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BATimes_Sep8_2022

Best of BATimes: A Checklist For Business Analysis Planning

Use the Universal Business Analysis Planning Checklist as You Plan Your Business Analysis Approach.

Every project is a unique, temporary endeavor.

 

The business process management, regulatory compliance and digital transformation projects that business analysts may play a role in all come with different goals, scopes, teams, timelines, budgets dependencies and risks.  Though many projects follow similar methodologies they are all tailored for project scope constraints and to take advantage of available resources, opportunities and lessons learned from prior work.

Each business analyst also comes with a unique set of skills and experiences. Almost all business analysts have great communications skills and at least some experience-based business domain knowledge. That’s why they became business analysts in the first place. Every business analyst has uniquely acquired knowledge of business analysis techniques and business domains through personal study, practice and experience. Many have also been trained in elicitation, requirements management, modeling, measurement, analysis and documentation techniques. An ever-growing number have received professional certifications, such as the IIBA Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) or the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA).

What is Business Analysis Planning?

The most skilled business analysts are not only competent in many business analysis techniques but also consciously tailor their business analysis approach for each project that they engage in.  They have learned to consider key project dynamics along with their own competencies and to tailor their planned business activities and deliverables to suit each project’s unique dynamics. Regardless of your own level of business analysis experience, maturity, and whether you are formally trained, certified or not, you can still consciously assess each project’s dynamics and tailor your forthcoming business analysis work to get the most productivity and value out of your business analysis efforts in each project.

The most significant project dynamics include:

  • The methodology, or sequence of stages or major milestones, and the business analysis products or outcomes that are expected by the end of each stage/milestone (and before starting the next).
  • The budget and schedule, not only to meet them, but to take advantage of contingency or schedule slack opportunities, to increase the value, quality or to learn.
  • The key project stakeholders and relationships that are new and changed and forming, to take a proactive role in fostering and building relationships with and among that team.
  • The types and combinations of elicitation techniques that will be best suited for producing or validating business analysis deliverables.
  • The business domain knowledge and experiences of the diverse key project stakeholders, including your own unique set of business analysis competencies.

The Universal Business Analysis Planning Checklist

You can be more effective in planning your business analysis approach if you follow a consistent, clear agenda that considers the common project dynamics.

The Universal Business Analysis Approach Planning Checklist covers the most common project dynamics. You can use this as an agenda to elicit and discover a comprehensive view of a project’s key dynamics, its opportunities and use what you discover to adapt/tailor your business analysis approach.

As an exercise, think of a project that you have recently worked on, you are currently working on, or will soon be working on.  Answer questions in the following checklist for yourself.

Project Life Cycle

  • What are the planned stages of this project?
  • What stage are we currently in?
  • What is the business analysis deliverable (or set of deliverables) that I am responsible for producing in this stage?
  • What is the intended use of my business analysis deliverable(s) and who will use it?

Schedule And Effort Budget

  • How much effort can I spend and by what target date am I expected to produce my business analysis deliverable(s)?
  • Is that about what I also estimate it will take?
  • Is either my effort or date estimate higher than the effort budget or target date? If so, how might I adapt my effort, scope, activities or configuration of my deliverable(s)?

Project Stakeholders And Relationships

    • What are the key roles is on the project team and who is in them?
      • Does this project have an executive sponsor, project owner or product owner, project manager, specialists and business subject matter experts?
      • What are the names and titles the persons in these project roles?
    • Are significantly new relationships being are created in this project?
      • Who’s new to each other on this team?
      • Are there local and who’s remote team members?
    • What are peoples’ responsibilities?
      • Who is responsible for producing, accepting or needs to be consulted or informed of each of the project’s key deliverables, particularly the business analysis deliverable(s)?

 

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Elicitation Techniques

  • Which elicitation techniques are available to me use?
    • Documentation Reviews – What documentation or prior work products are available to review?
    • Interviews and Workshops – Who can I interview or include in a workshop, and what questions would I need to ask?
    • Observations – Where and what kinds of observations may be needed and how could I arrange for them?
    • System reviews – What system(s) are available to review and for what information?
    • Surveys – Who could I engage in a survey and using what types of questions?
  • What are my own business analysis competencies?
    • Considering this project’s stakeholders and relationships, the elicitation techniques available to me, and my own core competencies, which elicitation techniques are best suited gather and validate my business analysis information?

