The faux thinking: “I know it all”
Often, I feel I am living under a delusion that I know the answers to all the questions when it relates to me.
Often, I feel I am living under a delusion that I know the answers to all the questions when it relates to me.
We are currently amid a technology revolution in the field of education.
It is such an important new era where the amalgamation of technology and education has grown exponentially, especially in the last year as we deal with Covid19. While educational institutions are spending more and more on Education Technology products, the goal remains the same- to enhance and enrich the learning experience. EdTech, the more widely used acronym for education technology, encompasses the use of various technologies for imparting knowledge. Over the past few years several technology firms have ventured in this field, targeting mainly the space of digital training for employees, adult students, and professionals. These were mainly individuals who wanted to give their careers an edge in the competitive environment.
With a pandemic changing the dynamics of education, EdTech has become an essential for each household across the world. Now, not only adults but children at all levels of education, not just limited to K-12, need various tools and products to learn and grow every day.
This has not only given the spotlight to the technology companies but also given a new dimension to the role of Business Analyst (BA), who usually perform a wide range of activities. It is a role where one’s perception cannot be tied to a particular domain. Business Analysts gladly wear multiple hats, and several times land up in the eye of the storm. In terms of the EdTech field, a business analyst is once again as much aligned to the business teams in an organization as they are aligned to the technology teams.
There are a few points that need to be kept in mind when we look at the above diagram. They are as below:
A BA with strong analytical and communication skills, aligns with the Business team to understand the main motivation behind the project. In more technical terms, we refer to them as someone who translates business needs into operational requirements. They also document and maintain business rules. In the EdTech environment, the business team stakeholders can be the university or school board members, department heads, or even startup founders.
This is an important aspect of the roles and duties of a BA. They not only define, organize, maintain, and deliver functional and data requirements, but also use the business and product requirements to help build out technical specifications. They collaborate with various members of the technical teams like product owners, designers, developers, QA teams, and product release teams. Each of these stakeholders need the business analyst for not only defining the user stories, but also providing a dynamic perspective to the ever-changing requirements.
A BA not only helps to define the user’s needs, but also recommends solutions to fulfil the user-centered goals. They actively engage with teachers and students to develop requirements, carefully assessing their needs and challenges. User acceptance testing is an important task of a BA.
In collaboration with the sales and marketing teams, a BA, actively participates in the building of a product marketing plan to not only support the commercialization and product placement plan, but also align it to the needs of the customer and help identifying the target market.
Traditional Business Role Vs Diverse Business Analysis Role
EdTech companies are always on the lookout for Business Analysts to grow their technology teams. These companies are constantly creating new EdTech products thus, require motivated teams to work on those. Traditionally, Business Analysts have a set number of tasks they used to handle on a day-to-day basis. But nowadays, the role has evolved into something bigger. When we look at the new industries, making use of emerging technologies, for example, in the space of education technology, the role of a business analyst has newer responsibilities in addition to the traditional ones. The interesting thing about this phenomenon is some of these responsibilities or tasks were earlier handled by other roles, but now have seamlessly merged into this one role.
Business Analysis – Revolutionizing Diverse EdTech Domain Spectrums
As mentioned earlier, traditional business analysis roles have had specific set of responsibilities as defined above, in Figure 2. But nowadays, there are several roles that have evolved from the original one, making business analysis more and more dynamic than ever before and more conducive to the everyday demands of rapidly progressive industries like EdTech.
Business Intelligence Analyst aligns and collaborates with various analytics to present customizable data for business teams. In addition, this role is vital in helping everyone in the project team to understand their data needs and collaborate with different divisions within the organization, providing them with data solutions.
Business Operations Analyst is another data centric role, mostly responsible for ensuring organization’s data integrity and use the internal data to track the progress and drawbacks in the day to day functioning of the organization. They collaborate with Data teams for development of various reporting tools that help the organization draw blueprints for overall success and growth.
