Today, we meet Nathan Relevy, an ACBA and entrepreneur providing bespoke software solutions to businesses from the United Kingdom. Nathan shares how he is using the tools he learned in The Business Analyst Blueprint® program to serve his clients across a diverse spectrum of industries.
What we love about having Nathan as part of The Business Analyst Blueprint® community is the experience he shares as a business owner and seeing the application of the training through every angle.
In this interview, you’ll discover:
- How, despite his wealth of experience, Nathan desired to strengthen his foundational knowledge to ensure there were no gaps.
- How the challenges of The Blueprint program encouraged Nathan to dig deeper and provided confidence that he was on the right path.
- Why Nathan chose The Blueprint program after his comparison of several business analyst training programs.
- The aspects of The Blueprint program that Nathan found most beneficial and how the type of delivery encouraged him to be more engaged with the program.
ANDREA WILSON: Good afternoon. I am Andrea Wilson and I am here with Nathan Relevy. We are here to kind of talk about you and your experience with The Blueprint. I hear that you are a new ACBA member. Exciting. Congratulations.
NATHAN RELEVY: Thank you. Thank you very much.
ANDREA WILSON: New to the community, right? So spring 2023. You’re fresh in the club. Glad to have you and welcome, welcome.
NATHAN RELEVY: Thank you. Thank you very much.
ANDREA WILSON: I hear that you founded a business and you’ve got a lot of things going on. You’re in the software industry and I’d like you to talk about what it is that you do. Tell us a little bit about what you do and where you’re from.
NATHAN RELEVY: Sure. Okay. I actually have an accounting background from some years ago, but moved into technology soon after. For the last 16 years, I’ve been running my business in the UK. We provide bespoke software solutions to very diverse businesses who much prefer their own tailor made set up rather than getting something off the shelf.
I do have a team which includes developers, testers, project managers and analysts as well. Although I do have a lot of experience in both development and analysis, I felt there was value in attending the Blueprint program in order to more formalize my skills in business analysis and also, I guess, generally, to see if there were better practices that perhaps I’m missing out on.
ANDREA WILSON: Wow, that’s awesome. As a business owner, I expect folks will go, okay, what’s going on here? Why are we looking at this foundational stuff? Why are we looking at the business analysis Blueprint? You gave us a taste there. As a developer having done analysis before you were looking for some way to kind of make sure you were on the right path. There were some formal skills that you needed to either gain or hone.
You visited with us and you stuck through the program. That’s exciting. That’s what you were looking to achieve. What motivated you to go for ACBA as opposed to any other certification? What brought you here?
NATHAN RELEVY: First of all, I’m always looking to broaden my knowledge, broaden my skills in the IT sector, especially as things change very frequently, very rapidly. It’s important not to rest on one’s laurels, but also to see if there are other technologies, other skills, other methodologies.
I stumbled across Bridging the Gap, the ACBA. I did some research and I looked at other business analysis programs. In particular, I looked at other accredited courses with the Institute of International Business Analysis, and the reason why I chose the Blueprint provided by Bridging the Gap was because I rather liked the way that they were teaching it in an applied method, rather than just teaching a lot of theory, and then expect you to do an exam. I think a lot of qualifications that are passed based on examinations lack the essential experiential skills as well as access to instructors that really have hands on experience. That’s what attracted me to it.
ANDREA WILSON: You’ve kind of gone over into your experience in the program and I really want to talk about some of that. Was there any particular module of the program that stuck out for you?
NATHAN RELEVY: All of the four modules, I felt each of them brought a refreshing different perspectives to, obviously, the role of business analysis. On the one hand, I liked the fact that they were all varied and they touched on different aspects.
The interesting thing is that a run of the mill business analyst probably wouldn’t be involved with every aspect of the modules that were taught in the Blueprint course. For example, in a large company, a business analyst would be one of a number of a larger team, whereas in a smaller company, I suppose, the business analyst may have to get their hands dirty with a lot of the things that we’ve learned.
I’m a firm believer that even if you’re not going to do something yourself, it’s very useful to have an awareness of what needs to be done so that when you do go in and talk or meet with the people who are actually going to do those things, whether it’s the wireframe designers or the technical database developers, that number one, you can understand their lingo, if I can use that expression, because in my experience skilled professionals appreciate your interactions much more if you have an appreciation for what they do rather than being totally ignorant of their area.
ANDREA WILSON: I love that. We talk about overlap. You’ve you touched on developer. We talked on analysis. We even talked about owner, founder of the company. Having that ability to communicate across those different roles really brings it together and builds some trust.
One of the things we covered in multiple parts of this was having that ability to build relationships. That’s really important. Thank you for pointing out. Being able to communicate and overlap with your skill set really is helpful in building that trust and helping your stakeholders to communicate with you.
NATHAN RELEVY: Yes, absolutely.
ANDREA WILSON: Were there any challenges you faced during the process of going through your ACBA?