Organizational Assets

  • What specialized tools for elicitation, documentation and modeling are available to me?
    • Collaboration tools, facilities, survey tools?
    • Diagramming or modeling software?
  • What prior business analysis work (e.g., documents, models) that I can draw from?
  • Does my organization offer training in the subject business domain?

Competencies And Knowledge

  • Who on the project team has what expert business domain knowledge?
  • What is my own business domain knowledge?
  • What are my strongest core business analysis competencies?
  • Where can you take advantage the team’s diversity of knowledge and competencies?
  • Who are the best stakeholders in this project to engage in elicitation of content or validation of business analysis deliverables and what is or are the best elicitation techniques to use?

On reflection, are you able to answer these questions for yourself? When you go into your project workplace, who will you include in this conversation?

Conclusion:

Business analysis planning is a recognized business analysis activity. The IIBA Body of Knowledge (BoK) includes the Plan Business Analysis Approach activity within its Business Analysis Planning and Management process. The BoK also lays out the scope of what should be covered by a Business Analysis Approach as “The set of processes, templates, and activities that will be used to perform business analysis in a specific context.”

The time and formality that you apply to business analysis planning is up to you. At the financial institution where I work as a project and program manager, our business analysts typically tailor and document a business analysis plan for each new project to which they are assigned.

I think of business analysis planning as a form of insurance. Spend a little time upfront to assure that the bulk of the rest of your business analysis efforts will be as well spent and effective as possible. Expect the benefits of tailoring a business analysis plan for every project to be that:

  1. It will help you to align your own core business analysis competencies to each project, and
  2. You and the project will gain the most value from your business analysis efforts.

That’s a value-adding proposition.

You are welcome to contribute comments about project dynamics that impact business analysis plans or about the checklist presented through the Contact Us page at www.ProcessModelingAdvisor.com.
BATimes_July04_2022

Best of BATimes: How To Level Up Your Business Analyst Career

As a forward-thinking Business Analyst, this question is probably crossing your mind frequently.

 

You’ve established yourself in your career, but you may feel stagnant, eager for a change of scenery or simply ready to learn something new. In a competitive job market, Business Analysts need career know-how to navigate their next steps to keep their work fulfilling. Read on for simple steps you can take to take your Business Analyst career to the next level.

Understand Which Career Path You Want

To get an edge on advancing your career, you need to know where you want to end up. Business Analysts can take their careers in any one of a variety of directions. It all depends on your interests, strengths and opportunities.

As you move through your career, you’ll see that job titles and descriptions become more specialized and specific based on industry and skills. If you’re interested in the tech industry and you’re good at bridging technical work with communicating specialized ideas, a role as an IT Business Analyst could be a great fit. If you’d prefer to work in a variety of industries doing C-level consulting, you may consider a path into a Management Analyst position.

These are just a couple of examples of advanced and in-demand career paths for Business Analysts. Collabera and New Horizons Computer Learning Centers have detailed descriptions of directions that Business Analysts may take as they move throughout their careers.

Find A Mentor

A mentor is a great industry-specific resource for everything from day-to-day questions to giving insight into career decisions. Mentor-mentee relationships can begin organically, like with a trusted superior at work, or you can seek one out with a networking program. The International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA) hosts local chapters where you can meet other analysts at different points in their careers, and they are forming a mentorship program for members.

A mentor should be someone you can see regularly, perhaps daily or weekly, and who can get to know you and your work habits well. Ideally your mentor is someone at your company, but a former colleague or even a professor can make a great mentor too. With a mentor, you’ll form an ongoing bond that will evolve as your career goals change.

 

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Get A Career Coach

While mentors are typically fellow Business Analysts, career coaches are professionals who operate from a higher level as they help you seek out new opportunities. They may not be Business Analysts themselves, like a mentor would be, but they have plentiful resources for networking, optimizing your soft skills, and helping with resumes and cover letters.

