Elevating the BA Contribution on an Agile Software Development Team: Dave Gallant

Today we meet Dave Gallant, an ACBA and Business Analyst for the Federal Government from Ontario, who recently completed The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program where his biggest takeaway was an increase in confidence in knowing what to do for deep analysis work.

What we love about Dave’s story is that he was at a crossroads in his career. With a background in software development, he was trying to decide if business analysis was the career path he wanted to continue down or if he wanted to seek out another career.

Once he identified some holes in his knowledge, he found The Blueprint® Program and was able to fill in the gaps and find more fulfillment in his work.

In this interview, you’ll discover:

  • How Dave was able to apply the concepts learned in the program immediately to his current role on an agile software development team.
  • The value of timely instructor feedback and assistance, and how integrating the feedback was actually one of the best parts of the program because he immediately changed the way he was doing his job.
  • Why the days of pulling his hair out over user stories with the developer team and product owners are now behind him, and the insights he gleaned from no longer seeing user stories as an analytical tool.
  • The excitement Dave now has in his work and in his skills as a BA and his ability to use his talents in his future endeavors.

 

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Good day. My name is Beverly Sudbury. I’m an instructor with Bridging the Gap and I’m here today with Dave Gallant, who is from Ottawa, Ontario, and he’s working currently as a business analyst for the Federal Government. Today, Dave is very kind to join us. Tell us a little bit about his journey and how his participation in The Business Analysis Blueprint® program contributed to his success. Thank you, Dave, so much for being here. I really appreciate you sharing your story today.

DAVE GALLANT: Thanks Beverly. Glad to be here.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: I am quite excited to hear about your story. So, let’s begin. How about we take a look back at 2021 timeframe before you really started thinking about The Business Analysis Blueprint program, and was kind of looking around for things, where were you at in your career at that time?

DAVE GALLANT: Well, 2021, I was kind of buried in a bunch of requirements. In my job, I’d been a BA for about a year and a half at that point. I’d written a bunch of specs for product, and frankly, the specs just weren’t, they were okay for a new BA, but it was a pretty difficult process going through the development cycle with those specs the way they were.

Because it was a waterfall type of methodology for the actual development, once we had started the development, it was not like we could rewrite the specs halfway through very easily. It was a real challenge the first half of 2021. It really got me thinking about how I was going to change things. I thought even well, was I going to stay as a BA? Was this going to work out? I needed something different. But I did figure out that, no, this is the job I want. I just didn’t know quite how to do the job. There was a gap that I needed to fill. So that’s where I found, that’s where the Bridging the Gap program came in.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: We literally became your bridging of your gap on your understanding of business analysis.

DAVE GALLANT: Yeah.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: It sounded like you had some really good achievements there that you wanted to capture and really worked towards being a BA, or I should say, not even just being a BA; being a better BA to really expand your career. What were you looking to achieve in your career as a business analyst?

DAVE GALLANT: I was looking to get a solid foundation as a BA with a classical set of tools that I could use for a long time. I’d come into the job as a former software developer who kind of knew, instinctually, parts of the job. I knew how to draw process diagram to some degree and how to do wire frames to some degree. But in a way more that a software developer would’ve done such thing, not a business analyst. There was the whole analysis part of business analysis that I didn’t really know much about. That was what I was really trying to come out with was a much more solid better ground to stand on as far as the analysis work that I needed behind the user stories that we were writing in this agile environment. Because before I just wrote the stories and kind of did the analysis ad hoc on the fly, and that just produced inconsistent results. Sometimes it was okay, but sometimes it was not that great.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Understandable. I came from a very similar background as you, starting out as a developer and kind of moved my way through and said, “I kind of like this work.” I agree. You have to kind of change your mindset. It sounded like you were looking for a good set of skills and some really good tools to take away. Is that what made you decide to go with the Business Analysis Blueprint?

DAVE GALLANT: I looked at the material fairly carefully, I think, on the business analysis and The Blueprint website. I just thought it was quite compelling. I thought that there was going to be a fair bit of depth to the course, and there was going to be a lot in there.

