I have spoken to a number of people recently who are keen to
get into the business analysis
profession. This can be tricky, as many
roles specifically require a certain number of years of BA experience before a
candidate can even be considered. This can
lead to a ‘chicken and egg’ cycle… without experience, it’s tricky getting a
first role. But without a role, it is
tricky getting experience! This blog
post is an attempt to capture some thoughts on how to overcome this. It’d
be great if you could add your own thoughts into the comments section—that way
hopefully this will evolve as a useful set of ideas for those entering the
This has an important implication: If you have a BA mind-set, there is a good chance that you are already undertaking some elements of business analysis in your role, and there might even be the possibility of expanding this to cover even more ground. Of course it’s unlikely that you’ll be undertaking the full breadth of a BA role, but you may well be undertaking some crucial parts of it. This can be true even in the most seemingly unlikely of roles—a call centre advisor, for example, may have gained significant experience of defining and improving processes alongside their ‘core’ job. It is worth actively seeking out these types of experiences, as well as cataloguing the experience that you already have so that it can be added to your CV or Résumé.
Get to Know Common Approaches, Techniques and ‘Lingo’
As with any profession, there are a whole range of approaches, techniques and even a common ‘language’ that BAs speak. It is worth becoming familiar with this, as this will help to gauge the areas where you already have experience (which is an advantage) and those where you don’t. It isn’t essential to have knowledge and experience of every conceivable technique, but there are a number of ‘core’ concepts that are useful in just about every BA role. There are plenty of blogs, webinars, courses, books and other resources out there that can help. It is also very valuable to consider a foundation or entry level certification programme. Whilst this isn’t essential, it might just give you the edge over other candidates.
I am a real fan of journey maps. They are a great way of cultivating a conversation about the value that a stakeholder is seeking and the types of experiences that will satisfy them. A few recent experiences have moved my thinking on journey mapping, and this blog post is my attempt to capture these thoughts.
‘Customer’ or ‘User’?
You may have noticed that some practitioners talk about ‘customer journey mapping’, others talk about ‘user journey mapping’. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but in terms of journey mapping I have found them rather problematic. For example:
As many of you will know, I am an avid user of social media. I’ve found social media a great way to connect and exchange ideas with people that I never would have met otherwise, and one platform I’ve found particularly useful is LinkedIN. As you’re probably aware, LinkedIN has always marketed itself as a professional networking community. It’s a place to meet others in and beyond your own industry, and maybe even schmooze with clients, suppliers, or maybe even your next boss! As such, the posts tend to be more professional in tone than other networks. Well, most of the time, anyway.
If you’re a LinkedIN user you may have noticed a trend recently of some folks posting ‘motivational quotes’ or pictures of their holiday snaps. Next time you see something like this, scroll down and read the comments—sooner or later, someone will have angrily written “This is LinkedIN, not Facebook, this is no place for a post like this!”. I’ve seen a few comments like this, and it opens up interesting questions of purpose and perspective. Or put another way: What is LinkedIN for?
One Platform Multiple Purposes
The answer to this question is almost certainly ‘it depends
who you ask’. There are some people who
use LinkedIN purely to search for jobs.
Other use it to advertise
jobs. Some use it to make sales or
search for leads. Others use it to learn, network and engage. Which of those is the ‘right’ purpose?
An often overlooked technique, that can be very useful in situations like this is the ‘PQR’ formula for giving shape to a root definition(this forms part of Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), which I’d highly recommend reading up on, although it should be noted I’m using it outside of the context of SSM). The PQR formula answers the key questions of what, how and why. Elaborated it is:
One of the things I really enjoy doing on a sunny day is
going out walking. It doesn’t matter
whether it’s windy or cold, as long as there’s no rain, I find it a really
enjoyable pastime. I was recently
walking on a really windy day in my
hometown, and I walked past this fountain.
You’ll see from the picture that the fountain isn’t fully
active, it’s just bubbling over gently.
In the summer, the jets fire straight into the air, and children (and
the occasional adult) can jump in and cool down.
Initially, I’d assumed that the jets had been turned off for
the winter, but a few minutes after walking past, I noticed the jets were
active again. This piqued my
curiosity—why had they suddenly switched on again—were they on a timer? My attention was drawn to a small wind speed
instrument on a nearby lamppost—you can barely
see it in the following photo:
I then made the connection.
The fountain is designed to
switch itself off when it’s windy.
This prevents water getting lost from the system, whilst also ensuring
that those passing by don’t get an unwelcome surprise when they suddenly get
soaked when there is an unexpected gust of wind. Genius!
