Category Archives: BA Skills

How to be a domain expert

Domain experience and business analysis go hand in hand. With every year added in the career, the employers start expecting the business analysts to be more specific and knowledgeable in the working areas. The business analysts are expected not to be an expert only in the processes but also have good exposure to the core domains so that the communication can be done using the functional terminologies related to specific domains. While discussing with different delivery managers and business unit heads I have noted that most of the individuals are following the strict guidelines for recruiting the business analysts. On one hand if business analysts are expected to be hands-on with different techniques, tools and business processes they are also supposed to have a good understanding of the working domains.

Today is the era when employers want to recruit the most efficient resources  working in their teams and the resources available for multiple tasks are always welcome. This is also true with the recruitment process of business analysts. Most of the times the business analysts are filtered out on the basis of domain expertise. The profile of business analysts is most misunderstood as it is spanned across the full project life cycle at different levels for different roles. They are expected to be the part of the core team throughout the project and thus  they have to be working with different teams. BTW business analysts are experts in working with different teams and the profile meant the same. Isn’t it?

In my recent book on business analysis I have emphasized more on the business processes and the knowledge areas. This is because the domain expertise comes with the continuous working in a specific domain and the terminologies can be learned in the course of time. While the business processes, tools and techniques hold the important role in the profile of business analysts. The business analysts are expected to work in the process oriented environment and they should be more focused on the techniques followed during the entire life cycle. Having domain experience is the added advantage and the people with testing or development background gain the same more easily and comfortably if they held the roles under certain functional umbrellas.

Nevertheless, learning is a continuous process and the domain knowledge can also be learned and developed. I have developed a technique of acquiring knowledge in any domain and I call it as an “AGILE” learning process. This process assists the business analysts to learn different domains and gain knowledge in any of the desirable domains.

A  – Ask Questions: Since our childhood we have been asked to ask. No matter  how silly the query is, but the same is valuable till it is answered.  So build the habit of asking questions. The questions related to the processes, product, techniques etc. always help in gaining knowledge in another domain. The domain understanding and the details related to terminologies come with the experience but in due course the individuals can frame questions to understand the processes. It’s always recommended to pen down the notes once you get answers to your questions as it will become a treasure till you are involved in that project. Asking questions remove the hurdles in the growing path and help the individuals in setting up their career path.

G – Get involved: Showing interest helps the individuals in getting marked and in turn the senior managers can refer them to the important meetings. Show curiosity in getting involved in the routine activities related to the project. Invite yourself to the meetings and show enthusiasm and be inquisitive while attending the meetings. Get involved in the important discussions and be active to be the part of the core team. Taking over the responsibilities and devoting energy to reach the targets helps the individuals in growing in any arena.

I – Increase Networking: Networking is always the best way to explore more options. The individuals looking for options in other domains are advised to increase their professional networking. Talking with  experts and seeking the opinions of the people working in your desirable domains is a smart way of gaining knowledge. Networking most of the times also help in landing to the desirable job position and hence it’s a good option to keep yourself updated on the professional networking sites and be in touch with the experts.

L – Look Around:  “Opportunity Knocks the door, but once”. You should always keep your senses working to look around for the available options and grab the most favorable option. While switching to any other domain, you need to think of the most common link between your current role and the future offering and then design the proposal to sell your profile for the available options. Think about the available options, be open to learn new techniques and work in odd conditions. It’s good to work on your terms but showing adaptability increase your chances of getting introduced to other areas.

E – Educate yourself: Gaining knowledge in desired domains is a stepping stone of getting into the dream role. There are potential trainings, workshops and certifications available in the market where the individuals can learn and improve their credentials. It is said that some portion of your income should be devoted in learning processes. It’s a self-investment which results in unexpected profits in the future.

So above we have learned a technique to grow in the desired field of knowledge and mark the footsteps into the space of new knowledge domains.

 

Happy Learning!!

Steps to become a BA

Become a BA – 3 simple steps

Business analysis is one of the most alluring career path for many IT and non-IT professionals. Business analysts who act like a liaison among different stakeholders always sit at the driver’s seat and manage the requirements throughout the project life-cycle. The BA’s job starts right from the planning and continues till the project moves to the maintenance phase. Business analysts are not bound to the job titles and they perform the set of tasks and techniques in order to understand the requirements and recommend the solutions. Business analysis is not just about the requirements and managing them but it is much more than that which includes problem analysis, process modelling, and stakeholder analysis, assessing and validating the solutions.