Career coaches often focus on a local region where they have expertise on the job market. They meet with their clients for sessions lasting up to a couple of hours for a flat fee. Virtual and nationwide services are also available through organizations like TheMuse. If you plan on meeting with a career coach, make sure you have an idea of what you want to accomplish during your session and have documents like your resume and work history handy.

Take Classes

Your experience as a Business Analyst doesn’t have to come solely from formal education or on-the-job projects. Taking classes allows you to improve existing skills or add new skills to your resume through cheap and accessible means.

Business Analyst networking groups, like the IIBA, hold specialized workshops to help you hone your skills and learn from other Business Analysts. If you prefer self-directed learning, there are free online resources with high-quality trainings for Business Analysts, like LinkedIn Learning, where you can earn certificates to display on your profile. Coursera also has a free curriculum that specializes in business analytics with courses designed by The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. These courses are great if you have a specialty field in mind where you may be lacking competencies.

Volunteer For Challenging Projects

If you feel stagnated in your current role, be on the lookout for opportunities to challenge yourself. Offer your input in projects that may be out of your usual comfort zone so that you can learn with skilled colleagues or step forward to tackle an issue you found in day-to-day processes. No matter the project, be sure to ask for help when you need it—that’s one of the best ways to grasp new concepts and skills. By taking on challenging projects, you’ll not only gain experience, but you’ll also establish yourself as someone who takes initiative.

Invest In Soft Skills

While it makes sense to devote your time to expanding your technical skills, don’t let soft skills fall by the wayside. Soft skills are qualities and interpersonal skills that are less “trainable” than hard skills, but translate to every role in every industry. Soft skills include conflict resolution, negotiation, communication skills and more. Usman Haq details important soft skills for Business Analysts in his article in BATimes. These skills are acquired and practiced daily, so be mindful of opportunities to hone them. LinkedIn Learning also has courses on soft skills so you can study at your leisure.

Are You Ready To Take Your Career To The Next Level?

Being a business analyst entails wearing a lot of hats. Conquer your career path by understanding your long term career goals, find a mentor and a career coach to help you reach those goals, take classes for both hard and soft skills and don’t be afraid to raise your hand for big projects.  As you take these small steps, your future in Business Analytics will unfold.

Making the Most of BA Training

One topic that is relevant for us as BAs wherever we are in our career is the topic of professional development.

Professional development is relevant for those joining the profession, who need to get to grips with the core skills, as well as those who are experienced who need to refresh their knowledge or keep up to speed with new techniques or developments. Business analysis is an evolving field, and staying up to date is absolutely crucial. Continuing professional development takes a number of forms, both formal and informal, can include anything from reading blogs and articles (on sites such as BATimes.com), attending IIBA chapter events, participating in webinars, mentoring, running or attending ‘lunch and learn’ sessions and of course attending a specific BA training course.

At this point, those of us that have been around for a while will probably be rolling our eyes. I’m sure we’ve all attended or have been sent on the occasional training course that hasn’t been effective. It’s very easy to attend a training session that is logically designed, fun to participate in, but that makes absolutely no difference to our day-to-day practice. You might have even been on courses where the only highlight was the coffee and doughnuts.

It absolutely doesn’t have to be this way! Training, alongside other professional development activities, can be useful and effective, if we plan effectively. Here are some points worth considering.


