This question comes to us from Marie, who is a business analyst manager and often has people in her organization approach her for help getting started in business analysis. She wanted to know how to find the right task, or first assignment, that will help increase their confidence and expand their capabilities.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
This is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. Today’s question comes to us from Marie, who is a business analyst manager, and often has people in her organization approach her for help getting started in business analysis. She wanted to know how to find that right task, or the first assignment, that will help increase their confidence and expand their capabilities.
My First Business Analyst Tasks
First, I wanted to share my first experience as a business analyst because I feel really fortunate that I worked with a senior BA, and I believe that the way things unfolded for me provides a good model for many to follow.
As you know, I was in QA before I was a business analyst. Many of you know. I talk about that often. I had experience with testing, test planning, reviewing requirements, and the flow of software projects. I had never written a requirements document before. I started by shadowing a BA in her meetings. I got to take meeting notes and update her deliverables and draft deliverables, and gradually, I was taking on more and more responsibility to help her. A new project opened, and I was assigned to work on that project. I went from shadowing her, to a huge, big project. It was one of the bigger projects our organization had ever undertaken. I also had her guidance, at first. That provided a lot of confidence and stability for me.
First, Choose Business Analyst Tasks to Increase Confidence
How can you take this experience and create a model for how you assign your new tasks to business analysis?
First, I think you want to start with a skills assessment. I shared my approach to that in another video, so we’ll link to that here, about how to go through what their transferable skills are, and what they bring to the profession.
You want to choose a task that’s going to help increase their confidence. It’s either going to be formalizing something they’ve done before, but not in the “formal” way, or something that they had a big gap in. Maybe they’ve never done a data model, or they’ve never done anything like a business process. (And if this is their first time analyzing a process, be sure to download our free business process template which incorporates a host of best practices on process modeling and will give them a head start.)
For a business subject matter expert, you might ask them to meet with a few stakeholders and analyze a business process in their area. Give them a structure. A goal of what that process would be. Perhaps, even a few questions to ask so they know what they’re looking for.
For a QA engineer, you might ask them to document an area of system functionality in a use case. To take that knowledge they have of the system and how to write test cases for the system and get more prescriptive into the view of how the system actually should work.
Ideally, they’d start, for a current state system view, and then the next step would be to evolve that into doing some discovery work and evolve that into updating the functionality in a to-be use case as well so you’re getting that full range of business analysis experience.
So that’s starting with the technique. I think, we think we have to give them a whole project. I think starting with the individual techniques, this is what we do in The Business Analyst Blueprint®. It’s a great way to get that confidence started without having to tackle the entire project all at once.
Assign Business Analyst Tasks to Cultivate Independence
Once you do this, you want to create experiences for them, though, to cultivate more independence. I’ve done this technique, and this technique, and this technique. Could I put that together on a project, or could I start it from scratch or identify the process from start to end? Find the stakeholders myself that I need to work with. Kind of all these ways to take that first level experience and expand it to new experiences.
You also might start to bring them into the projects that you’re working on. Maybe, at first, they’re doing this specific use case, business process, or data modeling work, like on a project that you’ve led and scoped and planned out. And then bring them into the beginning and say, okay, now I’m starting a new project and I don’t know what information I need. I don’t know what the business objectives are. We don’t have to scope to find, yet.
Let me walk you through how I approach that and have them shadow you through some of those tasks, and then take on the more detailed analysis as well.
Go From Individual Business Analyst Tasks to New Projects
Then, eventually, of course, you want to prepare them to start a new project all on their own. It might start with a small one, and then gradually get to more stakeholders, more complexity, until they’re running full-fledged projects like you’re doing as a business analyst today.
And, so, I think just starting with the independent tasks first, and then merging that into full projects, and then thinking about how they would shadow you on some of those projects and then take some of those projects independently on their own is a good way to think about graduating tasks.
Once you go through a skills assessment with somebody, you might discover they’ve done a lot of things before. If somebody is coming from a background of a project manager, or a technical development lead manager, which is a common path into business analysis, they might have more experience with that business objectives scope definition phase, and they might need more help with the detailed requirements phase of how to put together the business processes and all of that. You might shadow them to get the project started, and then provide more guidance and support as they do those detailed business analysis deliverables.
Always be looking for what that person knows and brings to the table already. Leveraging that strength, giving them the next thing that’s going to help them expand their skills and experience.
Another thing to be looking for beyond that, in terms of building a career path, is once I’ve done all that with a set of stakeholders or a specific system, or a specific area of the business, how can I tackle a new challenge? A new set of stakeholders, a new area of the business, an unfamiliar domain. That’s when your business analysis skills start to get put to the test, and that’s where you start to see how generalized these core skills that we have are, and how applicable they are in different environments.
It can get tunnel vision when you’re first getting started in a specific environment. It’s when you start to apply that across multiple environments that you take your skills to the next level. Be looking for those opportunities for people on your team as well as they get comfortable in their business analyst roles.
I hope you find this helpful. Whether you are helping a business analyst, or transitioning yourself, it’s a way to think about how to get to where you want to be.
I’d love to hear from you. What was your first business analyst task? How did that come to be?
Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap, and we help business analysts start their careers.
>>Download Your Free Business Process Template
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- Help business users from multiple departments clarify their actual step-by-step workflow;
- Avoid wasting money on software solutions that don’t solve the right business problems;
- And even helping new business analysts figure out what questions to ask when starting on a new project or domain.
Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project.