The Origin of the Bridging the Gap Business Analysis Process Framework

Hundreds of business analysts have learned and applied the Bridging the Gap Business Analysis Process Framework to make their BA work more effective and successful. And I’ve been receiving lots of questions about how this framework came to be…

The answer might surprise you…


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For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

Starting a Business Analysis Career without a Process Framework

Hello, this is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. Today I want to talk a little bit about our business analysis process framework. Before I dive into that, let me just tell you a little bit about how I got started as a business analyst and what that looked like.

Business Analysis Process Framework

The brief story is before I was a business analyst I was a Quality Assurance professional.

I asked so many questions in those requirements meetings as a QA analyst that they eventually said, “Why don’t you come over on to the other side and help discover and analyze these requirements yourself?” That is the briefest story (read the elaborated story here), but I was doing a lot of business process analysis, a lot of test case creation and planning as part of that QA role that set me up for that business analyst role.

Not Too Much or Too Little: Building a Business Analysis Process Framework that Makes Sense in the Real World

In that business analyst role, I definitely felt in way over my head and I was lucky to have a mentor. We didn’t have a process. We had some templates that we used and some basic structure for our project. We didn’t have a step-by-step of how to approach our work. We didn’t realize that there were other people at other companies doing work like us. We thought we were special and unique and in this role that was only applicable in our organization.

A lot of BAs in the world today, maybe even you, have felt like this until you stumbled across IIBA® and the fact that there’s a title for the work you do as a business analyst or business systems analyst or business process analyst, whatever you want to call it.

What I learned as I moved from company to company and started the switch industries and then eventually built a team of business analysts and project managers and quality assurance professionals, and then by becoming a contractor and being exposed even more companies and methodologies and industries and realized that I didn’t have to make this up as I went along. There was more the same than there was different.

My work on the project was different. The templates I used in one organization were often a little bit different than another. The questions I asked were very specific to that to mean that I was intuitively following a set of best practices and a best practice approach. I was what you might call an unconscious competent. I was very competent and successful as a business analyst, but I wouldn’t have been able to teach someone else about it.

Fast forward a little bit and I did start to train other business analysts through Bridging the Gap all the way back in 2008. At that time I still didn’t think I had a process. I’ll just be totally honest there. I started teaching the techniques first.

We taught business process analysis and use cases and wireframes and data modeling. Those were the first courses I developed because I knew how I could apply those techniques and we always use them on our projects. But I didn’t have an intro to business analysis or how to get started as a BA, we just focused on the techniques.

I kept seeing this burning need and people were asking me, “Why approach a project?” “What do I need to do to be effective?” “What does it look like from point A to point Z?” “What is the 1, 2, 3 look like of business analysis?”

There were a lot of other options in the industry, but quite honestly, my perspective on those is that they were quite heavy. Heavy meaning they required more time and more formality than most of us had in our real-world work.

A Business Analysis Framework Created from Successful Projects

When we’re in an organization that doesn’t go by the book and needs us to be successful anyway, and so what we needed as a profession was a very simplified process, one that would be both thorough but flexible and that focused on the core essentials of what it took to be successful and effective as a business analyst. And one that would save business analysts’ time rather than creating a lot of extra busywork. Kind of mind-blowing.

On the other hand of our industry, we had too much formality and then we had agile approaches. We still have agile approaches today. Agile is amazing as a software development methodology in practice. Agile is not a business analysis process.

In fact, the success of an agile team depends on so much business analysis happening before we get to a product backlog.

  • What problem are we solving?
  • What is their key goal here?
  • Who is aligned around the scope of this goal and how we’re going to move forward with this goal?

And what the requirements need to be.

We assume that this business analysis has happened before we start, what is covered in a traditional agile approach. We needed, as BAs though, to be cognizant of this and we needed to simplify our process and focus on the essentials. What happened is I saw one of the biggest mistakes that BAs would make when they would be faced with an agile transformation or their organization was going agile.

This is the biggest mistake besides just digging in and resisting it. We know that doesn’t work. The other mistake, once we didn’t dig in and resist it, we would throw away all the important bits and pieces that would truly make us successful as business analysts. We would focus on the agile techniques and lose out on the business analysis techniques that made us successful.

When I sat down and thought through my most successful projects and what I had done and how I had created those successes, what came from that was the business analysis process framework, and it’s really a middle ground. It’s what you need to do to be effective and how to make decisions about what’s important and what’s not important and how to connect our business analysis practices with whatever methodologies, software, project management are in place in our organization. It’s important to be a great partner with everybody else on the team.

