Today we meet Shelley Feyerherm who joined The Business Analyst Blueprint® program as a CBAP® with several years of business analysis experience. She shares how the program helped her deepen her knowledge of core business analysis skills, by going beyond the surface.
Shelly also shares some tips for getting the most out of The Business Analyst Blueprint® program and how she was able to leverage the flexibility of the program and integrate the work into her busy job as a business analyst.
For those who like to read instead of listen, here’s the full text of the audio:
Laura Brandenburg: Thank you, Shelly, for being here with me today and agreeing to talk about your experience with The Business Analyst Blueprint®. I know that there are a lot of reasons why people join The Business Analyst Blueprint®, and it would be helpful, maybe, just to get started, if you could share a little bit about where you were at the beginning of the year before we started working together in the program. I think we started late February. If you could think back to where you were January/February in your career, that would be great.
Shelly Feyerherm: Okay. Well, the reason I chose the Blueprint, I was in the process of going through recertifying for my CBAP and I needed some CDUs, so, that’s one of the reasons I chose the course.
Another reason was that it was affordable and flexible as well. This class allowed me to, during my work day, if a meeting popped up and I couldn’t attend the class, it allowed me to go ahead and participate by listening to the audio of the class. I was able to work around my work schedule with this class.
And, it also, you know, just things that I don’t use often, and that’s part of the reason I chose this course is the use cases. I don’t use that technique very often. It was a bit of a refresher for me. I study use cases for…but, it’s not something that I do very often.
But the class consisted of, or the course consisted of three classes – the Business Process Analysis class, the Use Case and Wireframes class, and the Data Modeling for Business Analysts. All three of those courses, but then the Blueprint class was very helpful to me. That’s why I chose it. I chose it because, yeah, I needed the CDUs, and that helped me with the recertification. But, also, it helped me dig beneath the surface. I have the surface knowledge of the use case and the data modeling and, of course, the process analysis. I do that a lot. But, really, I knew a lot of surface knowledge where the courses it made the knowledge go a little bit deeper, and I did learn a lot from taking this course.
Laura: Thank you for sharing that. It sounds like before you started, you were already certified as a CBAP. So, you have a substantial amount of business analyst experience.
Laura: What is your role like?
Shelly: Well, I work in the HR area and I support HR systems. In particular, I support the Oracle Fusion HCM system for our company and the Taleo Applicant Tracking System. So, we just went live with the new HCN system last January of 2016. Before that, of course, I’ve worked on other HR systems. That’s where I am right now with my career.
We set up this new system and now, piece by piece, we’re implementing modules that are new to the company. These courses help with that. Just having this white space, this new system, and going from a paper process to something more system, you know, what we use in the system that we got. These courses helped me think out how to build out certain things and use the appropriate amount of detail. That’s where I am right now.
Laura: That’s perfect. Implementing enhancements to the systems that your organization has implemented. But it sounds like not implemented completely either. There’s a lot of work to do to make sure that you’re fully leveraging the technology that they’ve invested in.
Did you start right at the beginning by analyzing a business process, or was that the first technique you jumped in with, or did you kind of go back and forth?
Shelly: I went back and forth a lot. When I took this class, of course, the system was up and running. But we were still launching some new stuff out about the business. The Process Analysis class helped with that. Even though I do it a lot, it made me think about what I’m doing.
I think my biggest takeaway from the Business Process Analysis class was, you take this process that you’re not certain of yet, or you haven’t even designed yet, and I know when I was first launching this process or module for the company, I was struggling because it was so new. I had several meetings with the stakeholders and it was just a struggle. But when we came up together with, and first it was just on paper, just a very loose process, that’s when it all came together, and that’s when we had our a-ha moment, and, okay, I think I know what I need to build here, and it was that point, after we kind of designed a process where things just started to happen.
Your course helped with that a lot. It puts a purpose; what’s the purpose of this. Why am I taking up somebody’s valuable time talking about this and going through the possible actions that might happen, or they need to take? It put some good, crisp edges around the process that I selected so that we can focus on something specific instead of too many things at once. It narrows down our focus and I think that was my biggest takeaway from that Process Analysis course.
