Career

Practical Tips for Getting Your First BA Role

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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 profession.

Overcoming the “No Experience” Doom Loop

One crucial fact to keep in mind when applying for roles is that you don’t have to have the title “business analyst” to be undertaking business analysis.  The International Institute of Business Analysis® describe a BA as:

“Any person who performs business analysis, no matter what their job title or organisational role”

(IIBA® BABOK® v3)

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.

‘And Then The Magic Happens’: What BAs Can Learn From The World of Magic

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 2 min read

I’m very pleased to say that my recent presentation at the BA Conference Europe entitled ‘And Then The Magic Happens’: What BAs Can Learn From The World of Magic was recorded.   You can view the presentation below, complete with slides and audio — in total it’s just over 45 minutes long. I hope you find the… 

The Illusion of “Busyness”

Busy office scene -- cartoonI have recently returned from a very relaxing holiday which gave me plenty of time for reflection. For me, part of a good holiday is always that juxtaposition and uncomfortable jolt that happens when you return home.  The rhythm changes, the environment changes and it feels very different.  The jolt of returning to normality isn’t always easy, but it is a sign of a holiday well spent!

This time I experienced this jolt when landing back into London.  As the plane descended, I noticed how green the UK is.  There seemed to be miles and miles of green fields (as opposed to the dust and palm trees that could be seen in my holiday destination).  As we got closer I saw rain.  Then cars.  Lots of cars.

I was pondering these sights as the plane landed—quite firmly—on the grey and rainy runway.  Having just had a ten-night break where I hadn’t followed much of a schedule at all, it was a culture shock to have seen cars queuing on the motorway with people trying to dash around, presumably desperate to get to their destination.

It struck me quite suddenly that what I could see was “busyness”.  Of course, the airport itself was the epitome of busyness—people coming, going—some on holiday, some on business—each with different concerns, priorities and aspirations.  And what I was returning to was a busy world.

Now, I just know some of you right now are thinking “You’ve had too many Mojitos Adrian.  Of course the world is busy”.  Yep, I agree. Sort of.  But what if busyness was a choice?

Interview: Curtis Michelson on Innovation and Culture

Curtis headshot AltIn today’s blog post, we break from our usual format to bring you an interview with Curtis Michelson, a consultant specialising in business analysis, architecture and change.  Curtis’ career has spanned a wide range of industries from mobile apps to pharmaceuticals, and now heads-up Minds-Alert LLC, an innovative consulting company based in Florida, USA.

I first met Curtis when we were both blogging for bridging-the-gap.com.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Curtis on a number of projects and have always enjoyed his innovative style.

I recently caught up with Curtis for a ‘virtual’ chat and he shared some really useful insight:


Curtis, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! So, tell us a little about your background….

We have an expression here in the States that might be apt – I’m a “jack of all trades, master of none”.  Though I dislike the pejorative connotation of mastery over nothing, I’ve made peace with my Jack’ness and found its strength by realizing that curiosity and adaptability bode quite well for living in fast changing times.

Lately I’ve been doing some business model concept work for a large non-profit association of publishers here in the States and bringing some strategic support to a local group called GameChanger Orlando.  And of course there’s IIBA and my local Orlando chapter, where I have worked in the Marketing role, then as Chapter president and now peacefully enjoying retirement as Past-President with Corona beer in hand in Acapulco.

Ha, just kidding! They’ll never let me go.

 

You’ve always struck me as a really innovative person. How would you describe innovation, and how does it fit within the discipline of business analysis?

Interview: Sonja Klopčič on Leadership

Sonja mIn today’s blog post, we break from our usual format to bring you an interview with Sonja Klopčič, a leadership expert based in Slovenia.  Sonja’s career has been broad and varied—including engineering, board chair/CEO and crisis manager—but through it all Sonja has found that inclusive leadership is crucial.  Leadership is key in so many business, project and change situations.

I first met Sonja at a conference where we were both speaking, and even though she presented in Slovenian (which I don’t speak), I found the images on her slides really intriguing and interesting.  We stayed in touch, and I was really pleased when Sonja agreed to be interviewed for this blog.   Our virtual chat is published below—I hope that you find this useful!