I combined what I had done with what I had seen working from our participants all across the globe and hundreds or lots and lots of industries and from that evaluation came the BA process framework.

Since that time, we’ve helped hundreds of business analysts learn and apply this process. It does help people from not even yet a business analyst to even a more senior business analyst. Let’s talk about how it applies in those different situations.

Newer Business Analysts Leverage a Framework to Exceed Expectations

A newer business analyst, they might not know where to start or what expectations to set. They often get into a BA role and feel like they’re going to sink or swim in a situation and nobody’s telling them what to do, but everybody has extremely high expectations of them. They get to avoid a lot more of the more common pitfalls that, quite honestly, most of us need to learn through experience, or most of us had to learn through experience.

How about somebody with a bit more experience who’s learned a few of those lessons and has a fairly consistent track record of success? What I find is that we still have a couple of key challenges that we face again and again in our projects. Or we get into a new environment and we’re not quite sure what to do because we’re that unconscious competent.

So those common challenges, they often come back to just one or two steps of the framework we’ve been skipping. That isn’t needed in my organization, or that doesn’t work for me. We can’t make that work because. When they fill in those gaps, their projects move forward much more smoothly.

They also start to elevate their role as a business analyst in their organization. One of our participants, Amelia McHenry, participated in our full The Business Analyst Blueprint® program first and then joined the BA Essentials Master Class where we teach the business process framework.

Amelia reported going into a rather new role. She was a newish BA at the time. Had quite a bit of professional experience, but it was her first real official business analyst role. There were senior BAs who had a lot of experience that she was working with but she brought out the questions from Step 2, which is discover business objective, and she asked those in a meeting.

She used those to help understand what problem are we trying to solve here? What is the ideal solution look like? The people in that meeting, which were pretty high-level stakeholders, were super impressed. They were like nobody’s asked us these questions before.

This is great business analysis. We need more of this in our organization.

Her credibility in that organization went from the new somewhat having some business analysis experience, new in the organization, new to the domain to top level. This is the person who’s bringing that next level of capabilities to our organization.

There’s a lot that comes from your personal credibility, especially as a more intermediate BA when you start to apply these learnings and these teachings and have the courage to ask the questions that you should be asking.

More Senior Business Analysts Leverage a Framework to Train Others Successfully

How about a more senior business analyst? What I find and what my personal experience was, even as a manager of a BA team, I knew intuitively what made me successful. I knew how to be successful, but had a lot of trouble setting that up in terms of a structure for my team because I hadn’t sat down and created this process framework yet, and quite frankly, I didn’t believe it actually could exist.

I wish I could go back and change that for my team and for myself, but when we do teach a more senior BA to go through this process and they start to see how it’s worked for them in so many of their successful projects, then they could also effectively mentor and train other business analysts.

Instead of being able to maybe be the go-to person that BAs come from for guidance or you’re kind of always in the mix of all the projects because nobody else can do things like you can do, you develop this ability to clone yourself by training other BAs to handle any situation. That’s a next level skill set and it sets you up to be more of a leader and a manager or just get out of the day-to-day grind of having to be everything to everyone.

Even Aspiring Business Analysts Can Leverage the Framework to Increase Their Confidence

Finally, let’s talk about people who aren’t not yet BAs and what happens for them.

Thomas Clarke was one of our participants who was a research assistant when he took the BA Essentials Master Class. Then soon after moved into a project management role within his company doing a lot of business analysis work; a lot of finding the problems and figuring out the solutions and overseeing the solutions to those problems.

What he said is it just gave him an approach. He didn’t know where to start. A lot of “not yet” BAs are scared of getting their first BA position because they don’t know what they’re going to do when they get that first position.

Learning the approach and realizing there is a step-by-step process that they can go through gives them more confidence that when they’re in that situation they will have an approach to follow. They will have handouts and questions and next steps and be able to drive the process forward and they won’t have to make things up as they go along.

If you want to learn more about the process framework, what it is, what the steps are, how it might work for you, I invite you to click here to register for our Quick Start to Success free training and learn more. I’d love to teach you about the business analysis process framework and help you be more effective as a business analyst because we build our profession one business analyst at a time and success starts with you.

Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg with Bridging the Gap. We help you start and succeed in your business analyst career.

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