I met Pinal Patel last year when we worked together in a startup. For three months or so we had some fun with our first experience of Agile methods and a wide variety of working hours. Since then, we have gone our separate ways but have kept in touch. Pinal was originally a developer but has decided to become a business analyst and this is his story…
I started off my career as a Java Developer for a dot com company back in 2000. Life was great as I was being paid to do what I enjoyed the most – to churn out code. Once that tenure was over I moved to a small UK consultancy. This is where I started to see the whole picture of the project life cycle and started to lose my love for churning out the code. I decided to move to the dark side of the analysis world!
People often ask me why I made the transition? And my answer is always the same – I decided to make the transition because I wanted to be in a position where I could influence the solution from the start. As a BA, you define the requirements but coming from a technical background I could identify some potential obstacles at an early stage. I find that there was a big disconnect between the business and technical teams on the projects I worked on in the past which I felt was something I could bridge successfully. Being a BA required a totally different mindset which was a challenge I wanted to overcome.
I was lucky that I had a chance to work for a small consultancy because that gave me an opportunity to work on different areas of the project lifecycle. I decided to work on the design phase as it was a natural transition from the development phase, concentrating on systems analysis initially. This allowed me to work on defining use cases and feasibility study documentation. Once I was competent within that role I started taking on additional responsibilities like running workshops, detailed requirements gathering, change management, cost estimation and stakeholder management. I am sure there are others out there who have taken a different path into the BA world! When I was researching into this I had two options in front of me, either get some industry experience or to do a qualification and try to get a junior BA role.
The great thing about development was that you are always working on something tangible. You know what your end result is and there are clear and concise test criteria for success. So when someone said they want xyz, you knew exactly what that meant! The biggest challenge I had when moving to the analysis world was to not assume anything and to question everything!
In my first analysis role I was asked to simplify the login process to the existing call centre application. My first rookie mistake was to assume that the existing login process was correct but required a few tweaks to meet the requirements. I know this sounds very simple but it is difficult when you are thrown in the deep end and you are working against strict deadlines. The mistake was not critical as I had a great business analyst colleague who helped me with this but you are not always that lucky!
The next point was learning to question everything! When a business stakeholder said they wanted the system to perform a specific function, I used to jot it down without questioning the reason why they needed that in the first place. Again a very big mistake but thankfully I had someone to bounce ideas off which meant that I had to go back to the stakeholder to identify the reasons and then to use basic questioning techniques to extract the raw unedited requirements. The biggest fallacy in my mind is to use statements like “do you know what I mean?” as if the requirements are clear and concise then you should not be needing such statements!
Over time I realised that developing softer skills were as important as the first two. I have specified three generic skills but I am sure readers out there will be quick to add to this list. These were the basics which I came to struggle with when I made the transition.