Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Make BADD day your best day ever!

The Austin IIBA Chapter held the 2nd Annual Business Analyst Development Day in August 2013. The event provided an opportunity for business analysts in the Austin area to come together for workshops in various topics such as Agile methodology, Business Process Modeling Notation, and Better Decision Making. In addition to helping BAs in Austin further their knowledge in business analyst knowledge areas, the event also provided an opportunity for peers to help each other with the questions or issues that are facing business analyst roles and responsibilities. The event was a sell out with 80 attendees!!

As the president of the Austin IIBA Chapter, I still struggled with understanding why more BAs in the area were not trying to attend. If needed, we could have handled a few more attendees. I asked a few of the BAs that attended why others at their companies were not coming. I heard a few comments such as:

- "My company's training budget is really tight this year."
- "My company would not provide us a training day to attend."
- "We have too much work and taking time off for training is just not feasible."
- "There is no formal training plan for a BA in my company, so we just don't receive any training."

In the over 15 years I have been involved in business analysis roles, I agree with many of the above comments. I do agree that companies struggle to determine the training plan for BAs, and I do agree that for many BAs - their company will not provide training either due to budget constraints or work conflicts. BUT - none of the above is a reason for not taking control of your own training and career development. From my experience, you (as a BA) cannot rely on your company to provide you with the time or training budget to further your BA career. You (as a BA) need to plan for your own training which may include taking personal vacation days and spending your own money for training classes.

So the next time there is a BADD day in your area, take advantage of a great opportunity! Make a plan to attend Business Analyst Development Day to make your BADD day - your best day ever - no excuses!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cosmic Truth about the Business Analyst Journey

On Friday, 5/17/2013, the Austin IIBA Chapter had the great opportunity to hear a presentation from Karl Wiegers - "Cosmic Truths about Requirements".

As the president of the Austin IIBA Chapter, Karl's presentation brought me full circle to how I started down the path of a business analyst. In 2003-2004, I had been hired as a business analyst at a couple of software start-up companies. At the time, minimal direction was provided to me in terms of the role and responsibilities of "business analyst". The software companies knew there were challenges in determining customer needs and business objectives, and also being able to communicate that information back to the product software teams.

It was during my struggle to understand the role of business analyst, that I picked up Karl's book - Software Requirements 2. In chapter 4, I found my answers to my career direction as while as being able to define my role as a "Requirements Analyst". Karl's book became a source that I continued to revisit time and time again, especially when my assignments on software projects would deviate from being a "Requirements Analyst". I used Karl's book as my compass for guiding me forward on future career opportunities.

When the Austin IIBA Chapter was approached by Seilevel to sponsor Karl as a speaker, I knew this would be a great opportunity to help other BAs in our chapter understand the role of business analyst. The Austin IIBA Chapter had a full house of attendees for a presentation that provided all of us the "Cosmic Truths about Requirements". Karl helped me almost 10 years ago by sharing his insights through a great resource - Software Requirements 2, and I hope others that attended the meeting and are finding the same challenges I did at the beginning of my BA journey, will continue to use IIBA and thought leaders such as Karl Wiegers as resources to guide them in their business analysis profession.

Thank you Karl for visiting Austin!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

To Sell Is Business Analysis

For the past year, I have been in a pre-sales business analyst position. This role has helped me gain experience in supporting sales representatives in requirements elicitation during the sales process, and also provided me with the opportunity to gain experience in solution selling.

As part of moving into a pre-sales BA position, I have been reading many articles and books on selling. So when, Daniel Pick announced has new book - "To Sell Is Human", I knew he would be helping me in understanding the world of selling and how sellers in today's new economy are succeeding.

To my surprise, I found "To Sell Is Human" more applicable to the study of business analysis. As Daniel notes in the beginning of his book that only 1 in 9 workers are engaged in direct selling, and the remainder - 8 of 9 - are engaged in "non-sales selling. We're persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they've got in exchange for what we've got."

Yes - business analysts are in non-sales selling - persuading, convincing, and influencing.

Daniel introduces the following key word - moving - "much of what we do also seems to involve moving. That is, we're moving other people to part with resources" To be able to focus on the concept of moving others translates directly into the core attributes of a successful business analysts.

If you are a business analyst looking to bring a new perspective to your role, I encourage you to pick up a copy of "To Sell Is Human". BAs are front and center in the moving of others and the key is understanding how to be successful in non-sales selling.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Johnny Business Analyst

This football season has been an full of surprises for those following the Texas A & M Aggies. With the move to the SEC, and a new football coach, expectations for a winning season were a bit tempered. But, as few predicted, the Aggies have prevailed to completing a regular season with a 10-2 record.

What contributed to allowing the Texas A & M players, and specifically Johnny Football to thrive and quickly come together as a winning team?

As the Austin-American Statesman noted in an article on November 16th - "A & M offense is very informal, but highly efficient" - simplicity is key and there is minimal playbook documentation. Johnny Football was able to use his abilities to execute and avoid the overhead involved in managing complexity.