Laura: Yeah, I like how you describe that a-ha moment that the project team has when you do that because it is so easy to be like, oh, we’ve got this new feature and we want to integrate these things. And this isn’t working like I expected, and just kind of having that back and forth bounce around conversation, and then the process modeling is designed to like, okay, let’s just step through this step-by-step. And where does the software fit in?
Shelly: And the back and forth stuff, it does, it can get frustrating on both sides. When things start to come together, that’s a good feeling.
Laura: Definitely. So, now, I know you mentioned you don’t do use cases in your current work as a business analyst, but you still have some takeaways from that part of the program, too. I imagine because you have existing software, you’re not building a lot of new functionality. I can see why you might not use use cases in that environment.
Shelly: That is true. I work off a cloud-based system, so I design a lot of the modules and the configurations. But the use case, it really, my takeaway from that was I kind of do use it a little bit in my own way. I do a lot of wireframes where I will mock up examples so that the stakeholders can have a visual representation of what I’m talking about or what could be the possibilities. Is that what you mean? It seems like when people see something visual, it really comes together and that’s when they truly have a, they’re starting to really grasp the concept. And me as well.
Sometimes, once something that maybe I thought I knew what they were asking for, but I obviously didn’t. That’s my takeaway from that. The use case is how the user interacts with the system. That is very valuable, and that narrows down your requirements and ensures that you’re truly understanding what needs to happen. You think about from beginning to end, if that’s going to happen, then I need to set up the system this way. It’s a pretty good type of, very micro, and a little more broad than the actual group case that we did in class. It was a very micro piece of how the user interacts with the system. It was a very helpful course.
Laura: I love how you said you kind of are applying it in your own way because that makes perfect sense. You don’t always need to write the fully fleshed out use case, but you kind of need to think in that use case way, and that gets you into some of those details that probably, for you, ended up as configurations and maybe adjustments to the system. But you can make those, kind of talk through those before making them and then having to re-do that work again, and again.
Laura: So, do you continue to do that today? I know you, obviously, had to do a use case to complete the course. How has that continued in your work today?
Shelly: Well, I do it. But it puts things together for me. If I’m having trouble or difficulty thinking up how a potential process could work, I will, in my own way, kind of put together a use case on paper. Just sketch it out from beginning to end. And my mind might be a little bigger or more than what we did in class.
But, yeah, I definitely do it today. It depends on what I’m doing and what kind of information I need to conclude from how things need to be set up. Or if something’s not working the way I thought it would.
Sometimes when I take the time and write it out on paper, I’m like, oh yeah.
Laura: I love it. That’s that missing piece. That’s like you’re a-ha moment. That’s just the value, I think, of the use case thinking without, necessarily, having to create the fully fleshed out use case. Just using the model to help structure your thinking can lead to those a-has. I love that. Thank you.
Laura: Now, how about the Data Modeling? How has that come up for you?
Shelly: Data modeling was a good course. My takeaway from that was what I thought of data modeling before the course, I thought of data mapping. And I’ve done data mapping before going from an old system to a new system. So, of course, you have to map all that data.
When I did that, when I map data, my data mapping was multi-purposed. It would get quite large, of course. But that’s where I would have some type of details about what the meetings of certain fields were that I, if I thought a group of fields would be very confusing to me or to the stakeholder, I would put some more detail in that data mapping, and then I would refer to the data mapping document.
What this course did was it kind of branched out where it’s not just a data mapping spreadsheet, but you also have, you know, you can put a glossary, you can use a data dictionary, or an ERD, which is an entity relationship diagram. All those are part of data modeling and they’re all very important.
As far as the glossary goes, I kind of did that in my own way. Like, for example, the company I work for has a lot of different hire dates. So, that can get very confusing. If I step away from that data for a while, and I do, and then I get asked a question, I easily forget because each little field has its own meaning and it can get complicated when you have a lot of different fields that are similar. They all have a different, and very important different meaning. Because one can trigger someone’s benefits and one can trigger someone’s something else.