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  1. Use BA techniques to establish the need: We have a whole range of BA techniques that can help us establish needs and requirements in an organizational setting. These same ideas can be used for an individual or team too. We can turn our analysis on ourselves and carry out a SWOT analysis, understand key skills gaps, and then translate these into requirements. If we notice a particular skills gap in our team we can then research, assess and decide amongst multiple options for plugging that gap.
  2. Training isn’t the only solution: As discussed above, training is by no means the only ‘solution’ to a skills gap. It’s easy to overlook the wide range of resources at our disposal, and often there’s a wealth of experience that exists within organizations. If you are lucky enough to be part of a Community of Practice, it may be that you can use Community of Practice meetings to exchange knowledge and build skills in a safe environment. Training is absolutely useful, but it is most useful when blended with other techniques that support it.
  3. Own the plan: As BAs we need to own our own professional development. Even if you are lucky enough to work for a company that will send you on training, it is still worth having your own (personal) development plan, based on your own goals. Of course, like all plans, it should be malleable and fluid—but it shows the broad direction of travel at any point in time, and this can help figure out immediate next steps.
  4. Choose the provider carefully: If you are booking external training, be selective with the provider you choose. Ask questions like “will the trainer be an experienced BA?”, “When was the last time they worked on a project assignment?”. If you are running the course on-site for your team you might want to ask “Can you customize this course so that it is relevant for our context?”. Ask around your colleagues and network to find out which training providers they would recommend.
  5. Training starts before the day itself: Training is likely to be even more effective if we are able to come prepared with ideas, questions and ‘real life’ dilemmas and situations to discuss. Keeping why we’re attending the training in mind, and assembling these ideas in advance can be very helpful.
  6. Commit to action: During the training, after each technique or concept is covered, it is worth consciously considering aspects such as:
    • In what situations can I use this?
    • When is my next opportunity to use/practice this technique?
    • What are my next steps?
      Using a brand new technique in a radically different way for the first time is sometimes tricky, so you might choose to use it in a team meeting, or some other ‘safe environment’ first. More routine techniques can be picked up straight away.
  7. Ask ‘when will I revisit or re-read my notes’?: Learning can be great fun, and revisiting old training material can help us to refresh, reflect and jog our memories.

Training can be a useful professional development tool when chosen carefully and executed well. Questions such as the ones above can help us in choosing the right course and getting the most from it. I hope that you have found this useful, please do get in touch with any other tips that you have—I’d love to hear them!

Inspiration, Enthusiasm, and Triumph – The Journey to Becoming a Certified Business Analyst

They say a journey starts with a single step forward, but the reasons behind taking that first step can lead you down paths you never thought you would be able to walk upon.

This is the story of my journey into becoming a certified Business Analyst.

This whole journey didn’t start out with great fanfare. The reason behind why I chose to pursue the IIBA Certified Business Analysis Professional CBAP® certification was not actually a lofty one. It did not stem from a need to align myself with, at that time, the rapidly growing global network of professionals dedicated to raising the awareness of Business Analysis value through Business Analysis standardization and professional designation. Nor did it stem from a desire to authenticate my many years of Business Analysis and be recognized by the established Business Analysis standards association. The only reason I had initially for obtaining my certification was that I thought was doing a good friend a favor. But, by the time I sat for the CBAP® exam, my reasons had evolved!

It was the winter of 2008 in Minnesota when a dear and trusted fellow BA stuck his head into my cubicle at work and announced, “Hi, I am applying to sit for IIBA’s brand new CBAP® certification exam in June, and YOU are going to do it with me! We can study together!” Well, I thought to myself, it is winter here in Minnesota, after all, and there will not be much to do over the next 2-3 months.

“Okay,” I responded to my friend, “Let’s do it!”

So, my friend and I started our preparation for the CBAP® exam.

In 2008, the IIBA was all of 4 years old, but it had literally exploded from a start-up 37-member work group into an established association of over 5,000 members worldwide. There was a published Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK Guide®), an implemented certification program and IIBA chapters were being established all over the world. In those four short years, there had arisen a groundswell of Business Analyst and industry support for the IIBA and everything that it stood for. This phenomenon was evidence of the high dedication and well-placed vision of the initial 37 members and of all those who joined their ranks in the next few years.

Our first step in preparing for our certification was to apply to sit for the exam. Sitting for the CBAP exam requires that applicants meet a specified number hours of BA work experience, with a minimum number of hours spread across a minimum number of the BABOK’s Knowledge Areas (KA). Being the dedicated BAs we were, we used a requirements management approach to filling out the exam application.

First, we broke down our resume’s work history into Business Analysis related tasks within projects, listing each project’s start and end dates. Using this chronology, we built two grids. One grid, cross-referenced our Business Analysis work history to each of the BABOK’s Knowledge Areas (KA,) where it applied, and the second grid calculated, by project, the net number of work hours spent on each BA task within each project.

