How to Successfully Launch Your Business Analyst Career
Free Training (Part 2 of 3)

>> Click here to download the free Business Process Template <<

Modules include…


Full text of How to Avoid Missing Requirements by Analyzing the Business Process

Hi there. This is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. Thank you for everyone who watched and commented on part 1 of this online workshop. It was great to see so many people sharing what excites them about business analysis. The opportunities in this career path are really tremendous. 

Opportunities in Business Analysis 

In the last video, I shared why becoming a business analyst changed the entire trajectory of my life – both from a financial perspective in terms of elevating my salary potential but also because it provided the opportunity to do meaningful and rewarding work that stimulated me intellectually. It got me out of a place of frustration and resentment. 

You also saw how a BA career meant a $20K salary bump to a $90K annual salary for Amelia McHenry after she reached her salary cap as a technical writer and been laid off.  

And how there are opportunities to progress into leadership and management positions like Annette Richards did. 

I’ve helped hundreds, if not thousands, of professionals start and succeed in their business analyst careers since founding Bridging the Gap back in 2008. 

And now I want to take you deeper into how to actually launch your business analyst career. Because as you probably know, most BA jobs require experience. It can be so frustrating to discover this career that you are so excited about and then feel like you aren’t qualified for any of the available jobs. 

There is a tested and repeatable path out of this dilemma. And the same path gets you out of a limited business analyst role, and will also help you avoid missing software requirements. 

To help illustrate how this works, I’d like to share a bit more of my personal story – and how I went from my first professional position on the editorial team to the QA role and then to a BA role, all in about 18 months. 

How I Moved from Frustrated to QA to BA in 18 Months 

What got me out of that editorial role, and onto the QA team, was volunteering to contribute to an IT project. I asked several times before I finally was assigned to assist a senior editor on one of the online content products. 

Now, the culture of our team was to do as little as possible on an IT project. But then my senior editor went on a 3-week vacation during the testing phase of the project, and they needed help testing the content. I readily volunteered. I received some training on a database query tool, and figured out how to leverage that tool to clarify content-related defects. The testing team was focused on the functionality of the software and didn’t really understand how to test the data. Because I came from editorial and had been preparing that content for the product for the last several months, I could see the interconnections. 

I added so much value that a month later, they created a new position on the QA team for me so I could focus on doing this kind of testing for all of the active projects. 

And ‘poof!’ – that editorial role that had me literally bored to tears was history. I got a decent salary bump right away and my work immediately got more interesting. 

The insight here is that when you are first getting started – look for any opportunity to contribute to a software or change project in your organization. Look for the gap. Take on the work no one else wants to do. Solve a problem and add as much value as you possibly can. 

You might be wondering how this actually led me into business analysis – because it was about a year and a half later that I had that fateful meeting in the hallway. 

As part of this brand-new role, I was not just testing, I was developing a new role. I collaborated with many editorial teams across the organization on different products. I met business stakeholders. I developed test plans. I participated in requirements review meetings.  

Underneath it all, I was actually building a business process – a business process to test the data of our online content products. I also was learning about multiple areas of the business by working with so many different teams. And, even though I didn’t know how to code (and still don’t), I was learning the basics of how our systems were architected. This helped me identify what was actually a defect in the data versus what was in the content, or what was a functional defect in the software layer of the system. 

Now, I didn’t originally understand my story in this way. I really did think that this meeting in the hallway was a chance meeting. So fast-forward to 2008 when I started Bridging the Gap, the question I was asked again and again was,How do I start my business analyst career?” That might be a question that’s still on your mind today.

I honestly wanted to tell people to be in the right place and the right time! And that didn’t feel like a very credible answer. 

How I Discovered the Repeatable Strategy to Launch Your BA Career 

So I set out to discover the answer. I interviewed dozens of practicing business analysts. I found out that most of them “fell” into business analysis as well.  

