Accelerate past your professional development obstacles

There are many obstacles that get in your way in trying to achieve your goals as a business analyst.

Your goal could simply be getting the best out of your stakeholders in tomorrow’s workshop. You might be thinking longer term about using a new technique you’ve read about such as a swimlane diagram for modeling a process.

To give you a real world example, I was speaking to my mentee, Kenny, when he had started on a new project in a new organisation and was looking for some pointers.

Kenny asked – What should go into a requirements document?

I asked him if he’d asked his colleagues which he hadn’t. He thought it must be obvious and was uncomfortable asking the question.

I explained there’s no single perfect answer to this question.

What’s the organisation/project culture?

You must start by understanding the expectations of your boss and colleagues before deciding how to approach it.

I told Kenny to speak to his PM, BA lead and fellow BA’s and ask if there are any standards or existing templates for a requirements document.

I also said  to make sure you explain why you’re asking. Explain that you know what you’d like to do but don’t want to conflict with local standards.

Kenny put my advice into action. There were many other conversations (too many to go into here) at the end of which he’d produced his requirements document to his and my satisfaction.

Put yourself in Kenny’s position. Imagine how you would feel if you’d not taken advice and produced a requirements document only to be told half of it was missing (or half of it wasn’t needed)! All that extra work could have been avoided with a few simple questions at the outset. And what would your boss think? He’d probably cut you some slack but he would have been disappointed. If you got it right first time he would have been very impressed.

What do you do with requirements that are known unknowns?

I was working with Kenny trying to identify requirements from a process diagram he had completed. I asked Kenny which team would be processing the insurance claims submitted by the customer.

Kenny explained that this was still being decided by the business.

Rather than just ignoring this, I advised Kenny to record this as an open issue in the requirements document. When the team was identified in the future, it would be sure to generate some requirements so I didn’t want us to overlook it just because it was unknown.

In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, we had discovered a “known unknown”.

Imagine what would have happened in the future if we hadn’t recorded the issue and the system was delivered without any requirements for this handover to the unknown team. The system wouldn’t have had had the ability to pass the claim to a team. Hopefully, it would have been spotted by one of the designers before it got to that stage. Either way, the additional cost to fix the requirement gap would have been many times greater than getting them right in the first place (during analysis).

Have you been in similar situations when you were uncertain how to approach your next task?

Do you think you might benefit from someone looking over your shoulder or giving you feedback on your work or your approach?

The beauty of taking advice from someone who has been there and done it several times before is they’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to.

You can tap into someone else’s hard won experience rather than finding out yourself through slow and painful trial and error.

I’m now offering a Professional Development Mentoring Programme for business analysts who lack experience and want to accelerate their professional development by having regular access to an experienced BA.

I am a big believer in tapping into the knowledge and experience of the community. I believe a group of people can always achieve much more than a single individual.

I’m starting small with only two individuals who I have personally selected because of their unique skills and experience.

Mike Eckersley – the UK BA Mentor

I’ve known Mike for over two years as we have served on the board of the UK Chapter of the IIBA together. Mike is what you might call a life long learner. He has consistently amazed me that he seemed to have read the books of all the speakers at IIBA events and the UK BA Conference.

To say he is passionate and knowledgeable about all aspects of business analysis is an understatement. He can’t help but educate himself on the latest thinking on business analysis – I would say it is an addiction! His long experience gives him the necessary depth and grounding to not just accept the latest fad but run it though his ‘filter’ to take on board the good stuff and throw away the rubbish.

Mike can think big (he proposed the technique to define the UK Chapter’s new business model) but can also do the small day to day stuff very well. He is what you might call a ‘safe pair of hands’ in that when he has committed to doing something he will see it all the way through. This is proven by his sterling work on managing the UK Chapter website, creating a knowledge base and driving the recording of Chapter events (UK slideshare ‘channel’ some with audio and video!).

Doug Goldberg – the US BA Mentor

I first met Doug over two years ago through my blogging activities. Doug was very active and getting a lot of satisfaction from helping out his fellow BA’s. The first time we worked together was when Doug invited me to contribute to a free study group that he had designed and set up for nothing. Frankly, I was amazed how much he was giving so felt the least I could do was make my small contribution! Since then Doug has repeatedly invited me to his annual Octoberfest at his home near Fort Worth. I have consistently turned him down but hope I will be able to make it very soon!

Seriously, Doug has been incredibly active with many contributions to Laura Brandenburg’s blog ‘Bridging the Gap’ (Doug’s articles). He has also been providing mentoring for free and has recently taken a few paying mentees on from me on a post last year.

Ok, so here’s the deal.

Would you like to have access to a sounding board, mentor and general expert guide to throw questions, share your concerns and ask for advice on all things BA?

If so, you need to decide whether Doug or Mike would be the right choice for you. Mike and Doug would be happy to accept a mentee from any country but you might want to think about time zones as well as who sounds like the right guy for you.

There are only a few spots available – maybe 20 at most – we haven’t agreed yet the exact limit (Mike and Doug both have jobs and other commitments) but it’s somewhere around this.

Provide your name below for a free ‘taster’ session. This gives you and Mike or Doug a chance to get to know each other and decide whether you could work together.

At that point, you can agree schedules, pay for your first mentoring sessions and start to see the benefits!

The package involves a regular monthly meeting with your mentor. The agenda for each meeting is agreed in advance to give your mentor time to prepare to ensure you get maximum value. Of course, you can choose to raise questions/issues for discussion in the meeting if needed.

If you’d like to know more, please download this brief guide to the Professional Development Mentoring Programme

Please supply your details below and I will send you details of the mentoring package.

Doug or Mike will be in touch to schedule your first taster session.

If you can’t see the form below (this often happens when you receive updates as an email!), click here.

(to be clear, this is not free, this is a paid service)

Is this the service you were looking for?
How would you like it improved to satisfy your needs?

Please provide your feedback by adding a comment below to help me help you.

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About Alex Papworth

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