Does My Experience in Process Improvement Prepare Me to Be a Business Analyst?

Reader Question:

I was a project manager for 25 years, but for the past 4 years I have been involved in software QA and Process Improvement as a consultant for CMMI and other standards. I’ve been giving serious thought to moving towards a BA emphasis in my career, returning to earlier roots as a systems analyst. However, I’m no longer a ‘spring chicken’ and am wondering if makes sense for a post-60’s skilled/experienced individual to begin contemplating a career in BA? Be honest!

Doug’s Answer:

Pondering a career change at any stage in life is a hefty undertaking, and while I cannot speak directly to the complexities of those past my own age, I can make the attempt to give some general advice. What I see in the poster’s question is a great degree of experience that does not jump right out and say “business analysis”. However, everything this person has done involves a large degree of analysis technique and skill in order to be successful in the above respective roles.

As a PM, this person would have encountered organizational skills and potentially the rigor involved in CMMI-based methodology that typically requires detailed check points and documentation, as well as phase gate approvals. If this person has been in an industry that is under regulation and has the potential for audits, there is even greater emphasis on knowing what must be accomplished besides the actual project work. This brings a high degree of discipline.

As a Process Improvement consultant, this person would have been involved in many efforts that involve changes to organizational structure. This must include a large analysis effort revolving around business unit impact, application impact, infrastructure assets, resource requirements, and even simulated exercises to test potential new processes. Many of the analysis techniques described in the BABOK are used in this area of expertise, such as root cause analysis, decision analysis, interviewing, observation, etc. So, the poster would have gained exceptional experience as an analyst even if that is not what his or her title indicated.

So, to the question then. To me, it would make more sense to not necessarily switch careers but to re-brand your capabilities in a different way that emphasizes your ability to analyze…because that is what this person has been doing essentially. A career switch can be a huge, lengthy and often frustrating undertaking if positions are not forthcoming for the job seeker. My sense is that this poster has a ton of capability to bring to bear and would be better recognized and utilized as a senior consultant that has expertise in guiding analysis efforts for many types of projects. I also think that the job search results might be better than if he/she is marketing himself/herself as a fledgling, yet elder analyst. I don’t believe in job discrimination based on age, but the reality is that it occurs. I would offer the advice that this person should be presented as an experienced mentor who is brought in to resolve issues, so that should be the focus of self-marketing efforts.

Then how does one really get one’s head around how to make that happen, especially if there is no recognition that perhaps analyst skills are already present? Start reading and taking some classes. Read through the IIBA BABOK to recognize skills you already have. Read business analysis articles, blogs and books to recognize how analysts perform their duties formally, in order to understand that much of the current skills really do translate into formal analysis skills.

Finally, you’ll want to sign-up for Laura’s free step-by-step BA career planning course, download Laura’s eBook on How to Start a Business Analyst Career and keep your eyes posted for enrollment into future business analyst training courses.

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Comments

  1. With a long career as a PM, I joined a smaller organisation and became a Business Relationship Manager, being the front line between IT and the business, doing PM/BA/ProgM combined. I found that I actually lkied putting projects together far more that delivery end, and so drifted more into the role. In my 60s I now run a BA/delivery manager team.

    My only issue is that I have moved more away from the strategic, and even tactical side. It is not really about the name of the role, it is more about what you like to do, and where you like to be involved. Ask youself the questions: up front or delivery, strategy or delivery, solution design or getting to the heart of the requirements, people or technology, and then ask those who are offering the roles, and read what they say about the roles, and the level and contact points. No two roles are the same even with the same job description.
    If it feels right then your age should not be a barrier – you just have to love what you are doing.

  2. I completely agree with you, Doug. In the consulting company I work for, we relish the people who have expertise that that goes beyond their titled role…like a PM who has great analysis skills, or a BA who has a technical skill.

    When someone has multiple skill sets and experience to back it up, they are as versatile as a Swiss army knife. These are the people that tend to be recognized because they deliver great results beyond what was initially asked of them.

    I would take the time to read through the BABOK as Doug recommends, if for no other reason than to become familiar with the terminology and techniques you already know. That way, you can present your experience in these terms and gain credibility with potential employers and other BAs…and you’ll no doubt learn some new stuff along the way.

    Don’t be afraid to break a mold – you don’t have to be just a PM or just a BA. You can bring multiple skill sets to the table and it will benefit your clients. Seek out an employer that finds value in that, and you’ll rock!

  3. doug goldberg says

    Aaron and Adriana

    thanks for seconding and thirding…my answer to the reader’s post also reflects my own history. it just seems to me like su h a waste to have worked for decades only to think that all that knowledge and experience is worth nothing,..not true by any means.

  4. I second (I mean, third!) the idea of rebranding.

    I actually started my BA career in process improvement consulting. At some point I started to have the title “business analyst” and “lead BA consultant”, but it wasn’t a “career change”, just a consequence of focusing on certain types of jobs and the natural “rebranding” that followed.

    Great advice, Doug!

  5. Doug, I definitely like your idea of “re-brand your capabilities” as opposed to making a career move. Marketing your prior experiences and developing that into a Senior BA or Consultancy role is an excellent way to go. I see this reader has the same issue that I did many years ago, in that my BA experiences were not quite evident in my past job titles. I used the CBAP® to give myself a credential to identify my expertise in the BA arena that was not easily identifiable on my resume. The reader may find the same benefit by obtaining the CBAP® certification.

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