As business analysts it can seem difficult to go “up”. Many organizations do not have a senior business analyst career path and have limited lead or manager roles to grow into. Another way to move up is to move over. These are called lateral career moves.
You could make a lateral move from one role to another: for example, business analyst to project manager (or vice versa) or business analyst to business process engineer, etc. But if you really like your role, but are itching for something new, it might be time to make a lateral move within business analysis. What does this mean?
Well, it means you work on a project or with a department that falls outside of your typical scope of responsibilities. Many organizations that are creating centralized BA teams already support this by assigning BAs to project not based on their background, but based on their availability or fit.
But many BAs work with a single business unit, a single system (or set of systems), and on projects that are roughly the same in approach. Find work in a new domain or try a new approach and you’ve just expanded your awareness of business analysis.
New Stakeholders, New Ticks
Let’s talk about why this happens. When we work with the same stakeholders, we learn what makes them tick. We know that Bob does best at 9 am on Tuesday’s and that we can drop by on Wednesday afternoons. We know he likes visuals, like wireframes. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Over time as you work with the same stakeholders, they learn you and you learn them. Unless one of you is especially difficult, the challenge of figuring out how to work together is gone. Get yourself a new set of stakeholders and you have to go through this learning curve. You’ll also test your people skills big time.
New Systems, New Focus on Analysis
Same thing for systems. Over time you learn what the system does and you subconsciously work through technical challenges in your requirements. You can safely make a lot of assumptions in your analysis because you know the lay of the land. Work on a new system, one in which you are not an expert, and all of a sudden your analysis competencies are tested again and you become more aware of what you do and why you do it.
New Methodology, New Awareness
The same thing happens when you switch methodologies. During my first three positions, I was dealing with new stakeholders and new systems, but used essentially the same methodology. Then I started contract hopping (which is a great way to stack up lateral career moves one after another) and I found myself knee deep in an agile environment.
All of a sudden, my business analysis process was tested. Did I really need that document or that section? Could the same thing be accomplished in a user story? What was missing now that I had this big list of user stories but no big picture? These were questions I grappled with (publicly) and they made me a better business analyst.
Even though I’m still no agile expert, I’ve challenged myself to streamline my processes, focus my efforts, and cut out pieces of requirements documentation that I didn’t even realize were fluff. But I also added some key pieces back in, realizing that agile methods didn’t necessarily create a substitute for great business analysis. This also led to more confidence in my abilities and a better understanding of the value I provide.
New Project, New You!
Unless you are working on the killer of all projects that is a new career-changing experience in an of itself, it may be that a lateral move or a new type of project might be exactly what you need to hit refresh and rekindle your business analysis career path. After all, when the path up seems blocked, it’s up to us to find a work-around.
>>Get Confident in a New Domain
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