I particularly, saw that even people who had quite a bit of experience thought it was very helpful. That was like this is in the right zone of training. The program was about the right length. It did move through the material quickly enough as well that I was able to like use it on the fly to actually produce results, as the course went along. It was a nice integration point, too, because the course, time is relatively limited outside of work hours for these kinds of things. So it was nice to actually be able to use a fair bit of my material from my real job in the program.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Wonderful. It sounds like you really researched and really found that this was a good fit for you.

I know that I had seen some feedback that you gave about the course and you said you really liked how the course progressed through the different modules and how you had different workbooks to complete and you had support from instructors. Can you give a little bit more explanation about what you felt was beneficial about the program and the support you received?

DAVE GALLANT: Sure. I think the most beneficial thing, particularly about the way that the workbooks are set up is that just like the real job, the workbooks are an iterative process. You kind of look at them, and I learned not necessarily quickly, but I learned as I went through the workbooks that the more time you had to do multiple passes through the questions and look at the results, the better the result was going to be, and that’s very much like the real job. That’s really informed the way that I actually do the BA work is not expecting to get it right the first time around, and that you typically need to engage the stakeholders, for example, multiple times. You might see things different ways in different meetings, even with the same people in the same topic. There was a good correlation between the way the workbooks are set up and the way the real job is.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Yeah, it sounds really good. The instructor feedback was very beneficial to you as well?

DAVE GALLANT: Definitely. I mean, I think particularly, in the workbooks that I did revisions for and workbooks in the modules two and three, which where, in hindsight, I think they were the most challenging, at least they were to me anyway. I think it’s particularly in the revision workbooks where the feedback and the course corrections were extremely valuable because they actually just showed me where the real gaps were in the way I was doing the job. That was extremely.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Yeah, sounds great. Was there any other aspects of the course that you really found? I know there are times we have instructor hours and we have webinars. Was there anything else that you would say was really valuable to maybe a participant who might be coming and looking at the possibility of taking this course?

DAVE GALLANT: I would say, I mean, those things were very important and it was well worth attending the instructor hours, but also just the fact that you could email anytime if you have a question about something. There’s a good sense of a community of people, and it goes beyond the program. I think that was very valuable that you sort of build these connections in the program, and then you could also reach out later if you have a question. It provided a lot of structure. Overall, the whole thing just provided a lot of structure that I needed in a job that is being done entirely remotely at this point. My workplace is nobody’s back at a physical office yet. It did provide that level of structure throughout the entire six month program and, of course, a bit beyond.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Sounds like you gain a lot of skills and a lot of confidence in reaching out, and now you’ve got a community of people to help you out. I think that’s very beneficial to any BA coming up and it’s really good to network. I agree with you. Those are beneficial items to have around you.

Now you’ve successfully completed. You have your ACBA certification. Congratulations on that. Very wonderful to hear. How are you now utilizing those teachings in your day to day work?

DAVE GALLANT: Well, I think it’s, as Laura said in the closing remarks, or at least I either read it or heard it. I don’t remember which, but just talking about how you kind of get all the pieces together through the course, and then you just have to kind of ride the bike and that’s kind of where I am. You just have to say, okay, which of the tools in the toolbox do I need to use this week to do this thing? And you just get it. That just takes time and practice to understand what tool you want to pull out to do the analysis work or whether you have enough analysis done to do the drafting work, in this case, for like the deliverables for the user stories.

I’d say that I think over the next year, there’s going to be a lot of me referring back to the course material to go read over a section or a piece where I need to use that particular tool or skill. And it’s not, necessarily, going to be immediately in my mind. I’ll have to refer to the materials which I’ve got the curriculum in my little sort of collection so I can go and look up a piece and stuff. I think that’s where I am now. Just kind of using the pieces as I need them, and then I’ll look more up as it comes up.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: It sounds like you’ve got a really good toolkit based on the curriculum from the Blueprint program based on what you’ve learned and what you’ve experienced, and the feedback that you’ve got, which is fantastic.

Tell me a little bit about your career now. How have things improved with your work, and how have you progressed?