Enterprise Business Analyst collaborates with stakeholders in enterprise sales as well as account management. They also work closely with customer teams to ensure there are no gaps in the relationship between the organization and their clients.
Looking at the various ways a business analyst can contribute to the success of an EdTech organization, it is imperative for organizations to utilize their valuable inputs and use their knowledge to optimum potential.
Often when I coach Business Analysts to land their first Business Analysis Job, I find that either they have no strategy and just throw darts and hope one of them hits the bullseye, or that they make some serious errors in how they approach it.
Darts does sometimes work, but not always (read my e-book on 13 strategies for your first Business Analysis Job) and if you do the following errors then it takes just as much wasted effort.
Let’s look at some of the common errors I see:
Many prospective candidates who want to break into Business Analysis don’t have a strategy or plan. They send their CVs out to every job ad that mentions Business Analysis.
The first thing I look for when I get CVs for job ads is if the person takes the time to match his/her skills and CV to the position they are applying for.
A successful business strategy comes down to the following. First, what are your goals? Getting a job as a Business Analyst isn’t a SMART goal.
If we think of SMART then it comes to the A – achievable ask yourself is this achievable i.e. are you accountable for it.
I think it is important to have a goal you are accountable to achieve, no one else. Getting a job isn’t entirely in your control, is it? Someone else has to agree to it, and you don’t have that authority.
An appropriate goal would be something like:
“I will engage at least x recruiters per week with my CV”, or
“I will spend at least x hours a week looking for Business Analysis jobs that match my skill set”.
So let’s test those two through SMART:
S (Specific) – Yes, I am specific about what I wish to achieve.
M (Measurable) – Yes, I can measure how many
A (Achievable) – Yes, because I am responsible for them.
R(Realistic) – Yes, I can do either one.
T (Timeous) – They follow a schedule
When receiving a CV, I also look at it to determine if it seems like the person has a good understanding of what a Business Analyst does and if their experiences on the CV reflect that.
You don’t have to actually work as a Business Analyst to have real Business Analysis experience. You can have it regardless of what you do.
So I am looking at the title. Even the BABOK 3.0 says it is not about the title but the tasks when defining what a Business Analyst is.
It is the skills, the experiences, and the tasks and related activities that a candidate performed in that role that speak to their understanding of a Business Analyst, and that even the candidate can recognize the tasks they have performed that are applicable to a Business Analyst.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to an employer and they told me about how many CVs they are rejecting just because the CV does not position a candidate with relevant Business Analysis task experience.
You putting job before experience and not experience before job
A few days ago I was coaching a client who wanted to become a Business Analyst. They are in a non-Business Analyst role. I was trying to find out how much experience they have in tasks related to Business Analysis.
I asked what I could do to fill the gaps of experience. He said there are none and I will wait until I have a Business Analysis job to acquire the experience.
Here is the problem. Employers value experience. It is no different in any job application. Even doctors have to go through a community service program before they are allowed as practicing doctors.
You must embrace it, so think about how you can gain relevant experience at your current location.
I love the saying “We grow into opportunity”. Apply the skills now and learn, gain experience, and reflect that on your CV. Then the opportunity will come.
As a member of the IIBA, and CBAP certified individual, you are probably raising your eyebrows. Let me explain.
Certifying yourself is one good way to learn about Business Analysis, gain accreditation with peers, and boost your confidence. Yes, it does play a role in getting a job.
However, for an entrant in Business Analysis you must understand that employers want experience foremost. A certification doesn’t give you that. Just like a degree doesn’t give experience, it gives knowledge.
Do the certification to gain knowledge that you can apply to gain experience. Back to having the right goals again.
You need to put in the time and have SMART goals that you can achieve. Then, your strategy flows from there. It’s not an overnight thing either. Work at it, and adjust your strategy as you go.
When you have worked hard for your first opportunity, it will come.
For more strategies download my free e-book “13 strategies to getting your first Business Analysis job” – https://www.altitudejourney.com/ba-career-starter
A commonly used business analysis get-out-clause is the all-encompassing phrase “it depends…”.
