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Tag: Career

Deconstructing the Stress Factors in the Business Analyst Role

Over my years as a professional, I have come to realize that the title of Business Analyst (BA) is a heavy one. How each organization defines the role can be completely different. A BA in Company C may be a requirements scribe, whereas a BA in Company D wears many hats: process analyst, project manager proxy, test validator, etc. Whichever way the role is defined, I think stress has plagued many of us who call Business Analysis our profession. If you have found yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed at any point during your career in business analysis, you are not alone. There are many factors that can play into that feeling. I want to deconstruct a few of the typical stressors here and offer some potential solutions.

 

1. Not understanding the area of study:

BAs are often on the fringes of the business. It is analogous to being a window cleaner.  As each pane gets cleaned, we can see a little more into the room in front of us, but we are still only seeing a portion. Each pane reveals a bit more about the room, but the entire picture may still elude us. We are on the outside looking in. Not having the full picture of the business, its processes, or its business drivers can leave a Business Analyst feeling inadequate and uninformed.

As a BA, questions are your friend (like your squeegee on the dirty window). I have been guilty of feeling like I was asking too many questions. What I realized is that if I don’t ask my second follow-up question, which may lead to a third follow-up question, I risk not gaining the knowledge that I need to understand the business to write better requirements.

Feeling anxious because we don’t know the business is stressful, but not asking enough questions to get the understanding we need will cause more stress later. If you have 100 questions, don’t stop at number 99. Ask all 100. If you find that the participants are getting a little impatient with your questions, gently remind them that you are trying to understand them as an outsider looking in. Once you gain a better understanding, your perspective changes, and you are no longer looking through smudged windowpanes.

 

2. Large complex projects:

If you have been on projects with multiple stakeholders, then you may feel pressure before you even type the ‘r’ in requirements. It can be daunting to start a new project. You may be working in a new department with all new faces. Unfamiliarity coupled with complexity can be intimidating. In instances like this, it is important to build alliances.

Find project team members that you can trust. Relationship building is so important to your success as a BA and will also go a long way in helping alleviate some of your stress. It can be nice to have a friend when you are on the fringes.

 

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3. Requirement Elicitation is not one size fits all:

For those who do not practice Business analysis, gathering requirements may seem like a simple task. You find out the need, and you write it down. It is not at all that simple. Different stakeholders require different elicitation methods. Some stakeholders are very forthcoming with information. Others can be more guarded or may simply not know how to express the need. Interviewing may work for some. Passing e-mails back and forth may be more appropriate for others.

The key here is to really take the pulse of your stakeholder population (a personality assessment of sorts). Understand their optimal mode of communication and how you can best work within the confines of that. Also, do not neglect your best mode of working as well. Finding the proper balance between stakeholder and BA methods of working will be key to helping alleviate stress.

Do not feel pressured to use an elicitation technique that is not a good fit. We do not want to simply check boxes on the list of deliverables; we want to add true value.

 

4. Feeling pressured by deadlines:

Every project comes with a start and end date. BAs often occupy a few task lines on that project schedule, and the pressure to meet those deadlines can feel immense. We don’t want to be the ripple that causes the project timeline to shift.

As BAs, we often take the deadlines given to us and work to fit within them. If we do not understand the business, the project is complex, and we don’t know what elicitation method to use when starting a project, then how can we be tied to a deadline?

Speak up when you feel that timelines are not realistic. Open and honest conversations can be uncomfortable but can also be wholly necessary when the quality of work is on the line. The timeline may not shift because you raised a concern, but I guarantee you will feel a little less pressure when you have been open and honest and raised your hand.

 

This is not an exhaustive list; it is just some of the key things I noticed in my career as a previously stressed and anxious BA. In the end, it is important to remember that your success as a Business Analyst rests in part on your ability to perform the job well. Different stress factors can become obstacles to your performance. Understanding those factors is the first step in tackling them. Apply different techniques to alleviate the stress. You will thank yourself.

Ten Tips for the Young BA

After ten plus years of working as a business analyst, I wanted to highlight a few things that have tremendously helped me become a better BA and advance my career.

As a young professional, I did not have many special talents, skills, or academic education, but I was not going to let those things hold me back from success. I focused on where I knew I would stand out and organized my thoughts into the ten main points below:

 

  • Be on time. For any meetings or working sessions that I was a part of, I made it a habit to be a couple of minutes early. There were life events or uncontrollable circumstances that prevented me from this 100% of the time, but those were one-off occurrences. Generally speaking, I was known to be early and start meetings on time. This showed I was organized and respected the time of others. Additionally, being on time also meant projects and tasks were completed by the time I said they would be. If there were issues that prevented me from hitting a time goal, I would speak up and inform the respective stakeholders in advance so they were aware.