NATHAN RELEVY: Yes. I’m very pleased that there were challenges because if there weren’t, then I clearly wasn’t learning anything.
But, yes, it did challenge my thinking. I think, on the one hand, those delegates or candidates who do embark on the course, they come at it from different perspectives. On the one hand, they may already have the experience and they want to get some formal accreditation or recognition or qualification for it.
On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum they may be coming at it very green and maybe are plunged into a role where they need to do business analysis and they’re thinking, I don’t have the requisite skills.
Obviously for me, I’m coming at it with somebody with experience, and I’ve also done prints to project management, and I’ve done various other courses over the years. The point is that people tend to become very staid in their thinking. You continue doing things the same way as you’ve done them before unless or until you find that they no longer work or there’s something better to do.
Despite the experience that I have and the successes that I’ve had over the years, I still learned a lot of interesting perspectives and techniques from Bridging the Gap. I found that in some ways it challenged me because I had to think differently when it came to dealing with certain things as opposed to just learn afresh how to do some things that I’ve never done before.
ANDREA WILSON: That does place yourself in a new position for learning. Applying it is very different because as you walk through things, especially a seasoned person, “I know that already. I know that already,” and then you have to apply it. You start thinking, okay, I know the message, but how do I apply the message? That can be very challenging, especially from a seasoned person who has a way of doing things. Now you’ve got to rethink it.
That was a bit of my experience too. I did go through the program and, and it was refreshing thinking that and then having that opportunity to work with instructors to work through that, I think, is a great part of the program.
I want to hear if you have any takeaways from your experience that you think would be helpful for anybody who’s thinking about going through the program.
NATHAN RELEVY: Sure. Yes, I do. I think looking, again, at those two different ends of the spectrum, for a seasoned professional, I think it’s very important that one approaches the program with an open mind ready to try different ways and different techniques to do things and resist the temptation to say I’m going to do this the way that I’m used to doing it. Because if you do, even if you do pass the program, you’ve still missed out on opportunities to learn some different techniques, which might possibly provide some improvements. Obviously for someone green to the program, it’s important that they really try and take in and embed the knowledge that’s learned.
I didn’t find the program rushed on the one hand. But yet there was pressure, which is kind of quite an odd way to, to put it. What I mean by that is I like the way the program was delivered in a piecemeal fashion. I don’t just mean the modules, but even within a module, it was actually, done in a piecemeal way which meant that all candidates, whether they were seasoned or not, couldn’t go any faster than any of the other candidates, which meant that everybody was more or less going at the same speed with, obviously, some flexibility.
I would definitely say in terms of takeaways, read through all the material, obviously watch all of the videos, look through all the material and make sure that you understand exactly what’s being asked of you because that same skill, you need to really make sure that you read and understand the program, actually that same skill that you need when you’re listening and meeting with clients and product owners.
At the end of the day, if you don’t listen to them, if you miss even some detail, later on down the line during the project, it’s going to crop up as a gremlin that needs to be solved.
ANDREA WILSON: I love that. You wear lots of hats. You’ve done scrum master, you’ve done some project management, you’ve done some development, and now you sit here at the top. You find the need not just to continue to grow, but to look deeper at business analysis.
And you just hit the nail on the head. The listening. You’ve got to hear and you’ve got to find those gaps and knowledge. I thank you for bringing that up.
You also mentioned, I think I saw some instructor feedback and support through the program. I saw some really good feedback from you on that. Can we take a minute to discuss that? Maybe you talk about your experience there.
NATHAN RELEVY: Yeah, sure. I said in my feedback that over the years I’ve done various courses, some formal with accredited qualifications, and some not formal, or informal, if you like. Because to me, it’s about learning, learning, learning, learning, as much as I can, because I never know what question I’m going to be asked by either a product owner or someone else. And, obviously, they could be coming at it from a different background.
I said in my instructor feedback that of all the courses that I’ve done over the years, and I really have done probably more than I can count, I found the way that the Blueprint was delivered was very different from anything else I’d ever experienced.
It’s quite odd because I’ve attended courses face to face with an instructor over days, sometimes even over weeks, and I was very surprised how I could feel even more engaged with the instructors, despite them being thousands of miles away and never, literally, meeting face to face, let alone shaking hands than I’ve ever felt when I’ve actually been in a room face to face with an instructor and other candidates. The fact that I even attended instructor hours, sometimes when I didn’t need to, because I’d already completed the module or completed my work, I still found value and I did feel that the other students were not only supportive, but they didn’t hold back from asking questions. There was none of this feeling that, oh, I’m going to make myself look bad by asking a question that might be embarrassing. I think that was largely because the instructors really put the candidates at ease. There was no kind of pressure to quickly rush things. No question was silly.
I mean, there were some questions where instructors actually went on for quite a few minutes trying to explain something to the people who are asking the questions to make sure that they got it. I have to say, I think that’s quite a rare quality in some kind of instructor led course.
