You’re probably doing it wrong: 3 ways to improve your BA practices in 2015!

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Welcome in 2015! Since the year is now more than 5 10 12 19 days old, your personal resolutions for the new year are probably already identified (publishing my first post of the year on time should’ve been one of my resolutions). If you’re among the most motivated of us, maybe you’re even on your way to reach them. However, have you made the same exercise for your professional life?

As we were celebrating with our family and trying to find original resolutions, I realized that I could also set my own BA resolutions for the new year. I thought this could be a great way to challenge myself during the next year, and it would allow me to grow as a Business Analyst. However, since I had no idea where to start, I decided to write a blog post about it (which would help me find something to work on, and would also help you do the same thing).

My reflexion led me to 3 dimensions you can check about your work. From these dimensions, you should be able to identify some ideas for your 2015 professional resolutions. Let’s take a look at them.

Ask your customers

As Business Analysts, we work a lot with our customers, whether they’re inside or outside our organization. Therefore, it’s logical to first take a look on this side to find ways to improve yourself. After identifying your main customers, here are some questions you could ask them to learn about your current performance:

  1. What is the greatest initiative we worked on last year? Which one was the worst? Why? By comparing your performance on your best and worst initiatives of the year, you will be able to identify more easily the things to do again, and the ones you don’t want to repeat for the next year.
  2. What do you like about my work? What’s the most useful thing I do for you? This will help you focus on other aspects of your work, while nurturing the things that work well.
  3. What could I do to help you work better? What could you do to help you/me? I really like those questions, as they focus on the collaboration with your customers. Asking the question in both directions (what you can do + what the customer can do) can also trigger some resolutions on your customer side 🙂

These questions are oriented toward your work, not toward yourself. This could help you to get rid of the emotions and personal relationship effects that often come with this kind of questions. As a bonus, you could also perform the same exercise with your major stakeholders. They might not be your direct customers, but they might have an interesting (and different) point of view on your work.

Ask your team

Business Analysis is all about communication & team work, which makes it natural to ask your own colleagues what you can improve to do a better job both on an individual basis, and well as from a team perspective. Here are some dimensions you might want to review for improvement opportunities:

  1.  Do you have the right tools to do your work as a BA (ex: requirements management, modeling, communication, etc.)? Are your templates still relevant, or do they have to be modified to meet your current BA practices? Getting the right tools is often a mid-to-long term objective, but improving your templates is an easy thing to do. Having a standardized way to work is better for your customers (since they won’t have a learning curve each time they work with a different BA from your team), but also for your team (since it’s make it easier to find & reuse previous work prepared by a colleague).
  2. Does information about your BA activities flow freely? In my opinion, communication is the key behind business analysis. Make your current project status visible, share your knowledge with your colleagues, ask questions to your colleagues when you’re looking for something; by being transparent about your work, you will increase awareness about it.
  3. Do you even work as a team? Being in a team of BAs where everyone works on its own is not working as a team. By improving your team spirit and the way you collaborate with each other, you will improve your team’s knowledge, which can only bring you (and your customers) benefits in the long run. Organize Lunch & Learn sessions; take some time in your team meetings to talk about your projects; you might be surprised of the result!

I’m a big fan of using Sharepoint (or any other similar tool you might have in your organization) to support these improvement initiatives. Many people only see Sharepoint as a document management tool, but you can do so much more with it. If you don’t believe me, you might want to take a look at this video by Bill Kulterman; it’s about 60 minutes long, but it’s worth it.

Look outside

Sometimes, it’s hard to see how we can improve ourselves, especially when you’ve been in the same position for years. The best remedy for this situation is simple: just think outside the box 🙂 . There are many boxes you can take a look at to find good ideas to improve yourself:

  1. The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABoK) is a must-read for any BA. You will find a lot of information about BA activities, tools and techniques that might inspire you. With the new version coming in the next months, even senior BAs will have something to look at.
  2. The IIBA offers various resources that might also help you improve yourself. From online books to webinars, to local chapters conferences & workshops, you have almost endless opportunities!
  3. LinkedIn groups are also a useful resource. Most IIBA local chapters have their own groups, but you will also find industry- or region-specific groups that might be inspiring. While some of these groups are big job posting boards, others feature interesting content and discussions by their members. As I’m writing this, I really enjoy following these groups.
  4. Finally, subscribing to Eric the Business Analyst.com blog is also an excellent way to improve your BA knowledge and get inspiring improvement ideas, all year long 🙂

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Start now: analyze one of your BA process

I hope that some resolution ideas came to your mind while reading this; if that’s the case, write them down (you can even share them with other readers below)! If you’re still struggling to find something, just jump in the wagon and start analyzing one of the main process you’re involved in as a BA. You will certainly find ideas to improve this process in the next months.

Do you have other tips to help you improve yourself as a BA? Got some BA resolutions for 2015? Please share your experience with us in the comments below, or in the social medias (FacebookTwitter, or Google+)!

Image credits: a_kartha @ FreeImages.com

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By Eric Provost

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Eric Provost

Making sense out of chaos as a BA & UX specialist

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