 

  • Take ownership. Anytime a project or task was assigned to me, nobody had to worry or consistently follow up on its completion. I communicated statuses and any obstacles or issues that might impact the final result. This was evident no matter how small the task was. Early on in my career, I was responsible for member service requests. Each interaction was a mini-project to ensure the member got the service they required. Taking ownership of all of my projects and tasks helped build trust with my boss and colleagues. It showed I was ready to handle larger projects and more responsibilities because I excelled with the smaller ones.

 

  • Be flexible. My ability to be flexible about almost anything shined through. My role in one project may not have been the exact same as another one. Priorities and objectives often changed. My colleagues all had different and unique personalities. In some projects, I was the dominant personality when others did not play that role. In other projects, I was the more analytical one when I realized others were observably dominant. Through it all, I remained flexible. I was known as the go-to person for just about anything.

 

  • Nothing underneath me. My first project was a stepping stone to the next one. When I was starting my career, I admittedly was a “yes” person. They could have given me a stamp with “Yes” for my forehead! Before anyone even finished their thought, I said “Yes!”. This helped me get exposure to every single area of my organization and build relationships. Within a short period of time, I could tell you the purpose of each department and why they were necessary for the organization to function properly. I am not saying I could run the department, but I had functional knowledge of their work and what made them tick. I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. As I advanced more in my career, I didn’t have the time to say yes to everything. I learned how to say “no” as my career became more mature. However, when I first started, I wanted exposure to everything and I wanted to show I can handle it.

 

  • Recognize and praise others. I don’t remember accomplishing a goal due to my efforts alone. There were always other people involved. Lots of time in discussions was spent with team members to ensure we were doing the right things. I always made it a point to praise publicly and privately where it was legitimately due. I saw first hand all the hard work that my colleagues put into their daily activities and wanted those efforts recognized. Any time I got praise for doing something, it was only because I had a great team of people supporting me.

 

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  • My first project. I tried my best to stay excited and eager to learn and do more. When I was just a part-time employee trying to make a name for myself, I was hungry for anything that came across my desk. I started to treat everything like my very first project. I would ask lots of questions, show willingness to go above and beyond, seek help where I need it, and work with others. Every project after the first one was treated like my first one. This is much more difficult than it sounds because at times, work did become mundane and repetitive. I had to make a conscious effort to see the bigger picture and maintain my level of excitement.

 

  • Open to criticism. I had an open mind if someone gave me constructive criticism. This helped me get better as a professional and build my skills. I actively sought out criticism to ensure I produced things of value to the organization. Long tenured employees, managers, and executives all have different insights into different areas. Their advice helped me see things from a different perspective and ensure I took that into consideration moving forward.

 

  • Be courteous. I cannot think of any point where insulting someone, yelling, making sexually suggestive comments, touching inappropriately, or being plain rude was ever welcomed. I paid attention to my tone of voice and ensured my dialogue was objective to the matter at hand. Disagreements are common and objectively addressing them should be the goal, not trying to tear the other person down. Learning about culture, gender, age, race, religion, or any other characteristic that makes us unique, helped me get to the next level of relationship building. Showing common courtesy, being generally kind, and showing basic respect for someone  should not require a whole training initiative.

 

  • Work life integration. I did not seek work life “balance”; where I strictly worked between certain hours and then I strictly lived my personal life during certain hours. My job was part of an overall healthy life; and in order to continue having a healthy life, I needed my job. Sometimes, my best work came from putting in a few hours on a Sunday with some music in the background. Sometimes, I had to handle a personal emergency at the office that took time away from my work. I didn’t get stressed out about those things because I knew the work would get finished and my personal commitments wouldn’t be sacrificed. If responding to an email on a Saturday helped my colleague move on, I did not hesitate to do it.

 

  •  Always learning. I was always confident I could learn anything that I needed to help in my career. Today, I see the younger generation spend hours upon hours on social media, video games, and YouTube. I challenge anyone to take any topic in the world you want to learn. Spend one to two hours daily focusing on and researching that topic. The same focus you would give to having fun. Come back in a year and tell me that you are unable to explain the general and functional information of that topic. I dare you! I was amazed at how much I learned by giving it enough focus and time and you will be too.

 

In conclusion, these ten things made such a positive impact in my career and I know they will do the same for you.

Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Business Analysts and BA Jobs

Artificial Intelligence is no longer a buzzword, and it has been making waves in the tech industry. We are experiencing AI in our day-to-day life in the form of chatbots, Voice assistants in serving customers’ requests, forecasting market trends, detecting possible future ailments, and much more. In recent years, businesses have begun adopting AI to improve their operations and gain a competitive edge. But what does this mean for business analysts and BA jobs? With the rise of AI, will Business Analysts become obsolete, or will it create new opportunities? Let’s dive into how artificial intelligence affects business analysis and explore what the future holds for those in this field.

If you are a business analyst, you need to be skilled to leverage these technologies as an added advantage to your capabilities to deliver continued value to your organization.

So, are you geared to make the most of it or see it as a threat, or are apprehensive of losing your job to AI?

AI is your new superpower

As a business analyst, you have access to a wealth of data to help you make better decisions for your company. But what if you could tap into the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to supercharge your decision-making process?

With AI-powered business analytics tools, you can get insights that would otherwise be hidden in your data. For example, you can use predictive analytics to identify trends and patterns in your data and then use those insights to make better decisions about where to invest your resources.

AI can also help you automate repetitive tasks so that you can focus on more strategic work. For example, you can use natural language processing (NLP) to automatically generate reports from unstructured data sources like social media or customer feedback surveys. Using these opportunities helps us converse with customers about new possibilities.

In short, AI is your superpower when it comes to making better decisions for your business. So why not put AI to work for you?

 

Use AI to have more control over your time and use it more efficiently –

Let AI do all your routine, monotonous/repetitive jobs that free up more time and energy for Business Analysts.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used to automate low-level tasks, freeing time and energy for Business Analysts. This allows Business Analysts to focus on more strategic tasks, such as identifying new opportunities, analyzing data, and improving processes. As AI continues to evolve, it is expected that even more mundane tasks will be automated, further freeing up time for Business Analysts to add value to their organizations. Let the easy and monotonous tasks be taken up by AI, leaving the complex and the more challenging tasks to humans. Having said that, it requires us to grow and sharpen our skills.

 

BAs add significant value to the organization with their cognitive abilities

BAs add significant value to the organization in many ways that AI can’t take up.

They:

  • Perform a pivotal role in bridging the gap between business and IT.
  • Help/collaborate with stakeholders in prioritizing the requirements, helping them refine the requirements, and eliciting them using various techniques.
  • Influence/assist stakeholders in moving towards the unified project goal by communicating effectively.
  • They understand the business domain and processes and translate them into technical requirements.
  • They often apply out of the box solution approaches to solve business problems where a straightforward solution may not be available.

All these skills are essential for the success of any project or organization but cannot be replaced by AI.

Here is a detailed analysis of skills/tasks that currently are not possible to be taken up by AI.

 

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Problem-solving

BAs help in Problem-solving – For impediments faced in the process or by the team:

Artificial intelligence has altered the role of business analysts and BA jobs. In the past, BAs were responsible for gathering requirements and documenting them. However, with the advent of AI, business analysts now need to be able to solve problems that may arise during the process or by the team.

This is where AI can be beneficial. With its ability to identify patterns and correlations, AI can help business analysts understand why specific problems are occurring and how they can be solved. Additionally, AI can also help BAs predict future problems that may arise and recommend solutions accordingly. As a result, BAs are now able to provide more value to their organizations by helping to solve complex problems.

 

Out of box thinking

Organizations are under constant pressure to do more with less. As a result, they need their employees to be creative and come up with innovative solutions to problems. This is where out-of-the-box thinking comes in.

Business analysts are in a unique position to help with this. They are trained to think critically and creatively, and they have the analytical skills to back up their ideas. BAs can help organizations see problems from different perspectives and come up with new solutions that they may not have considered before.

AI is only going to increase the demand for out-of-the-box thinking. As AI capabilities continue to grow, businesses will need employees who can think outside the box to keep up. BAs who can provide this critical thinking will be in high demand.

 

Critical decision making

BAs help in coming up with the best possible solution from the various alternatives.

BAs help organizations to make sense of all the data they collect and to use it to make better decisions. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), BAs can now do even more to improve decision-making. AI can help BAs to identify patterns and correlations that they might not be able to see with their human eyes. AI can also help to automate some of the tedious tasks that BAs have to do, such as gathering data from multiple sources. This frees up the BA’s time so that they can focus on more strategic tasks.

AI is also helping BAs to come up with better solutions from the various alternatives available. With AI, BAs can test out different scenarios and see which one is most likely to succeed. This helps organizations to make better decisions and to avoid costly mistakes.

Overall, AI is having a positive impact on the job of the BA. With AI, BAs are able to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

 

Stakeholder collaboration –

BAs play a critical role in validating and prioritizing needs.