ANDREA WILSON: Thank you for sharing that. We did kind of talk as a team and we were so very excited to hear that because that’s one of the goals, to make everyone feel comfortable. When we have those instructor hour moments, when we have those webinar moments, it’s for us as a community to work together. They’re working hours for us to feel comfortable and really discuss what’s going on. It’s so awesome to see the learning between participants because it’s not just about the instructor. I thought it was very valuable to hear that and I’m appreciative of your sharing that today.
What would you say was an outcome for you, personally, of going through the ACBA program? This is really valuable because others may look at this and say, well, wait a minute. You’re a business owner. You founded a business. You have this reputation. You’ve done these tons of things. You’ve worn all these hats, lots of hats, as different types of analysts – operations analysts, you’ve done some support analysts. You’ve done the whole scrum master piece. What would you say is the outcome for you, personally, coming from that standpoint?
NATHAN RELEVY: I would say that there were 3 main outcomes. Number 1, increasingly, from perspective clients, but also from existing clients who are claiming, certainly in the UK, a very generous research and development tax relief available afforded for technological solutions that are innovative, the authorities are asking about the professional credentials of the experts involved on the project. So I felt a need, although I do have various accreditations and qualifications under my belt already, generally speaking, they’re from quite some time ago, so I felt the need to get some qualifications or accreditations that were more recent and up to date, okay. So I’ve ticked that box.
The second thing, as I’ve already mentioned, is to basically see if I’m missing a trick. The ways that I’ve been and the methods that I’ve been using and the techniques I’ve been using over the years, perhaps, may have been superseded with other methods, better methods.
I’m pleased to say that the eight steps of plan that’s covered within the program really does provide a nice structure around it. I think in some ways it’s expanded, consolidated. It’s added width, breadth and depth to my own skill set.
The third reason is because, as I’ve mentioned, I have a number of staff, quite a few of whom have come from working with other companies, in some cases from large banks and large institutions. I’ve seen that there’s been a very disparate level of expertise and skills within my staff and I want to provide a level of consistency to my staff. What I’ve sought to do from the training that I’ve had is to try and implement the aspects of that within my own company amongst my other staff.
Actually, if I may add a fourth one, I’m also encouraging my clients as well, even where there is no formal product owner designation within those clients, I’m encouraging my clients to actually take on that role of product owner and an internal analyst so that when they approach us for any changes they’ve at least done some preparation, initially, and they can have a more useful conversation with me about those changes. Because the more my clients understand about the value of business analysis, the more they can appreciate what it can provide. And, obviously, in some ways that makes things easier, and hopefully smoother for me.
ANDREA WILSON: Excellent. It’s a growing community. And it’s awesome because you can have those more meaningful and effective meetings in conversations and have a more efficient use of your time. If you are thinking in terms of your process and evaluating your process and you’re able to come to the table and discuss things from that standpoint.
Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to say about your experience with Bridging the Gap or anything you’d like to share at all? Anything?
NATHAN RELEVY: On a personal note, I think, Laura, as well as being an absolute amazing person herself, again, I only know her from remote meetings that I’ve had in interactions, obviously, over video, but I really have to applaud and congratulate Laura for assembling an absolutely outstanding team.
And, obviously, each and every instructor, and even the support staff behind the scenes as well. You’ve done a tremendous job delivering the program. I’m sure you will be able to maintain it.
I would be very interested to hear about any other courses that you guys are doing, although I appreciate it’s not about quantity, it’s about the quality. I sincerely think that the way you actually train people in the business analysis role is exactly, well, it’s not just the way it needs to be done. It’s the best way, best way ever.
I think I said in my feedback, I felt kind of a tinge of sadness when the program came to an end. I had such a good time interacting with everybody over the five months that, as odd as it sounds, I didn’t want it to end. Although obviously I was busy. It came to an end. But you know what I mean. I’m going to miss the instructors, miss the team.
ANDREA WILSON: Well, you’ve done a good job of connecting and we will definitely stay in touch. I love that. And you bring some excellent points out. We’ve seen you out on LinkedIn making some comments about what you do, about your business. We love the support that you’re providing to Bridging the Gap. And those were very kind words.
Laura is an amazing person and the team works really well together. It’s very cohesive, and we feel like we’re a team with the participants when they’re there. Thank you for reiterating that comment and expressing just what I feel about the group. I appreciate that.
Thank you again for coming to Bridging the Gap and for participating. I mean really participating. Because you were there. Again, you had finished your work, but you would still come to instructor hour. You shared with other participants. You took information from other participants and it just became kind of a family atmosphere and your participation was very important in doing that.
Welcome to the ACBA club, again. Thank you for visiting with us and thank you for taking the time to speak with me this evening.
NATHAN RELEVY: It was a real pleasure. Thank you very much. Andrea.
ANDREA WILSON: Awesome. Thank you so much.
NATHAN RELEVY: Take care.