  • Some were assigned as subject matter experts on an IT project, like I was, and became the go-to person to communicate business needs to the IT team. 
  • Others were on the software development side and were the developers who enjoyed talking to the business, and gradually started doing more business-focused communication and less system design and coding. 
  • Others were doing business analysis all along and didn’t realize there was a profession for the role they were filling. So their path to BA was like an awakening. 

I captured all of these insights into my book, How to Start a Business Analyst Career, which was first published in 2009 and I felt like this was the answer. I laid out these career strategies and the PDF ebook – my first ever product that I sold on Bridging the Gap – started selling really well on my website. I eventually published it in print and as a Kindle, and it became an Amazon best-seller too. 

But people still had more questions for me. They wanted to know how to actually make this kind of transition happen for them.  

How Wendy Went From Software Developer to Business Analyst 

In 2012, I offered my first online course teaching business analysis skills – specifically how to analyze a business process. And then I watched this strategy work for Wendy. 

Wendy was a software developer who desperately wanted out of the rat race of keeping up with each and every latest update to her technical skillset. And since she really enjoyed communication and collaboration, a business analyst role was a natural fit. 

But her organization didn’t have a business analyst role, so there didn’t seem to be a path for her to start a BA career. 

With my coaching and the skills she learned to apply in our course, she decided to start exactly where she was at and started analyzing a business process. The first process she analyzed was the customization process that was causing a lot of issues for her software development team. 

This process started when a customer requested a customization to their core product and ended when that customization was deployed into the live environment. 

She shared her documentation with her management team, and they were impressed with the value of what she provided, and the insight the process created into what had been a challenging area of work within the company. 

What’s more, she saved her company a lot of money. Because the software development team, naturally, wanted to automate the deployment process. It was a time-consuming and error-prone process. As a result of analyzing the process from end-to-end, Wendy helped the team discover a lot of efficiencies. The improved process wasn’t nearly so time-intensive and so didn’t need to be automated.  

A few months later, Wendy’s company created a business analyst role just for her, a role assisting the product manager.  

This is when I realized, this strategy of “falling” into a business analyst role – it didn’t just happen to people, it could be done in an intentional way by focusing on specific business analysis skills and applying them in your current work setting, even if you aren’t a practicing business analyst. 

How Lane Went From Donor Management to Business Analyst 

A lot of people ask about how this works for professionals without a technical background.  

Lane Malone, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was in donor management at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in early 2019. She had been doing donor engagement and fundraising for 14 years. 

Lane analyzed a very complicated process for restricted giving. This is when people want to contribute a large sum of money to the National MS Society, and the use of that contribution is restricted in a certain way. There is an audit at the end of the year to ensure the funds are used in a way that meets the donor’s expectations. 

Lane ended up modeling this process, working with many internal stakeholders. What started as a simple single process diagram ended up as a multi-tab Visio document with 12 different sub-processes that is now used to train and onboard new staff, and was instrumental in providing clarity when the 33 person individual giving team was recently restructured. 

A few months later, Lane moved into a completely new manager-level role focused on optimizing the processes related to all areas of donor engagement and increasing revenue. Lane is working on two significant projects as a remote, work-from-home BA – one is helping the individual giving and foundations team move over to Salesforce as their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool. And another is adopting a new project management tool for donor engagement events. She’s continuing to leverage her business process analysis skills in this new role to ensure these new systems are implemented in a way that actually supports the business. 

Business Processes Are Just As Important for Practicing BAs! 

This brings me to an important point. Business process analysis is not just an entryway into business analysis; it is really important for practicing business analysts as well. Even though our teams want us to focus just on the software requirements. But when we find ourselves spinning trying to discover the software requirements because the business stakeholders are unclear about what they really want, stepping back to analyze the business processes can help us move forward much more efficiently. 

This is also a great tool to understand new functional areas or business domains 

Now, I bet you’d like to understand how to get started analyzing your own process. Let’s take a deeper look at this technique. 

A Deeper Look at Business Process Analysis as a Technique 

A business process is a set of consistent, repeatable steps. 