In any business, it is essential to have a good understanding of what your stakeholders want and need from you. This can be difficult to do without the help of a business analyst. Business analysts are experts in stakeholder collaboration. They can help you validate and prioritize the needs of your stakeholders. This is important because it ensures that you are meeting the needs of your stakeholders and that your business is able to run smoothly.

 

Bridging the gap between tech and users

As the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow in businesses around the world, the role of the business analyst (BA) is evolving. BAs are uniquely positioned to help bridge the gap between technical teams and users, and workshops are one way they can do this.

Workshops help BAs understand the needs of users and translate them into requirements for technical teams. They also help technical teams understand the capabilities of AI and how it can be used to solve business problems. By facilitating communication between these two groups, BAs can ensure that AI is deployed effectively and efficiently.

What’s more, as AI becomes more complex, the need for BAs who can navigate its increasingly murky waters will only grow. With their deep understanding of both business and technology, BAs are essential partners in helping organizations realize the full potential of AI.

 

Data analysis –

Deriving intelligent insights from the data to facilitate business decisions.

A Business Analyst (BA) is responsible for analyzing an organization or business domain and documenting its business or processes or systems, assessing the business model or its integration with technology. They also help in data analysis and derive intelligent insights from the data to facilitate business decisions. Data analysts use statistical techniques to examine data and draw conclusions from it. They help businesses to make better decisions by taking into account a wide range of factors, including cost, time, resources, risk, and objectives. The role of a BA has become even more critical in recent years as organizations strive to become more data-driven in their decision-making.

With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), there is ample opportunity for BAs to leverage AI technologies to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in data analysis. AI can help BAs to automate repetitive tasks such as data collection and cleansing so that they can focus on more strategic tasks such as identifying trends and patterns in data. AI-powered tools can also help BAs to make better recommendations by providing them with real-time insights based on large volumes of data.

In order to take advantage of these opportunities, BAs need to upskill themselves in AI technologies. There are many online courses and resources available that can help BAs get started with learning about AI.

 

Ethical and responsible use of confidential customer information

As business analysts, we are constantly working with confidential customer information. It is our responsibility to use this information ethically and responsibly.

Here are some ways that we can do this:

  • Be transparent about how we will use the customer information.
  • Get explicit consent from the customer before using their data.
  • Keep the customer information secure and protect it from unauthorized access.
  • Only use the customer information for the purpose it was collected for.
  • Dispose of the customer information securely when we no longer need it.By following these guidelines, we can ensure that we are using confidential customer information in an ethical and responsible manner.

To sum it up, keep your skills chiseled, use your cognitive skills to deliver value, keep your learning on, and leverage technology to keep you in demand.

Building a House: Analogy for the Business Analysis Role

Two years ago, my friend asked me what my job role was, and I said that I was a business analyst in Information Technology (IT). However, after all this time, she still doesn’t understand what my job entails. To assist friends of other business analysts around the world, I have written this article to explain what we do. I can’t wait until she reads my article!

 

Let us propose a world where business analysts are architects, the developers are builders, the inspector is the quality assurance team, and our software client would like to build a house.

Usually, the builders would start building the lounge. This sounds good because they are off to a flying start and the walls are going up, but the builders do not know how many bedrooms the house will need, where the best location for the bedrooms is, or even why they are building the building at all. The kitchen might even end up with four sinks and no oven, or the kitchen might not even exist. Finding out that this is not what the customer wanted when the house is half built is expensive to fix, will not meet the deadline, and worst of all, the house will not be what the customer wants at all!

A far better idea is to include an architect on the team.

 

Firstly, the architect will sit with the customer and find out the high-level goals of the building, for example, the customer would like a family house in a quiet suburb because currently they live in a noisy complex. They are also expecting a second child. The business analyst (BA) is gathering context on the problem and the customer’s vision.

Right from the start the architect explains the process that will be followed, builds a trusting relationship with the customer, and starts to manage the expectations of the customer, for example, steering the customer away from a water slide in the lounge which could take an extra six weeks. This is change management, which should happen as early as possible and should set the tone for the rest of the project. It should also be noted that the business analyst is the ambassador of user needs and so is the team member that focuses on them.

The architect will then dive into the details and obtain the customer’s requirements, draw diagrams, and can even print a 3D model of the house. It will become clear to the architect and the customer exactly where the main bedroom will be, how large it is, how many windows it will have and so much more. This is the Business Analyst (BA) conducting requirement elicitation, drawing up wireframes, and prototyping the solution. The BA will also choose the best way to engage with the customer, such as through prototyping in workshops or sticky notes on a virtual whiteboard.