The business analysts focus on delivering business value and ensuring that the stakeholders’ needs are met. The basic fundamental to keep in mind is that the business analysis is not about completing the tasks in time but it’s about the processes, it’s about providing quality solutions against the business requirements and needs. During my career path I have been obliged to work with many skilled professionals and according to them the business analysis is not as easy as it seems and also it’s not as complicated as people make it. It’s about understanding the needs and moulding the skills as per the requirements. Getting into the BA shoes is very challenging as it requires lots of patience and intellect to deal with different stakeholders and in the meantime managing the requirements. But as Salvador Dali has said, “It is either easy or impossible”. So let’s make it easy to get into the BA shoes in 3 simple steps:

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Requirements

Requirement – Techniques and Characteristics

Requirement is defined as the most important attribute of any business which must be delivered to provide the value. As per BABOK, a requirement is a condition or capability that must be met or possessed by a solution to satisfy the contract, standard, specification or other formally imposed documents and hence it becomes one of the key objectives of a business analyst to elicit and document correct and unambiguous requirements.

Requirements are broadly classified into different sections and this classification defines the criticality of the requirements. The higher level goals, objectives and needs of an organization are classified under business requirements. The business requirements define the reasons of project initiation and these requirements should hold the validity throughout the project life-cycle. Business runs with the stakeholders and the requirements of these stakeholders should not be ignored. These stakeholder requirements describe the need of the stakeholders and how they interact with the solution. Later comes the functional and non-functional requirements which describe the behaviour and information that the solution should posses including the different environmental conditions in which these solutions should retain its validity.

The term requirement generates a lot of discussion and many debates happen to qualify the list of those requirements that should be added to the final version of the requirement document or not. It’s important for business analysts and owners to work closely to classify the requirements and to avoid the ambiguity. The business analysts and developers can’t accurately judge the completeness or correctness of the requirements whereas the normal users can’t assess technical feasibility and hence it becomes very important to verify the requirements during elicitation.

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stakeholder-management1

Stakeholder Analysis and Management

Stakeholders are important to any project and effective management of these involved stakeholders is absolutely crucial to the successful completion of any project. Stakeholders refer to a person, group, organization, member or system that is impacted by the organization’s actions and managing them throughout the life-cycle of the project is highly important. Stakeholder analysis involves the actions taken in analyzing attitudes of the required stakeholders.

Business Analyst being the liaison among different stakeholders plays very vital role in the management of these involved groups and persons. The stakeholder management is directly proportional to the success of the project. The poorly managed stakeholders always act as negative catalysts in the development of the project and this may lead to the project failing. Stakeholder management results in building coalitions and building potential partnerships among different stakeholders and in turn develops valuable trust.

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Is domain knowledge necessary for a BA

It’s always being a matter of discussion that a BA should possess domain expertise or the skills of a business analyst is enough to understand and work with any domain. It is widely accepted that experience in any domain, marks the BA out of the crowd and helps in easy recruitment by the recruiters but I have a different thought on it, I believe a BA with thorough understanding of knowledge areas can gain expertise in any domain.

DomainsDomain experience is hands-on business skills or domain knowledge acquired by working in a specialized industry such as automobile, banking, insurance, telecom and also IT. Some people believe that IT is not a specific domain for business analysts but I just want to mention here that most of the BAs under IIBA chapter are from the IT background and they qualify the knowledge areas mentioned in the BABOK. An IT business analyst thus should possess the IIBA qualified BA skills.

Domain knowledge develops with the time spend on the domain specific projects and its subjective to the type of project a BA is working with. So is it really important for a BA to stick to any specific domain for better career path or he can switch to different domains easily? I also believed like many others that switching to other domain is pretty much difficult and finding jobs in other domains is equal to impossible as mostly the recruiters are bound with the filter of domains and the resumes with domain experience percolates out only. But after doing some more study on the subject I came to know that this instead is not that much difficult and BAs can grow up in their endeavours even without having much domain experience.