These two grids made it very easy to calculate the total number of BA work hours and BA work hours by BABOK KA for the exam application. One huge advantage to building these two grids was that we had to survey each BABOK KA deeply enough to understand what each KA was about and understand where our work experience applied. Building these grids to fill out the exam application provided us with the perfect overview of the BABOK.

Once our applications for the exam were completed and submitted, we turned our attention to studying. The first thing we did was to set a realistic, but solid goal of 3 months to prepare for the exam. We quickly figured out that we could not memorize the entire BABOK in 3 month’s time, to the depth it would take to pass the exam. So, we needed a targeted approach to guide us through consuming all of the knowledge in the BABOK.

Today BAs are very fortunate to have so many and valuable resources available to them. There are certification prep classes offered by many training organizations, multiple study guides, practice exams available both online and through training organizations, and study groups hosted by local IIBA chapters. There are also virtual study groups, online blogs, online flashcards, etc. Searches online for ‘how to study for the CBAP’ bring up a plethora blog posts for your review. These blog posts are certified BAs mentoring fellow BAs and are a very valuable source of information for anyone wanting to sit for the exam.

In 2008, there were good resources available to assist with studying, albeit not as many as available today. After surveying all the available resources, we chose our strategy. We signed up immediately for a prep class through one of the training organizations. And we purchased practice exams and prep question flashcards from two different training organizations.

The prep class we took provided the perfect guide for consuming the vast amount of information in the BABOK and enabled us to pass the exam. The class took us through the tasks and activities within each BABOK KA and taught us the inputs (most important) and outputs of each activity. The class also took us through all the different types of modeling: usage, process, flow, data, and behavior models and showed us when to apply each one during Business Analysis. Lastly, the class pointed out important terms and definitions to memorize and gave us mnemonics to help memorize lists of Inputs/Tools/Techniques/Outputs (ITTO).

My friend and I formed our own 2-member study group, tossing practice test and flash card questions at each other throughout our workdays as often as possible, over our 3 months of study. The practice exams and the flashcards were also invaluable in helping us prepare for the wording of the questions on the exam. The exam questions go through multiple reviews before becoming exam questions, and they are designed to test subtle understanding. The questions are written to ensure that a BA can distinguish between what is correct and what is almost correct in a given situation. It takes practice to learn how to read and understand these types of questions correctly and to answer them accurately. The practice tests and flashcards taught us this critical skill.

Prior to 2008, I had not been highly involved with the local IIBA chapter. I periodically went to monthly chapter meetings and occasionally read their newsletter. I had been a Business Analyst for over 25 years and loved the work. But, my experience was that there was widely varied understanding of what the discipline of Business Analysis involved. The importance of Business Analysis was not consistently valued, and the role of a BA was often not as empowered on a project as it needed to be.

Shortly after delving into studying for the CBAP® exam, I discovered how much momentum and dedication was behind the IIBA organization and the solid value that IIBA was bringing to the Business Analysis discipline through standardization and credentialing. My reason for pursuing my CBAP® matured from merely doing a friend a favor into a sense of total pride for my profession and excitement over becoming part of this movement and obtaining my CBAP®. Today, I get excited over the growing list of certified names on IIBA’s Website and that IIBA now offers 4 established levels of certification in Business Analysis.

The journey can be rough, but very rewarding. In the end, Business Analysis certification was the most rewarding part of my career.

Experience is the Best Teacher Reflect on Your Actions Taken

Welcome to the last episode of the Coach Clinton 7-Steps to Accomplishment Methodology –finally!

Those of you who have been with me throughout this journey deserve my heartiest congratulations because now you are equipped with the knowledge to achieve anything you want in life. The only limit is your ambitions otherwise nothing is beyond your reach – provided that you follow the entire process just like I described.

Before we fit in the last piece of the achievement jigsaw puzzle, let us list down the first 6 steps:

Step 1 – Appraise your performance
Step 2 – Ascertain your goals and priorities
Step 3 – Approach your goal achievement plan
Step 4 – Avert negativity with your motivation affirmation
Step 5 – Actualize your goals by getting into action
Step 6 – Attain your goals and reward yourself

Now we start with the last step…

Step 7 – Analyze Results

This last step is one of the most important step of the 7-step methodology. After going through great pains and achieving your goals, you need to sit down and analyze the entire process. If you don’t do that, you will have to reinvent the wheel every time you start working on the next goal.

