An IT Consultant Awakens to a Career in Business Analysis: Aaron Whittenberger, CBAP

This week we have the opportunity to meet with Aaron Whittenberger, a Certified Business Analysis Professional with over 20 years in the IT industry and 12 years as a consultant. Aaron currently consults with STAR BASE Consulting and blogs about IT Consulting and Business Analysis. Aaron discovered the business analysis profession just a few years ago and has quickly made his mark by becoming certified, getting involved with the IIBA Cincinnati Chapter, and participating in IIBA’s Certification Role Delineation Committee which will be overseeing the new CCBA certification.

Discovering Business Analysis

Laura: How did you get started as a business analyst?

Aaron: I got started soon after college. I had a degree in accounting and finance and became involved in some IT projects. My boss knew I liked working with computers so when they decided to install a new ERP system I was asked to lead the project. I built my career first as a developer but was also given many opportunities to do project management and what I later learned was business analysis.

A few years ago, I took a “BA Boot Camp” and became fully aware of business analysis as a profession. I have over 20 years of IT experience and 12 as an IT Consultant, but that class was like an awakening. It helped me become aware of IIBA and interested in becoming a CBAP. I saw the business analyst role as interesting – the profession was obviously new and growing. I had an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and influence the direction of an entire profession.

Laura: What was the awakening like?

Aaron: I realized that I had been doing business analysis for a long time, even though I had never held the title nor been aware of the profession. As I learned about the role, I kept realizing that I had done so many of the pieces multiple times throughout my career. When I realized I could be qualified to sit for the CBAP exam I was surprised. At the time, I was interested in getting my PMP, but with the CBAP having less than 500 designees worldwide, I thought it could have a bigger impact on my career.

Filling a Hybrid Role in a Consulting Organization

Laura: What’s your current role?

Aaron: My current role is a hybrid of business analysis, project management and development. I’m a consultant within a consulting company, so essentially I do whatever the client wants me to do. My focus is much more around business analysis, but I’ll do what it takes to complete my projects successfully. Here in STAR BASE, concentrating in business analysis has given me unique opportunities in developing new services for the company.

Laura: What kinds of projects do you work on as a consultant?

Aaron: I have been involved in just about any kind of project you can think of over my career.  Everything from simple bugs and enhancements to applications, to  production support, migrations to new platforms, cross-application interfaces, cross-platform interfaces, new software/vendor analysis, ERP implementations and designing and developing new systems.

Laura: What are some of the benefits of working as a consultant within a consulting company?

Aaron: You learn very quickly that there is more than one way to “skin a cat” (apologies to the cat lovers out there).  You see different ways that organizations handle issues, do things, define roles.  You get to work with a variety of different people.  I believe you learn and grow faster by moving from company to company than staying in one place for your entire career.

Laura: How has the CBAP helped your consulting career?

Aaron: I have a lot more confidence in my abilities as a business analyst. Clients know I’m certified and so they know I’m talking to them from a position of knowledge and experience. I have also grown in my confidence with my management; I have been involved in developing new services and I’m working to develop a business analysis branch of our consulting arm.

Looking Into the Future of Business Analysis

Laura: What do you see in the future for the business analysis role?

Aaron: I’m a forever optimist and I realize that it may take a few years or decades for my vision to materialize. But when you think about it, PMI is 50 years old now. Project managers went through these growing pains too.

The future I see is that every business organization in the world has a project service team of business analysts, project managers and quality assurance professionals that work together as a team. Management recognizes the roles equally and all are performing at a high standard using bodies of knowledge within their company. Business analysts are actively involved in enterprise analysis activities and help ensuring their organizations are making the best possible investments.

The other part of the future that I hope stays true is that the IIBA protects the value of the CBAP. I hope we never have 300,000 CBAPs. I have several technical certifications from IBM. They are based on knowledge, not experience, and require no re-certification. These have much less value to me than my CBAP does and I’d like to keep it that way.

Laura: Aaron, Thanks so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and learning about your career experiences!

Aaron: You are very welcome.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.  I do appreciate it.  I hope I have been of help to your readers.  I have always enjoyed reading Bridging the Gap, so thank you for the opportunity to contribute to it.

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