So, my takeaway from that was all the aspects of data modeling and how they can be a good reference as time goes by. Because after a while, like I said, you forget what certain fields mean, and then your dictionary and glossary, and your relationship diagram is just as important. When you’re cleaning the data, it’s very important to know what fields have a tie to other fields and what happens to certain things when a certain action takes place. My takeaway from that was there is a lot more to data modeling than just data mapping.
Laura: It can be, for sure. I feel like data mapping tends to be like that end result. So, it’s where the biggest chunk of data modeling work happens, but all those other things help you navigate the conceptual part of it.
When you think about your last few months in your career, what big wins pop up for you? What has been something that you’ve accomplished, personally or professionally?
Shelly: Well, I think after taking this course I realize, and I think my biggest overall takeaway from this course is that I believe I have more than just surface knowledge. When you think of data modeling, you think, oh yeah, I know that is data mapping. Well, that’s just the surface. When you look at use case, you think, oh yeah, use case is just how a user enhances the system. I know what that is. There’s more to it than what’s on the surface. It does have its value. Each course has its value depending on what you’re doing and depending on what your goal is. These are good techniques to achieve your goals.
Laura: Awesome. Was there a part of the course that you felt was most beneficial to you? Like the workbooks, or the live sessions, or the on-demand materials? What stood out to you that helped you the most in getting past that surface level knowledge that you had before?
Shelly: I believe the biggest part for me was having the hot seat. I think that was key. It was humbling being in the hot seat. I was in there with my use case, which I don’t do very often, but it was a good experience. But what I liked from that is to see how other people are doing things and how they, what their idea of a use case is, or a business process, or data modeling.
I haven’t worked with a lot of different companies, at a lot of different companies, so, I know what we do, and I know what I do, but outside of my world, I’m not quite sure how other people do things. So, it was nice to see that I do things the same way a lot of other people do. There are certain things that I do that are very common and maybe somethings I do, maybe, a little unique. But it was good to see that I’m doing the best practice. What I’m doing is the same thing that everybody else is doing.
Laura: Right. BA roles just pop up in so many different ways. Like, I know the way that I learned it was very much on the job and then you kind of see how other people do it. That’s a big part of growing our profession as we get a little bit more formal as a profession. Thanks for sharing that.
Any other tips for anyone who is a practicing BA that’s considering the Blueprint? Suggestions for them or ways that you would suggest they would take advantage of the Blueprint and the course?
Shelly: Absolutely. What was key for me was that the class was flexible. We’re all busy in our jobs and we all have these meetings that pop up. There were a couple of times I could not attend the class. I had full intention of attending live, but things just happened in the work day where I just couldn’t attend. But this class was good for busy people that need that kind of flexibility.
My advice would be to keep, even if you’re not comfortable, just try to keep up with the classes and try not to fall behind. It was challenging. I had to find some time during the weekend or outside of work to push myself. This is not super simple stuff. You’ve got to push yourself and you’ve got to be ready for a challenge. But the result of it is that you learn. I would say just keep up with the classes and push yourself. Finish it up.
Laura: Yeah, and it does take, it’s that mix of flexibility, but there is still a time commitment. So, I’m glad you brought that up; finding those slices of time when it works for you and just staying up to date as much as possible in the course. So, definitely, that’s a big part of achieving the results that you did because, then, you get the instructor feedback and can ask questions in the live sessions and share your work in the hot seat, and get that kind of real-time feedback. So, I appreciate that.
Any closing comments?
Shelly: No, I really appreciate your time today and all the knowledge, and all the best information that I received from the course. I got a lot of documentation and stuff that I will be able to rely on in the future. As time goes by, I may need to go back and revisit what I did in this course, and I have all the documentation that you supplied and it’s very good information.
Laura: Well, thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time to spend with me today to share your experience as well. Thanks, Shelly.
About The Business Analyst Blueprint®
When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll learn all 12 of the industry-standard techniques and the business analysis process framework – to build your confidence in the best practices of business analysis.
You’ll create validated work samples and be a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).