their skills. All of these will increase the odds for success in the BA/PM hybrid role.

Published on: 2017/02/16

Best of BATimes: 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.

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.

 

Advertisement

 

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.

 

 

Published on: Dec 2, 2021

The Tyranny of the Algorithm

A while ago, I noticed that some people changed the way that they were writing LinkedIn posts. Rather than writing in sentences and paragraphs, everything would be written in this weird separated way with everything spaced out in a really unnatural way.  Then certain other common patterns appeared (e.g. using PDFs documents with multiple pages, or ‘carousels’ as some people call them).  Video was huge, then not huge, and so the trends fluctuated.  Some of the formats seemed really good and useful… others… not so much (we’ve probably all clicked on the occasional ‘click bait’ LinkedIn post…).

I gather one of the reasons that people post in particular ways is to get maximum exposure, and to do this you have to pander to the algorithm.  It is, after all, the algorithm that will decide how many people see your post…  and not all posts are created equal.  Those that get more ‘engagement’ will be seen by more people (and, very likely, get even more engagement).  Yet the algorithm decides what counts as ‘engagement’.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. LinkedIn is a private enterprise, it can (I suppose) run its operations however it chooses. But take a step back for a moment, and let’s make a hypothesis here:

 

The algorithm has changed the way people write content and interact with others on LinkedIn

I’m making no moral judgment here, and the way that people write and engage with each other has adapted over the years. But let’s follow this to its logical conclusion: social media algorithms have the ability to influence the style and formats in which people communicate. It decides what content gets seen (and doesn’t get seen). Again, as users we might be OK with that. But I hope that there is someone within those companies asking a whole set of ethical questions…

 

Avoiding Biases and Unintended Consequences

In particular, it’s important to consider whether algorithms might lead to bias, and might inadvertently disadvantage or affect particular groups or stakeholders, or whether they might have other types of unintended consequences. For example, I’d imagine that the LinkedIn algorithm probably aims to keep people on the site for as long as possible, and serve them up relevant adverts. But when people learn its nuances, they start to ‘game’ the algorithm, meaning that some folks are more likely to get their content seen than others. Presumably, LinkedIn eventually learns about this too, and adapts the algorithm, and the process repeats.

 

Yet unintended consequences like this aren’t limited to IT or algorithms. Nor are biases  (there are plenty of well-documented cognitive biases that affect people too). Crucially this is an area where BAs can help ask some of the difficult questions, and get beyond (or at least highlight) potential issues.

 

I have often thought it interesting that within most organizations, if you ask the question “who is responsible for regulatory compliance” you will get a clear cut answer. There is usually a legal or compliance team, and often a named individual who is responsible and accountable. Ask “who is responsible for the ethics of this product or project?” and (outside of some very specific domains) you’ll likely get a blank stare. Or, you’ll get a word-soup answer that boils down to “we’re all responsible”.  And when everyone is responsible, too often nobody steps up to ask the hard questions.

 

Advertisement

 

The Ethical Imperative

This is a space where BAs can add significant value. As BAs we’ll be used to conducting stakeholder analysis, thinking in terms of the different stakeholders or personas who will be impacted by a particular proposal. We can extend this thinking by asking “who isn’t here around the table, who is missing from these conversations, and how can we ensure they are represented?”.

We can ask the difficult, but important ethical questions, and ensure that the projects and products that are progressed by the organization are in line not only with its strategy but also its values. If there’s a strategy-execution divide in many organizations, that’s nothing compared to the values-execution divide! (We’ve probably all had experiences with organizations that say they ‘put the customer at the heart of what they do’ that… definitely don’t actually do that!).

 

Often, as BAs, we are able to take a step and ask “what is the impact of this”, and “what does success look like for X stakeholder group?” and “how does that vary from what the Y stakeholder group thinks?”.  By taking a holistic view, balancing different viewpoints and putting an ethical lens on things, we can hopefully reduce the risk of inadvertently introducing bias or unintended consequences.

This involves us having the courage to ask bold questions and keep ethics firmly in mind. If we don’t, there’s a real danger that the ethical dimension will get missed. A situation that I’m sure we’re all keen to avoid!

Best of BATimes: 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:

BA Nov4 20 1.jpg

 

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.

BA Nov4 20 2

 

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.

BA Nov4 20 3

 

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

BA Nov4 20 4

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.

 

Advertisement

 

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.

BA Nov4 20 5.jpg

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.