The key elements of a business process are: 

  • Name – always use Verb/Noun syntax.
    • This is something that should clearly describe what the process is. A lot of people will call a process something like “Customer Relationship Management” or “Donor Management” but it’s actually best to start with a verb and then a noun. So “Manage Donor” would be an improvement, but “Solicit Donor Contributions” would be even better. It’s more specific and more clear about what that process is. Another example: “Donor Engagement” could mean a lot of things so “Invite Donor to Event” would make this much more specific.
  • Starts When statement – what’s the first thing that happens that kicks off that process? 
    • For example, the Invite Donor to Event process starts when a donor engagement specialist identifies a potential donor to invite.
  • Ends When statement – what’s the last thing that tells us the process is complete? 
    • Example: the Invite Donor to Event process ends when they have received a confirmed RSVP. Or perhaps it ends when they actually show up to the event.
  • Steps – what are the specific steps one or more business users go through to move the process from start to end? 
    • Each step needs to have a clear distinction of who is doing it or what role they’re in and clearly describe what that step is.
  • Decisions/Rules – any constraints on how the process is performed, or how business users make decisions as they implement the process. 
    • Example: What happens if the donor says they cannot attend or what happens if the donor wants to invite somebody else?

There can be more to analyzing and documenting a business process, and our template (which you can  download here)  contains 13 different sections and we cover all of them in detail inside our training. But these are the core elements that make up the essentials of a business process. 

And one of the most important sections of that template is a space for your workflow diagram, or your process flow diagram. Here’s what a very simple process diagram looks like. 

Each box in this process flow diagram is a step in the process. 

The arrows show the sequence of steps, or how one step leads to another. 

The diamonds represent decisions, or branches in the process. 

This is super simple and represents how most BAs visually model business processes – as simple workflow diagrams or process maps, not formal BPMN diagrams. 

What If I’m Not Currently Employed or Have No Opportunity? 

Now, you might be wondering, “How can I gain experience doing this kind of work if I’m not currently employed or have no opportunity?” 

  • Amelia McHenryWas actually employed under the “Business Analyst” title but didn’t have the opportunity to do much if any business analysis work. She was frustrated with her lack of opportunity at work so she volunteered to help her husband’s organization analyze their disaster recovery process. She was able to speak to this example in an interview, and leverage it into a contract BA role, where she had more opportunity to apply her BA skills.  
  • Todd FlemingWas in-between positions, so he offered to do pro bono work for his previous employer. He analyzed an invoicing process for his previous employer and found gaps in communication when an invoice was rejected. This led to paying contract work. 
  • Perry McGuire Was also in-between positions. He volunteered and helped a non-profit analyze their ‘Apply for Financial Assistance’ process and resolved some governance issues they were facing. This gave him a recent experience to speak to in a job interview, and he landed a new BA job soon after finishing The Business Analyst Blueprint® training program. 

There is always an opportunity to analyze a business process. You have to decide that you are going to find the opportunity and make it happen. 

And as you’ve seen, when you start here, doing business process work, you can quite quickly pave your path into a full business analyst job role. At a minimum, you’ve started to build on-the-job business analyst experience that you can put on your resume and speak to in interviews. 

What Happens When You Start Analyzing a Business Process 

Now, here’s what often happens when you start analyzing a business process. You find many opportunities to improve that process. This is how your very first business process can quickly snowball and create a lot of career momentum. 

And while many improvements can be made by adjusting the manual aspects of the flow, very often organizations want to leverage software to automate or streamline aspects of the business process. 

Getting everyone on the same page about the software requirements requires a different set of techniques. You need to look at the requirements from the 3 different perspectives – the business level, the software level, and the information/data level.  

In the next part of this workshop, I’ll introduce you to the business analysis techniques that enable you to cover all 3 of these areas, and truly avoid missing requirements 

For now, please leave a comment below. Let me know what business process YOU will be analyzing and what you think of this approach to launching your business analyst career. 

Remember, business processes are everywhere, so you shouldn’t have to look far. I’ll be reading all the comments and respond to as many as I can. 