There is more than just the playbook and the on-field performance. The best programs today in college football have moved into managing even the little details - "the process". Fortune Magazine put together a great article, Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban, on how Nick Saban, Alabama Head Football Coach, has learned through years of coaching football, that the focus of building a great team has to be on the "the process", and then winning is an outcome of the daily pursuit on executing on all the details.

As a business analyst, when you enjoy watching the remaining college bowl games for 2012 season, think about how excellence on the football field can support your own understanding of pursuing excellence as a business analyst - 1) Simplicity of Requirements 2) Avoid the overhead of complexity with minimal documentation 3) continue to use the BA process as outlined in the BABOK Knowledge areas in your daily BA activities.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Perfect Business Analyst: Lionel Logue

In July, I presented to the Austin PMI Chapter a presentation called - "The Certified Business Analyst: A PM's best friend". This was a great opportunity to promote the Austin IIBA Chapter, and also continue to further the understanding of why business analyst are a critical asset to project success. In order to level set the presentation on the expectations of "The Perfect Business Analyst", I presented the main character - Lionel Logue - from the movie "The King's Speech" as the perfect business analyst. Lionel's assigned project was to work with King George VI of England through a debilitating speech impediment which eventually allowed the King to inspire and unite his people in battle.

From the lens of a business analyst - what can we learn from Lionel Logue and consider using in your own BA career?

1) Lionel was successful in establishing trust and credibility with the King. From the beginning of the speech therapy sessions - Lionel openly requested equality, and took a step further by calling the King by his first name - "Bertie". As a business analyst, taking time at the beginning of a project to establish trust and building credibility through project work is key to success.

2) Lionel demonstrated results very early in the sessions which was instrumental when questions arose by the Church of England on his credentials and whether he was qualified to assist the King in preparing for speeches. Lionel was a commoner from Australia with no credentials as a speech therapist. He only could rely on proving value through his results. 

3) Lionel was able to recommend solutions by using tactical techniques, and also performing root cause analysis in order to move the King in a direction where the King could implement change and ultimately succeed at leading the people of England. As business analysts, we focus on what needs to be changed, but taking the next step to recommend solutions is where a good BA becomes a highly valued BA.

To be a PM's best friend, I recommend business analysts watch "The King's Speech" and learn from Lionel Logue on how he established trust, demonstrated results, and recommended solutions to achieve project success!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Change - Risk - Opportunity - Permanent Beta - Startup of You

I have been through many job changes during my profession as a business analyst over the past 15 years. In attempting to build my career and continuing to thrive in a constantly changing career marketplace, I have often reflected on what are considered essential steps that must be taken to continue building future career opportunities. Reading "The Start-Up of You" by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, really helped me reflect on why many of us (including me) are continuing to face an ever changing career marketplace and how we can position ourselves to manage our career. 

In the past 15-20 years, a dramatic change has taken place in the corporate world where the traditional career ladder has been drastically altered. With globalization and demographic influences, your career is no longer just looking for the next step in the corporate ladder. You must be able to understand this new career environment in order to continue moving into a fulfilling career. As the "The Start-Up of You" notes:
- "We are all works in progress"
- "We call this mind- set 'permanent beta'" (You are constantly reviewing your current skills and opportunities and iterating to the next version of yourself)
- "Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers. Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there's new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve."

We are in times of uncertainty, and only when you take every opportunity to help others and yourself, then and only then, will opportunity tap you on the shoulder. 

Five years ago, I was working in a large corporation, hoping that the massive layoff wave surfacing in the company would not find me, but it did. In reflection, I realized that I was hiding from my own ability to pivot to new opportunities. I was stuck until the layoff wave wiped me out. After surfacing, I took steps every day to move towards break-out opportunities:

- I joined Toastmasters and learned how to confidently present in front of others (prior to that I avoided presentations which was a detriment to career visibility)
- I joined IIBA (International Institute of Business Analyst) and from the confidence I gained in Toastmasters, I was able to step into the Chapter President role of the Austin IIBA Chapter (again in the past I would join groups but never step into leadership - confidence from Toastmasters lead to confidence in leading a group.)
- I have helped Austin IIBA Chapter to put together a professional development conference and that will bring together peers in the business analyst community to meet and help one another.

Tomorrow, when you wake up, will you reflect and understand what you have to take to improve? to help others? to begin making changes that influence a community through leadership? I have started my Start-Up. Will you?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Focus on the WHY

In my business analysis work, I have always placed my lens of focus on what a customer is trying to accomplish - their objectives. What steps in a process that are in place to meet a need. Until I picked up a copy of Simon Sinek's book - Start With Why - did I understand the magic on focusing on the WHY. As Simon notes in his book, many companies can have operational excellence, but until a company can lead with why they are in business, they will not reach the scale and success that others such as Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Harley Davidson have experienced.

Simon also notes that at an individual level, understanding your why can have powerful influence on your career decisions and directions. I encourage you to watch his TED video -, and also read his book to dig into WHY to help you understand how to move your career work in the direction that aligns with purpose!