BA Nov4 20 6

 

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/.

BA Nov4 20 7

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

BA Nov4 20 8

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.

 

Published on: 2020/11/04

Best of BATimes: Business Analyst vs. Business Analytics Professional: What’s the Difference?

A business analyst and a business analytics professional are not the same. Very often, people get confused about these 2 terms.

 

Many times, they are used interchangeably. Few start-ups and organizations also seek out a business analyst when they are actually in search of a business analytics professional. Among the analytics enthusiasts who are searching for a job in business analytics, this causes huge confusion. So, it would be better if the difference between a business analyst and a business analytics professional is well-known.

 

Who is a business analyst?

As defined by IIBA(International Institute of Business Analysis), the business analysis is a discipline of determining the business needs and identifying the solutions to business problems.

A business analyst coordinates between a client and the technical team. A client can be either the internal team that is required to work with the technical team or external, with the requirements to solve a particular problem. The technical team has the ability to either deliver a service or build a product.

The business analyst makes sure that the service or product provided by the technical team meets the client’s present requirements. He/she collaborates with the external and internal stakeholders in the implementation as well as design of the service or product.

 

Who is a business analytics professional?

A business analyst doesn’t work with data and is mostly concerned about processes and functions. On the contrary, reporting and data are the key components of a business analytics professional’s job.

Let us consider 3 major elements that help us in understanding the difference between a business analyst and a business analytics professional.

 

Analytical problem solving skills

The business analysts utilize different techniques to analyze the problem and determine the solution. They conduct thorough analysis and deconstruct the solution or problem by making use of various methods. Few examples of this include decision models, business process models and use cases.

On the other hand, business analytics executives use logical thinking, predictive analytics and statistics to solve the business problems.

Let us consider 2 examples that state the way in which the business analytics executives solve the business problems.

  • If a continuous stream of loan applications are being received by a particular bank, the business analytics professional will develop and implement a model to give a recommendation on which loan applications that bank must lend to.
  • From a catalogue launch, if a manufacturer of home-goods wants to predict the expected profits, a framework will be applied by the business analytics executive to work on the problem and develop a predictive model to provide recommendation and results.

 

Advertisement

 

The capability to tell story with data

The business analytics professionals must be in a position to share the insights they derive from raw data. They must share the insights in a way that is clearly understandable to the end stake holder as most of the times, the end stakeholder will be a non-technical and/or business-centric person. They shouldn’t use technical jargons while communicating and must present the insights in the simplest possible way. The stakeholder can be an internal or external client. Most of the times, they are business professionals with zero technical background and the authority to take decisions rests with them. The business analytics professionals are very good story tellers and they make use of advanced tools like Ds.js, R and Tableau to share their findings or story to the end stakeholders.

On the other hand, the business analysts are good communicators and they make use of excel, word and PowerPoint to create visual models like wireframe prototypes or work-flow diagrams. They are also good at creating technical documentations. But, they don’t develop custom dashboards making use of modern data visualization tools like business analytics executives do.

 

Programming skills

A business analytics professional works with structured data and utilizes SQL in order to retrieve data from databases. He/she will write SQL queries to analyze and extract data from the transactions database and develop a set of visualizations if the management requires some advanced metrics about their company.

The analytics professional will also have a good expertise on the data science programming languages like Python, Julia, Hadoop and so on. He/she is good at visualizing, analyzing and manipulating data.

A business analyst, on the other hand, has nothing to do with data. Their focus is more on the functions and processes. The significant business analyst value propositions incorporate the calibration and testing, IT re-engineering, process, model requirements, KPIs(Key Performance Indicators), vital pain points, context and business value maps. A business analyst possesses strong knowledge in development frameworks such as SLDC. He/she makes use of Excel to perform quantitative calculations and analysis. The programming skills are not used by the business analysts to perform calculations.

 

Conclusion

It is evident from the above that both these functions are extremely important for a successful business model. From the business decisions it automates as well as enables, the value of analytics can be derived. Every time, a business analyst will first begin with the business questions but not with data. They are also the domain experts who manage the project from the beginning till the end.

On the other hand, a business analytics professional begins to solve the business problem making use of data first. He/she cares about the retrieval of data, format of data and source of data. Data is the raw material for a business analytics professional.

A business analytics professional and a business analyst work closely to make sure the final project is delivered successfully. This explains the difference between a business analyst and a business analytics professional.

 

Posted on: 2017/12/27