This step helps you learn from your mistakes and helps you identify your strong points so that you can avoid the mistakes and focus on the strengths. Result? Swifter achievement of your goals with lesser mistakes – thus achieving Elevation Exceleration!

This step, as known as Analyze Results, is all about extracting the value of learning from the actions that you have taken while striving toward your goals. It is of utmost importance to learn from past actions. Have you heard the phrase ‘hindsight is 20/20’? It makes perfect sense because once an event has occurred, it becomes very easy to analyze it and see what went wrong with it whereas it is almost impossible to predict something that may happen in the future. Even the best project managers struggle to predict and manage risk. So, it seems a wise thing to use your 20/20 hindsight and assess your actions. This simple action can significantly increase your chances of success in the future.

Whether your venture has been a complete success, a moderate success, a disappointing failure, or anything in between, you must sit down and analyze all your actions using your hindsight. Whether you succeed or not, this analysis will give you valuable insights and help you win next time. If you think you have been successful, evaluating the entire effort will help you see which of your actions were right that led you to this success. In future, you can replicate your success by using the same strategies and actions.

The significance of analyzing your mistakes can be understood by a John Powell’s quote: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Although he is a film composer, I find his take on mistakes quite extraordinary. According to John’s definition, a mistake is only the one which we fail to analyze and pick up our lesson from. In essence, mistakes are great learning opportunities, in disguise.

I seriously hope that now you realize that analyzing your mistakes is a mandatory step of the self-improvement process. To do this effectively, I’m giving you a few practical tips from my years of experience coaching others:

Analyze every time

Like I said earlier, whether it is a breakthrough success or an utter failure, there is no exemption from the hindsight analysis part. There is no room for any excuse that can allow you to skip this extremely important step.

Record your mistakes in detail

Make it a point to go through all the events in greater detail and see which actions were correct and which ones need to be marked for review. Pay attention to the actions and decisions that could have been altered to get better results. The key here is to go in sufficient detail and not to let any detail slip through the cracks.

Accept mistakes

Since this activity is for your own improvement, you should not be afraid of openly accepting your mistakes. Providing yourself with false comfort at this stage will definitely lead you to pay much higher cost of making further mistakes in the future. The best thing is to accept your mistakes with an open mind.

Reasons vs excuses

As a human being, we unconsciously fix the blame of our mistakes on external factors and save ourselves from guilt. It is important to be a little more objective with yourself and not to confuse between genuinely justified reasons for a failure and baseless excuses just to let yourself loose. A better option is to blame yourself for every mistake and then try to take off the blame by using factual justifications only.

Seek help

It is time to acknowledge the fact that nobody is a master of everything. We have made mistakes but there is no shame in seeking the help of someone who is better at doing something – someone who is a specialist of that particular area. Do your due diligence to find the best source of help and ask for help without feeling the unnecessary guilt of not knowing something.

Ask yourself the right questions

Asking yourself the right questions is a great way to get educational value from your mistakes. These questions should be able to capture the exact mistakes and turn them into valuable lessons for the future. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Did this turn out the way I visualized?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What mistake(s) did I make?
  • What was the outcome of my mistake?
  • What type of additional planning do I think could have helped me?
  • What exactly can I learn from this?
  • What can I do in the future to avoid this type of result again?
  • Which skills or resources will I need to handle this type of situations more effectively?
  • What changes can I make in my approach to improve future results?

By following these points, I’m sure you can convert your mistakes into great opportunities. After following this methodology for a few times to achieve different goals, you will see yourself getting better at this and you will even look forward to embarking on your next endeavor.

To conclude this series of discussions, I would urge you again to stop procrastinating and start chasing your dreams and ambitions using the Coach Clinton 7-Steps to Accomplishment Methodology. As the results will start to pour in, I’m sure you will thank yourself for taking this initiative.

Best of luck!