Reader Question 1:How easy or how difficult is it to move from one domain to another? For example, if a BA wants to move from finance domain to health care domain (and vice versa), what are the challenges and obstacles h/she has to face? I have experience in the benefits industry. If I want to go to the finance industry, what are the challenges that I have to face?
Reader Question 2: Does the domain knowledge plays a vital roles for BA before getting into any projects? Also how do BA’s overcome the challenges when moving from one domain to another domain (from manufacturing to aviation etc)?
A good understanding of the business domain in which you are working is critical to your success as a business analyst, primarily because one of your main roles is to understand what problem(s) the organization is trying to solve and how the project(s) on which you are working can solve those problems. In order to understand the problem space, you have to understand the domain.
That is not to say that you have to have in depth domain knowledge going into the project. If you have a general understanding of how business works, and you have the necessary inquisitiveness to seek out understanding of the specific domain, you can be successful as a Business Analyst.
(That being said, you will run into job postings that require prior business / industry domain expertise, and this can impact your job search.)
Many of the challenges involved in changing domains have to do with developing a thorough understanding of the new domain so that you can gauge the criticality of the problem and identify characteristics of a desirable solution. The best way to deal with those challenges is to invest some time getting familiar with the new domain on your own. In addition, understanding your organization’s particular view of the industry is always helpful.
Look for industry association websites and glean as much information as you can for free. If you believe you will be in that domain for the long haul, it may be worth it to join, but don’t feel compelled to do so. I have shared some examples below for the domains mentioned in the questions. Keep in mind that the domains suggested are quite broad, so you will want to see if there are more specific industry associations relevant to the organization at which you are working.
- Healthcare: Healthcare Information Management Systems Society
- Finance: American Bankers Association
- Manufacturing: National Association of Manufacturers
- Aviation: General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Determine if you have anyone in your network that works, and is knowledgeable, in that industry. Meet them for lunch or coffee to get more of an informal understanding of how things work in the industry. If they have a lot to offer, establish an ongoing mentoring relationship with them.
Search the business press (Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune) for news stories about the industry in general or the company with which you will be working in particular. These sources of information will be more objective views of what is currently going on in the domain when compared to the professional associations.
If the organization for which you are working is publicly traded, read through their SEC filings for an understanding of their financial position and hints at their strategy, at least what they are willing to share with their share holders, the government and the general public. These are usually found on the investor relations section of the organization’s website.
In my 15 years as a consultant, I have worked at ten organizations in seven different industries and found the above steps very helpful in becoming quickly acclimated to the new domain. I also found that my fresh perspective to the domain allowed me to ask “why” questions quite often while staying under the cover of seeking to understand rather than asking because I think the current activity is just plain silly.
Take advantage of your fresh perspective to drill down to the root cause of the particular problem you are attacking and understand what the real cause. People who have been involved with a particular domain or organization will tend to make a lot of assumptions and not fully delve into whether they are solving the right problem.
>> Learn to Ask the Right Questions
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