The Danger of ‘Hard Wiring’
At its essence, this could be considered an example of a mechanistic system that is ‘hard wired’ to respond to its environment. This is a convoluted way of saying it has been designed to respond in certain pre-designed ways to certain types of stimuli If the wind increases, it stops the jets. If the wind stops, it starts the jet. Job done!
If you have ever used the tube (metro) system in London
during rush hour, you’ll know it isn’t the sort of place where you can stand around
and admire the surroundings. Like most
bustling cities, there is a focus on movement;
there is a sea of people filling every conceivable space. Anyone who dares move at a glacial pace is at
risk of getting swept along with the crowd like a twig in a fast flowing river,
or even worse they might be greeted by the passive-aggressive ‘tut’ of an
exhausted commuter. It seems that
everyone is determined to get to their destination, trying to edge further and
further forward without pushing or making contact with anyone else. Like some kind of silent and choreographed
‘commuter dance’, It is fascinating to watch, and fascinating to be part
I have travelled on the Jubilee Line from Waterloo Station countless times. Most times, I am navigating my way through the crowds, with my brain and eyes focussed mainly on the immediate few feet in front of me. Only fairly recently, when travelling very late at night (when the station was empty) did I look up and notice there is literally an elephant in the room. More specifically, there is a sculpture of an elephant above the escalators. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture 🙂
is little doubt that social media platforms have created new ways for people to
interact with each other. Whether it’s staying in touch with friends,
exchanging holiday snaps or “debating” the day’s hot political issues
with strangers, there’s bound to be a place for it somewhere in the
social-mediasphere. In fact, if you are ever feeling brave, scroll down
into the comments sections of most news articles. Often there is a
treasure-trove of opinion, ranging from well-considered and well-considered
arguments and counter arguments, right through to knee-jerk assertions from
people who have done little more than read the headline. Of course, everyone is
entitled to their opinion, and this type of forum provides a useful space for
was recently drawn into reading the comments section on an article about snow
(a relatively rare occurrence in the South of the UK, and one that tends to hit
the transport infrastructure fairly hard). The comments ranged from
constructive ideas, through to moral outrage, through to individuals expressing
clear objection to certain political ideologies. To a certain
extent, this makes sense, but I suspect that of the hundreds of authors of
those comments, precisely (or nearly) zero:
Although it was more years ago than I like to admit, I can
still firmly remember my time at high-school (or ‘senior school’ as we call it
here in the UK). As with most schools,
there were cliques and divisions, and it was a time when everyone was finding their
identity and trying to prove how ‘cool’ they were. As is common in the UK, my school had a
prescribed uniform, so there were very few ways that identity could be
outwardly expressed. Some people chose
to shorten their ties (rebels!), and others covered their exercise books in
colourful wallpaper (shocking!).
However, one way identity could definitely
be expressed was with the type of bag
that you carried.
organisations position themselves as being customer-centric, and in doing so
consciously put the customer front-and-centre of their decision making.
In a dynamic and competitive business environment, this is a sensible move. In many
industries competition is rife and the cost of switching is low, and it may
even be possible for a customer to change supplier at the click of a
button. In this type of environment, being efficient whilst also
understanding customer needs is of upmost importance.
thinking, quite logically, permeates into change initiatives too. As analysts,
we have a whole range of techniques that allow us to understand customers, put
ourselves in their shoes, and create exploratory models. Perhaps we use
elicitation techniques such as focus groups, market research or questionnaires.
Perhaps we develop personas, customer journeys, scenarios and use a range
of other techniques that help us to ensure that we’ve fully considered the
types of experience that our customers will have. This is sensible,
surely? I mean nobody would argue against customer centricity, would
JDI and it’s slightly more risqué cousin ‘JFDI’ are management maxims that we have probably all come across from time to time. The acronym ‘JDI’ stands for ‘Just Do It’, and its implications are that we should stop thinking about anything except the immediate task at hand, and plough on—often without questioning the validity of the task or considering whether the results of the task will actually be desirable.
It has to be said that there are some contexts where JDI really is the best approach—where urgent action without deliberation or hesitation is necessary. If you are in a meeting and the fire alarm goes off, there is some very clear action that needs to be taken (evacuate via the nearest and safest escape route). This is likely to be fairly uncontroversial, and even if people had different views on how the situation could be handled, the urgency of getting out of the danger is sufficient enough that we need to quickly decide, commit to action, and then ‘Just Do It’. Of course, once you are out, there will be time to reflect and it is highly likely that someone will want to assess the root causes of the problem (in this case the fire).