This is Laura Brandenburg at Bridging the Gap. We build our profession one business analyst at a time. Success starts with you.  

Comments

  1. Hi Laura,

    I am currently unemployed after having finished my recent contract as Lead Specialist in Investment Performance Analysis. Part of the role involved implementing the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS) 2020. It required careful review of existing GIPS composites and ensuring that required disclosures were complete and any that were missing, in particular composite descriptions were drafted through collaboration with Product Executives/Managers; subsequently I would then ensure all composites descriptions were complete, unique or at least where a particular investment mandate/objective/strategy matched more than one existing composite the investment strategy was added for completeness.

    I had a conversation with an ex manager who advised that there is no better time for a career change and advised that I should consider being a BA in Investment Performance Analysis and bolster the transition with acquiring a database querying language such as SQL. My CV is currently being reviewed by an expert to fasciliate the transition but I have experience as a BA acquired when I worked on a project in Malaysia for large Sovereign Wealth manager. So the skills are there but lacking confidence has been a killer as I feel that I need an accreditration to convince potential employers.

    From what I have read in this section, my confidence has been boosted and I am reading your Blueprint with avid interest.

    Best regards,
    Canaan

  2. Connie Burda-Nicholson (CBN) says

    Thank you Laura,,
    I am currently working Release management and Change Management for some new teams here at Deluxe
    This is great timing to review the Business Process Template..
    Do you have a flow chart template too?
    I love following you, I have been at Deluxe for 39 years, I came here before Collage degree was a requirement.
    I am about 5 years from retiring so I have been filling my tool box with BA stuff that I use in my every day role

  3. Hi Laura
    This la Luis from México, I don’t have job currently, My last experience was like a QA and i participated on modeling processes, i’m tring to start a BA analista, i’ve reading babok but i don’t have any way to demonstrate My knowledge, what can i do?

  4. Hi Laura,

    We do a lot of work with web applications, so I am constantly looking at ways to improve them and organize them in a way that makes sense to the user. When I walked into this position, we were looking to launch an online professional growth portfolio for re-certification. Unfortunately, the process began without much planning and communication. I have now taken that process over and am attempting to find ways to improve the site without disrupting the process for each re-certifying candidate. We still have a ways to go, but I have managed to keep developers on task, give updates, request changes based on stakeholder feedback, and establish a scope of work. My plan is to go back and attempt to run the business process workflow on this online portfolio from the beginning in an effort to help us in the future.

    Thank you again for this information,
    Nicole

  5. Hi Laura,

    How important for BA to know any scripting or technical language.If it is must to know then which can be preferred?

    Regards,
    Ganga

    • DOUG GOLDBERG says

      Hi Ganga. This is Doug, one of the BTG instructors. My answer to your questions about scripting or technical language may be less than a concrete answer, but in truth, it depends on specific situations. Remember that there are two focal points: a) what skills you will need in the next year and b) what skills you will need across your career. I tend to focus on the second route, which is a bigger picture view.

      First, I don’t think knowing a specific coding language is needed, but understanding how developers put pieces and parts together in code, how they think in designing and building and how they test what they build is incredibly useful information when interacting with them.

      Second, a scripting language is not a requirement either, unless you mean a query language like SQL. That actually is a great skill to have as data analysis and analytics has become a key career path for many business analysts. A BA who can also serve intelligently as part Data Analyst is very valuable, and very sought after by employers.

    • Hi Ganga, I second Doug’s advice. And we’ll also be covering more about technical skills in part 3 of the workshop – so please stay tuned.

  6. Hello Laura !!!

    Thank you for all the information shared in the second video. I would like to know if you could guide us on what all points that can be included in our CV who does not have a BA Job but are willing to make a career change.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Pooja

    • Hi Pooja,

      Most BA jobs do require some experience, and so you need to be able to present transferable skills from your background. What is your career background?

      In part 3 we’ll go over the industry-standard BA skills which should help you further define transferable skills to put on your CV.

Comment

*