As Business Analysts, we are professional change practitioners. We are experts in the field of “change” and should expect to add maximum value to the organisations we work for. To be effective in this role I believe we must manage change in our own professional development and take every opportunity to reflect on our experiences, and crystallise the knowledge we gain whilst working on projects.
It is important to have a conscious professional development strategy and this is likely to involve a number of activities. However, it is good practice to build in professional development to your weekly and monthly schedules. Professional development doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming, and it’s important not to overlook the experience we gain in our project work.
One of the single biggest ways we develop as BAs is through the work that we carry out day-to-day, and I have found that keeping a project journal is an incredibly useful professional development tool. It can be tempting to move straight from project to project without taking any time to reflect on what has been learned, but consciously recording relevant information in a journal (acronyms, terminology, lessons learned etc) can be an effective way of crystallising knowledge and storing it for future use. This can become excellent reference material if you work on a similar project in the future. The act of reflecting on your progress and recording it, is useful in itself, as it helps you to consolidate your knowledge and consider what you might do differently in future. It can also be useful to review the journal periodically, to reflect on previous projects and ensure any knowledge is carried forward.
You can spend as much or as little time on this activity as you like. It would be valuable even if you only spent 15 minutes writing a summary after every project engagement.
A very light-weight journal might include:
- Project name
- Date started/date completed
- Techniques used
- Stakeholders worked with
- 3 things that worked well
- 3 things you’d do differently next time
- Biggest learning point
- Acronyms & terminology
- Other relevant information
You can tailor your journal to your particular needs and preferences. I keep an incredibly light-weight journal. By keeping the journal short, this makes it very quick to update (which means I am much more likely to do it!).
A project journal can also form a useful part of your stakeholder management strategy. For example, you might learn that a particular stakeholder likes to receive information in a particular way (perhaps they prefer diagrams, or value telephone calls over e-mails). It can be incredibly useful to record these preferences, so that you can keep this in mind for any future engagements.
The journal itself can be kept in any format you like. You could keep it on paper, electronically or even on your iPhone. I personally keep mine in Excel, as it is easy to sort, search and update. The important thing is to get into the habit of updating it, and allowing time to reflect on your progress. Why not put a monthly reminder in your calendar, blocking out 15 minutes for reflection?
One final benefit of a project journal is that it provides an excellent repository of information which you can use to periodically update your CV or resume. It will also help you if you decide to apply to become Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP ®) qualified, as you will need to provide evidence of your project experience.
However you address your professional development strategy, I hope that you have found this article useful, and I hope that you consider reflecting on your experiences and keeping a project journal.
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