Although using this phrase might be seen as an attempt to evade certainty, the reality is often that the world is more complex than people like to admit, and in some contexts there really isn’t one single ‘right’ answer. What is considered ‘right’ will depend very much on who you ask and how the question is framed. This can lead to situations where an approach is followed with absolute conviction and certainty… only to lead to a completely unexpected outcome. Something that seemed so ‘right’ and ‘proven’ wasn’t so ‘right’ after all…
The business analysis toolkit is broad, and we benefit from having access to a whole range of bodies of knowledge where skilled practitioners have captured years of knowledge and experience. With so many different tools, techniques and approaches it’s possible to get into ‘analysis paralysis’—it’s difficult to know which tool or technique to use in a particular situation. This can lead to an understandable desire to search for industry standards and best practices. Perhaps a set of templates are developed, or a particular software tool is used to track user stories because that’s what everyone uses these days.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with springboarding and learning from the experiences of others. The very fact that we have bodies of knowledge in the first place allows us to do this. However it can be dangerous when one set of practices is copied, without sufficient consideration, from one context to another. It’s even more dangerous when this becomes a mandated standard that nobody is allowed to deviate from.
This point can be illuminated by taking it outside of business analysis. Let’s imagine that a plumber is using a pipe wrench. The wrench is really effective at certain tasks, and somebody notices that it’s an integral part of ‘unblocking pipes’. This fact might be true in a particular context, but switch the environment and it’s a completely inappropriate tool. I’m not sure a wrench alone would be much use unblocking a main city sewer (although I’m fortunate in that I’ve never had to try that). Additionally, a wrench has many other uses that (in this case) haven’t yet been observed or documented: from opening stubborn lids through to dislodging dropped items behind a bookcase. Not only this, there are many other types of wrench that have specific purposes (this site lists 40 types!). Plus a wrench is really only useful if it’s in the hands of someone who actually knows how to use it… and who knows how to find the root causes of the problems they are attempting to resolve.
A similar pattern exists in business analysis and business change more generally. It can be tempting to look at companies that are successfully delivering change and notice they are using particular approaches to business analysis or are utilizing particular techniques. Undoubtedly these approaches contribute towards the success however simply ‘copying’ or ‘transplanting’ approaches from one context and culture to another doesn’t mean that the performance will follow. They have likely refined their approaches over years, piecing together different practices and building on experience. Hitting the ‘copy and paste’ button is like giving a wrench to an electrician and saying “hey, the plumber over there had great success with this, so surely you can make use of it? We reckon it should cut the time it takes you to do each job by at least 50%”. Equally, it can be easy to overlook (or even dissuade or disapprove) of practitioners who are successfully using techniques in ways that aren’t considered ‘standard’ or ‘usual’. So what if somebody is using use cases rather than the ‘expected’ technique? If it is working, if people understand them, and if it is having the desired effect, surely that’s what matters.
In fact, some organizations go further and mandate certain approaches or create rigid templates. Templates absolutely have their place—they can help avoid the need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ on every engagement—but they need to be extensible and customizable. If they are mandatory, situations occur when sections are filled in simply because the sections exist. This is like giving a wrench to an electrician and saying “Oh, and by the way, this is the new company standard…. So you absolutely must use the wrench on every job”. Which, let’s face it, sounds crazy.
Business analysis is a profession that relies on our ability to analyze things, including the approaches that are relevant. There are a whole set of approaches, patterns, tools and techniques, so rarely will we have to start from a completely blank sheet. Yet as practitioners it is our job to choose the right tools for the context. It’s important that we have an understanding of a wide range of tools, and that we know where to go to find information about others (it’s virtually impossible to be an expert on all of them). There’s no ‘one-sized-fits-all’ approach to business analysis, and one of the skills that we bring to the party is the ability to advise and help choose. I believe this is one of the most interesting parts of the role!
© BA Times.com 2023