New challenges and experiences are good for the soul.
Alex Papworth has been freelancing as a business analyst since 1999. He is Marketing and Communications Director with the UK chapter of IIBA and hosts a blog to help business analysts: BA Mentor. Alex was kind enough to spend time speaking with me last week and shared many insights about working in large corporate environments and the pros and cons of being a freelance business analyst. I’m excited to share some of those insights with you today.
Freelance business analyst: pros and cons
Question: What are some of the advantages of freelancing as a business analyst vs. a full-time business analyst position?
Answer: If you can generate consistent work, you’ll make a better income as a freelance business analyst. In theory, you are a master of your own destiny. But the reality is that if your preference is to be employed most of the time, you can’t be as selective about each opportunity. However, if you are willing to take some time off between contracts, then you can be selective about the positions you take on.
As a contractor you don’t get as involved in office politics. They are still there and you need to work through them. But because you are working with that organization for a fixed duration of time, you don’t need to fully engage in the politics.
A key advantage of freelancing is that you have the opportunity to face fresh challenges on a regular basis. You learn about new organization and have new experiences. This makes it nearly impossible to get stuck in a rut, which can be easy to do if you are employed full-time with an organization for several years.
Question: What challenges do you face when starting with a new organization?
Answer: As a freelancer, it’s important to be productive in a short amount of time. This means you need to quickly understand the way the organization works, what expectations they have of someone in your position, and over-deliver to generate a good name for yourself.
Question: What recommendation do you have for a BA starting in a new organization?
Answer: Don’t go in with a box around your role — i.e. this is what I do and this is what I don’t do. Your job as a business analyst is to find the problems and solve them. Every organization defines the BA role a bit differently because they have a slightly different hole to plug. Figure out what hole the BA plugs in that organization and fit yourself into it.
Business analysis in a big corporate environment
Question: What’s it like day-to-day to be a business analyst in a big corporation?
Answer: In a corporate role, there is plenty of chaos. Just because you are involved in a big corporation, it does not mean that things move smoothly. There can also be bureaucracy to work through as a BA. Typically, there is a level at which you are expected to conform to specific standards and a framework within which you must work. When starting with a new company, it’s critical you learn the framework quickly.
Question: How do you go about learning that framework?
Answer: Typically there is documentation about the process and sometimes you’ll even be able to find knowledge via eLearning opportunities on the corporate intranet. Most companies don’t have a formal induction process so in your first few weeks, you need to go and seek out the information you need. Oftentimes your co-workers are the best source of knowledge about how requirements get delivered and can point you in the right direction.