DAVE GALLANT: Well, I think the biggest thing is just the increase in confidence in that I actually now have a sense of what to do for the analysis work. The days of pulling my hair out over user stories with the developer team and the product owner are, hopefully, to some degree behind me. I mean the truth is software development is very complicated. I really did need that formal training as a BA to be able to say, here are the questions that need to be asked so that we can figure out how to move the project forward. I think that’s probably the biggest thing going on for me is just knowing. I’ve learned what questions to ask which helps a lot.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Sounds like your communication skills have improved greatly, too, from taking the course and learning like, as you said, what to ask and when. I think that’s going to be really beneficial to you and I hope you agree with that.

DAVE GALLANT: For sure.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Again, now that you’ve completed and things are going really well in your career and you’re looking forward to a very bright future, and many advantages that you have now, what would you say is some advice for someone that’s coming up that may see your story in this interview and say, “I want to be like him. I want to do what he’s done.” Do you have some advice for up and coming BAs or even BAs that are in the industry now and are maybe struggling a little bit like you did?

DAVE GALLANT: Sure. I think the biggest thing is, as we said at the beginning of the course, it is a commitment and you do need to block the time. You do need the time every week to work on it pretty much. You get some time off in the course, but definitely I would say one thing is you do get a sense, very quickly, of how much is involved when you start the course and don’t be thrown off by it. It is a lot. There’s a lot in there, but it’s also highly valuable and I would say that it was worth every bit of effort that went in. It is well and truly justified in that it was a great result at the end. I would say that there’s a lot to be said for just being positive to it. But when you get feedback and you do a revision workbook and you’re like, “Oh crap, I’ve got to go redo, X, Y, and Z,” but that’s actually one of the best parts of the program. I thought that was absolutely the best part, actually. It was just the fact that you got so much feedback and the revision workbooks, if you have to do them. It was just a huge learning opportunity there. You could almost immediately change the way you’re doing part of the job in your real job, if you happen to be employed as a BA at that time.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Sounds great. I agree with you. It is very beneficial when you can have that feedback from someone and you can reflect on it and say, “Wait a minute. I agree. It’s a different way of maybe approaching something or a different way of looking at something. And now let’s look at it a different way.” And you can reframe how your approaching a particular problem or a particular challenge that is put in front of you. So it sounds like you really do have a lot of great skills going forward and you really have a lot of good advice for people up and coming. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of really great value from taking the course and dedicating your time to the investment of not only the work, but also the understanding of what was presented.

DAVE GALLANT: Absolutely. You know, I would say there were some pretty big takeaways for me from the program. One of them, working in an agile software development environment, is that a user story is not an analytical tool. That was a huge thing for me, because I kept doing that. I kept wanting to say, “I’ll just do the analysis where I write the stories.” I was like, “No. Don’t do that doesn’t make sense.” That was a big win. And also the way in which BAs learn to use language in a very precise way to specify requirements and to avoid a lot of headaches down the road. That was, I think, the other major win from just this like bullets at the end of the course, or highlights, I guess I’d say.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: Sounds great. Yeah, you really, really do have a great look on this and a great amount of takeaways from the course. I’m very happy that you completed and you did so well and you found such great value in the course. I really appreciate you sharing that with us.

DAVE GALLANT: Oh, no problem. My pleasure.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: All right. Thank you so much for your time today, Dave. Is there anything else you’d like to share with anyone out there?

DAVE GALLANT: Well, my advice is if you’re thinking about it, just go for it. I think the course is well worth the time for sure. It does take a bit of time, but it’s worth the effort for sure.

BEVERLY SUDBURY: All right. Thank you so much, Dave. Really appreciate having you here.

DAVE GALLANT: All right. Take care.

How to Learn the Foundational Business Analyst Skills

(And Build Your Body of Formal Work Samples)

When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll gain real-world experience in the industry-standard techniques and business analysis processes. You’ll create work samples vetted by experienced instructors and have the opportunity to become a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).

>> Click here for more information about The Business Analyst Blueprint® <<

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