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Knowledge Areas of BA

Business Analysis is all about tasks and techniques followed to qualify the business needs and finding the business solution. The solution may include the system development, process development or improvement and change in the organizational structure. It is about the process to complete the tasks with quality and those who follow these processes are known as business analysts. In some organizations, these business analysts are referred as system analysts, SME (subject matter experts), business process analysts, business system analysts and many more.

The tasks followed by business analyst require specific knowledge areas and a business analyst should focus on them while performing the activities. Many writers have defined these knowledge areas by different names and in different formats. BABOK (Business analysis body of Knowledge) has also defined these knowledge areas which group together related tasks and techniques.

Knowledge areas define the set of techniques which a BA should understand and try to practise during the routine activities. There is no arrangement for these knowledge areas and the tasks from all these knowledge areas can be performed in rapid succession depending on the pertinent inputs from the business owners.

As per BABOK, the list of these knowledge areas (KA) is as below:

  1. Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring
  2. Requirements Elicitation
  3. Requirements Management and Communication
  4. Enterprise Analysis
  5. Requirements Analysis
  6. Solution Assessment and Validation
  7. Underlying Competencies

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Seven Habits of a Successful BA

In the current working culture and a cut-throat competition everyone is putting hard to be a out-performer  There is a vast difference between the task performed by a professional rather than an amateur. This difference in quality of work comes with the experience and the process followed by an expert. As they say, “I don’t know the reason of success, but certainly failed becauseseven-habits of pleasing everyone”. A professional believes in his way of working and each time gets recognized among the peers and subordinates and also at the senior levels.

There is no hidden magic behind being a successful BA but because of the highly valued skills and competence level separates a successful rather star BA from the crowd. There are many qualities a BA should possess as his responsibility is quite distinguished and vary at different levels of the work performed and among different hierarchy levels. But I believe that these qualities to be a successful BA can be developed if s/he follows certain habits. I can think of 7 such habits which a successful BA should possess.

1)     Believe in eliciting rather gathering:

Requirement gathering is the foremost quality of any business analyst, but the important aspect is how smartly the work is done so that there is no ambiguity in the final version of the requirement details. Hence it is always recommended that a BA should think of certain different methods to collect the information from different stakeholders. The detail of requirement gathering is well explained in BABOK but I think eliciting the requirement is rather more important in this aspect. A successful BA always believes in eliciting the requirements using certain tactics like prototyping, brainstorming, interviewing etc. The elicitation always moors the BA from getting wrong information. Continue reading

BA: Do you really understand the business need?

BA: Do you really understand the business need?

business-needI think this time the topic is quite rude and primitive. The aspiring BAs may feel it more hurting if someone asks them if they understand the business need, business case or some other heavy term related to business. But I believe this is very basic and fundamental question to all BAs as if they don’t understand the need of the business, they will not be in the position to analyze it.

We always talk about requirements and their management, stakeholders and their views but very few people I have seen talking about business need. For me the bigger question is “do I understand the purpose of the project to which I am involved”. If the answer to this is no, then there is certainly a gap between the team working and team manager. The business need is required as it helps to determine the use of the project. It will have a emotional attachment with the team and in turn team will perform better. Continue reading

Personal skills and Business Analysis

Personal skills sometimes known as interpersonal or behavioral skills or people skills are most useful for a business analyst. First and foremost is the communication. A business analyst should be able to communicate with all the stakeholders in a way which is acceptable. There should not be much “I’s” in the communication when you are representing any team. It definitely portrays a wrong impression before the others. Communication is the only medium which helps in building rapport and relationships. It should not be half duplex. A good business analyst is one who is a good listener and accepts the criticism as well.   Learn to accept criticism as constructive and valued, rather than destructive and to be avoided at all cost.

A good BA looks at every problem as a new challenge and accepts it in a positive way. If the problem is so intense that there is situation of not implementing any optimal solution due to any of the reasons, a business analyst must be prepared to yield the least business benefit out of it. He should know how to make out the most from the least.

A BA should have problem solving skill. I believe instead of giving prompt responses at the time of critical situations a BA should check out for all the options available and then replies with the most appropriate one. The impact should not be fast at the time of critical decisions. A good listener can develop this kind of skill as he can analyze all the explained solutions. Preparing documents or listing down the necessary actions is another option which can help in providing solutions or develop problem solving skills. I would recommend immediately documenting thoughts that could be stored in short term memory. Continue reading