 

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To double-check that the architect and the customer are on the same page, the architect will draw up some basic design criteria that the building must meet, for the example given that the room is the older child’s room, when the builders are building the walls, then they must build two windows. This is writing acceptance criteria.

A very important step is that the architect will confirm their findings with the customer to make sure everything is covered and covered correctly. This is the validation and sign-off stage. Note that architects can suggest solutions to fill in the gaps, for example, they can suggest that the house should face north, but it is ultimately it is the customer who makes the decision.

 

Our builders are brilliant in their field, but they are better at building than communicating. This means that the BA needs to translate what the customer needs so that they fully understand what to do. BAs bridge the gap between the business and technical sides. The architect explains “what” needs to be done, the builders decide “how” it will be done, for example, the builders will use wheelbarrows.

The architect will sit with an interior designer and discuss the finer details to make the house as well designed as possible, for example how to place the cupboards in the kitchen to make the layout practical. This represents the interaction of the BA with the user experience experts to make sure the software is intuitive and a positive experience.

 

Now the builders know what to do, the building continues nicely, with a few hiccups along the way such as the bricks weren’t delivered on time. The architect will work closely with the builders every day and if the builders have any questions or are unclear on anything then the architect needs to go back to the customer for answers.

Each day the entire team, with the customer, will stand on the pavement and have a quick meeting to let the other team members know what they did yesterday, what they are doing today, and if there are any blockers or dependency issues. This is a daily standup meeting.

 

Every second week, the team sit around a table on Friday afternoon with some drinks and discuss how the project is going. They say what has worked well and what could have gone better. They decide what to keep doing and what new ways can be put in place to improve the way they are doing their work. This is a retrospective meeting used with an agile approach.

Once a section of the building is complete, then the architect will walk around the building with the building inspector. The inspector will check every detail to ensure the house is built to code and is safe while the architect will ensure that the building is what the customer actually wanted. Sometimes the builders can get really enthusiastic, go off course, and place a central fountain in the kitchen and forget the sink. This is a verification process step.

The house is completed, with a few bumps along the way, but the customer is thrilled (hopefully) and can’t wait to move in.

 

In conclusion, call us business analysts, business architects, solution designers, or craftsmen but understand that we undertake many daily tasks and play a vital role in the development of successful software projects. We may not build the building but direct it (builders like to build theme parks) and save the customer a lot of money. Hopefully, my friend will understand what I do now!

Does Your Personality Define Your Business Analyst Approach?

We all have personality; it is what comprises us as individuals and human beings to present ourselves in our personal and professional lives. Whether our personas experience duality separated by self-promoted boundaries, or the personalities of work and life are balanced as one big personality. But when you reach down into this core sense of self, a philosophical question came to mind when originating this piece: does our personalities define our business analyst approach? It is notwithstanding that I have little to no current, existing or previous knowledge in the realm of psychology, but it is worth chewing on the thought for a minute to examine it from a philosophical perspective. This core question begets more questions:

– If personality does affect the BA approach…then how?
– Is it the way we approach traditional standards or is it the manner of how we execute?
– How do we relate to our stakeholders to elicit requirements, validate them, overcome objections, and comprise the entire business analysis plan?

The unseen correlation between two independent variables became almost dependent immediately upon further self-analysis: personality does define our business analysis approach, right? Generally, speaking, I argue the point that it does. Genuinely think about how you interact with your stakeholders, how you go about performing your day-to-day, and even long-term, duties as a business analyst. Are those not influenced in which your persona, professional, personal, or combined, is presented when doing so?

 

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For example, an extroverted personality with a deep mindfulness to detail would take the time to build the relationship with their stakeholders and those working on a project with them, but in significant detail to ensure nothing is missed. While this can be both beneficial and negative, this is an oversimplified example, of course and does not encapsulate every personality type; and yet it sufficiently illustrates the point made. Think of yourself and how you collaborate with stakeholders: what type of persona are you showing up as?

Applying that personality, however you summarize, influences the approach you have to business analysis. Do you go “by the book” and like to stick to the facts and in a Waterfall methodology? Or do you prefer to have projects take on fluidity and a more Agile perspective? It all boils down to personality…and you, as a business analyst, take the reins to own it. Neither personality nor approach is perfect but understanding this about us as professional individuals working with myriad backgrounds in our line of work, will only tap into our potential.

We may never know the extent of that potential, as there may not be enough time nor resources to perform the adequate studies over multiple fields related to understanding this eccentric analysis. But we can penultimately, begin to understand that in which we personify ourselves as human beings, personifies how we operates in the field of business analysis, and beyond.