How Do I Start a New BA Role with Limited Expertise in BA?

Reader question: My company has recently created Business Analysis Unit with me as junior business analyst and my supervisor as Senior Business Analyst.  However, he left the company even before setting up project plans.  As I am not really familiar with the organisation yet, I am wondering where can I get some project ideas from?  It seems that I need some proactive approach as the organisation staff does not seem to come up with potential requirements/ideas.  I wonder if there can be some general BA projects that can work out for any organisation when BA function is set up. How can we start a completely new unit with limited expertise in BA?

Aaron’s reply:

What a particular peculiar situation you are in.  Your supervisor’s departure from the company certainly was untimely, but has left both a troubling, yet intriguing situation for you.  First, take a moment and decide how you wish to react to this situation.  This can be your moment to shine and show the executives of the company that you are more than a Junior BA and you can step up and handle this very peculiar situation.  Otherwise, you can sit back and take direction from someone and just handle tasks as they are handed to you.

The one question you will want to ask yourself is “are you a fast learner?”  You will have to be to learn all that you have to learn about the company and business analysis practices.  If you are interested in taking the bull by the horns, then get ready to take a proactive stance on anything that comes your way, and go out and create tasks/projects for yourself that help build the business analysis services within the company.   So let’s take a look at a few areas that you ask about:

“I am not really familiar with the organisation yet”

The two things that help BAs know their organization is an Enterprise Architecture and an internal Body of Knowledge.  Start with an organization chart of the company.

  • What business units are within the company?
  • How do these business units interact with each other?
  • What lines of business is the company in?
  • What are the strategic goals of the company?
  • Who are the company’s competitors?
  • Who are the company’s suppliers?

Laura covers these questions in more depth in her article, How to Learn About a New Business.

As you go through to answer these questions, document what you learn.  Place them in a centralized location on the company network.  You have the beginnings of an Enterprise Architecture.   Now add to that standard practice statements of how business analysts deliver their duties to the business units of the company, training material for new BAs; and you are developing the internal Body of Knowledge.

“I am wondering where can I get some project ideas from?”

All projects should deliver value to the business, therefore your project ideas will come from the business.  You say that the business staff does not come up with ideas, then other methods must be employed to determine what will add value to the business; these methods are Enterprise Analysis.  By doing some of the tasks of Enterprise Analysis, such as Gap Analysis, Capacity Analysis, Market Research and Feasibility Study you should be able to identify business needs.  Then build business cases for solutions to resolve these business needs, and voila, you have projects.

“I wonder if there can be some general BA projects that can work for any organization.”

Developing an Enterprise Architecture and an internal Body of Knowledge are projects that will help most, if not all, organizations.  Other than those, as mentioned above projects need to deliver value to the business, so what works for one organization will not work for the next organization.

Project ideas are derived from within the organization, usually through the efforts of Enterprise Analysis, to solve a business need and add value to the organization.  Projects should help the organization achieve its strategic objectives and goals.  Therefore, other than creating an Enterprise Architecture and internal Body of Knowledge, there are no “general projects” that are of benefit to all organizations.  So if you are ready to take on all these tasks for your organization, when the management of the company replaces the Senior BA and continue to build the Business Analysis services within the organization you can give them pause to consider you to lead that initiative.

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Comments

  1. Excellent comments Ben. As you mention the reader will have to go through a phase of learning the business and building relationships with the business staff, and then would be a great time to start looking at process improvement. During that initial phase, start building the “tools” of business analysis to be used within your company; the Enterprise Architecture and BA Body of Knowledge. That will help you learn the business.

  2. Hi,

    One area that I like to look at when I have some downtime at my current BA job is process improvement. Once you have a better idea of how things work at your current company, developing your own ideas of how you can improve current processes can be a good exercise.

    You don’t even have to necessarily make your views public straight away, but once you’ve developed some ideas, you could approach the appropriate manager(s) to let them know of your suggestions.

    The fact that you’re spending your work time trying to improve how the company works for yourself and others usually looks nice and proactive, in my experience. It also helps in building relationships with people who gain the benefits of any such improvements.

    Other than that, Aaron’s point of starting an internal body of knowledge is a great idea – this way, any new BAs starting at the company will have the benefit of not having to start from scratch when learning about the organisation (like you are!).

    Good luck,
    Ben

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