1. Sonja, Thanks so much for being interviewed! I know from our conversations that you’ve had a wide and varied career. In your book, you mention that you shaped a personal style of inclusive leadership. Can you explain a bit about what this means, and why it’s important?

My core values are ethics, curiosity, openness, cooperation and freedom. I do not like to work in an environment where everything is specified and you have no space for your own creation. I always wanted to work with powerful, creative and responsible people and my aim is to develop leaders around me. I believe that such people also want to have their hands and their minds free, to co-create the common vision on their own way. I wanted to build the environment in which they (and me) would enjoy to create and be a part of the team. So for example, when I was a general manager of an IT company with 80 employees I selected a team of five young potentials (two of them were women, and it was not so easy to find them, but I wanted to create equal opportunities for both gender). I supported them in their development first in good managers and later in authentic leaders, each with her/his own personal leadership style.

I see management and leadership as a path of personal development for both the leader and their co-workers. It is a path that offers learning opportunities to everyone who wishes to develop as a leader – it opens up space for trying out new things and gaining new personal experience while, of course, taking on the primary responsibility for the achievement of business goals.

 
2. How important is leadership—and inclusive leadership—when progressing change within an organisation?

Magnifying glass over icon of a person

Becoming a Business Analyst

Magnifying glass over icon of a personA common question that gets asked at BA events and forums is “How do I become a business analyst”. Often people wanting to enter the profession feel that they are stuck in a chicken-and-egg scenario: They want to get their ‘first’ BA role—but all the job adverts they can find ask for 3 (or 5 or 10) years of experience. It can be a frustrating dilemma—without experience, it’s difficult to get a role—and without a role it is difficult to get experience!  In this article, we’ll explore seven tips for breaking this cycle.

 

1. Becoming vs discovering – maximise your current experience

A fundamental point to start on is that, when it comes to business analysis, one thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be employed as a ‘business analyst’ to do business analysis.  There are many people in organisations that undertake a sub-set of the business analysis role who have very different job titles.  This leads to an interesting pattern—rather than consciously setting out to become business analysts, some people discover they are already undertaking business analysis!

This is an important subtlety.  Often, those seeking a BA role for the first time actually have more BA experience than they are giving themselves credit for.   Take the following examples:

Getting “Quacked”: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 6 min read

unhappy bag paper manI recently met with a good friend for a coffee and catch-up.  We were discussing all sorts of business analysis related topics, and our conversation quickly moved on to projects, careers and jobs.  As we started to discuss jobs and careers, I sensed unease in my friend’s voice.  This was unusual—he is the kind of guy who is normally really up-beat.   I asked what was wrong. He took a long sip on his coffee and his forehead contracted into a temporary frown.  He took a deep breath:

 

“Adrian, I’m really not happy in my current job.  I’ve made some suggestions on how they could run projects better, but management see this as ‘rocking the boat’.  I’ve been sidelined.  They’ve put me on a dull, boring, pointless project, which will deliver a pointless outcome.   It’s a train-wreck. I am so bored.  I think they’re hoping I’ll leave.” 

 

This came as a complete shock to me.  My friend is  one of the most innovative and positive BAs I know.  He’s the type of person that you can imagine fitting in just about anywhere, with the ability to quickly build rapport with stakeholders and really start delivering effective change.  Clearly moving someone to the right place for the right reasons can benefit the individual and the company—but in this case it seemed to be a pure case of sidelining.

 

Why would anyone sideline him?  

 

Getting “quacked”

If you have worked for large corporate organisations for long enough, you’ll probably know someone who has been sidelined in this way.  Someone who has been seen as too ‘radical’ for the status-quo—they raise positive ideas which could make a significant difference but challenge the tunnel-vision of established middle-managers.  Rather than reward them, the organisation responds by moving them to another role, another team so they are less inconvenient. They never seem to fit, so they are moved around and around — after a while they get moved to a remote outpost somewhere, in the hope they will give up, keep quiet or leave.  Maybe it has even happened to you.

 

This is an example of what I call getting quasi-sacked – or “quacked”

 

Why people get ‘quacked’: The good, the bad and the ugly