December 8, 2015, Jacqueline of Technology Expresso and Kupe of B2TTraining united for the live premiere of their new Call In Series, created to provide Insight into Business Analysis.
Jacqueline: Hello, and good afternoon. This is Jacqueline Sanders-Blackman with Technology Expresso Radio. We are so excited to bring you this afternoon’s edition of Technology Espresso Radio. I’m going to be your host today, and I have a special guest with me, Kupe. He’s President of B2TTraining, an author and prolific speaker about all things Business Analysis related and we’re here to talk about Business Analysis Insight.
This is going to be a live-call in, interactive Q&A episode. Thank you everyone who’s on the line with us, and to those who are listening via your laptops, again, this is an interactive show. If you have a question for either myself or Kupe, all you have to do is press 1 to join the queue to talk with us on today’s show.
If you’re online and tweeting, you can use the hashtag #biztechlivechat. We’ll be taking those questions and answering those as well. Thank you for joining us. Let me jump right in. First of all, Kupe, welcome to the show. I’m excited to have you.
Kupe: Thank you for having me Jacqueline. This is great. I was just telling my mom I was doing this radio show, and she told me that I had a face for radio, so this is perfect.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. You’ve been on our show before, but now we’re kicking off something slightly different. This is going to be a recurring series. We’re going to open it up and let the audience drive the questions. This is a kick-off. So first I want to give some context on how this particular segment came about and also have you share a little bit of your background. I learned some things about you as we started setting up for the show, so I’ll let you introduce yourself.
Questions: Share with the audience how you becoming a business analyst is tied to STEM, which our audience may or may not know, relates to something that Technology Expresso regularly promotes, which is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Why don’t you tell us how your background relates to STEM?
Kupe: I’d love to. Growing up, I don’t know if they used the term STEM to define those topics. In high school, that was around the area I loved. I loved math; I loved science. Those were pretty much the only two subjects I did well in. The other few I didn’t do as well. I really loved math, and I especially loved getting into higher-end math more than science. I didn’t know what I wanted to do going into college, so my dad said, “Well, you have this accounting degree at the university. You love math. People always need accountants. You’ll always have a job. So, why don’t you go become an accountant?” I said, “Ok. I love math. I love that type of work. So, why not?” I went on to get my accounting degree. I graduated. I realized I should be using my degree in some form or fashion and started working as an accountant at different places. It really wasn’t my thing. It didn’t excite me. I was working in financial analysis and doing things on a monthly, quarterly, yearly grind. I didn’t like the pattern of the work. Honestly, I failed the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Exam miserably.
I thought, there has to be something better. What else could I enjoy? I was really having a good time working with IT teams implementing financial systems, and an opening came up as a reporting analysis and a business analysis. I jumped at the opportunity, not really knowing exactly what it was about, but I was given the position because I had a lot of subject-matter expertise. That started this whole path for me. I really fell in love with the position, and now, the president of B2TTraining, which is a learning organization focused in business analysis. I’m out there everyday talking about business analysis and helping people get better. The connection, though and what I love about this radio show and my background is how it fits. Math and science has helped me be a better BA over the years. Math, to me, and the higher levels of math — higher-end algebra and calculus, statistical analysis — is about problem-solving. It’s about looking at a situation and figuring out, how do we solve this problem? It’s about looking at what you have in front of you and trying to decipher how you get to the answer.
That, in my opinion, is what analysis is all about. It’s about looking at information that organizations have, problems that they have, and how you take in all this information because there’s a lot of stuff that you can work on in organizations. How do you determine how to move forward, how to prioritize? That math background has really helped me. On the science side, with experimentation, it’s the same thing. You start to get information about an organization, and you have to start to make some hypothesis to see is this a path that we should take. Should we go down that area? It’s an experimental type thing. It’s not a finite science where if this happens, that happens. You have to experiment and try different things. I think there’s a pure connection. A lot of kids, and I talk to my kids. My son is really good at math; my daughter is really good at math and science. They’re like, “Why would I ever use this in the real world?” I think this is an example. If you study in these fields, it can help you clearly in the business analysis space.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. I’m chuckling as you’re talking, because we talk with a lot of college students. We speak at various panels, and one of the things that I have found is that young people, when they go to college, they don’t know exactly what they like and what they don’t like. Sometimes going to college and the degree you choose helps you determine what’s right for you and what you don’t want to do. At first you went into accounting, but there’s the silver lining that you found your passion and you have that math/science foundation to fall back on.
It comes together over time as you get to know yourself and know what your options are. That’s one of the things that we try to do at Technology Expresso, just expose young people to their various options.
You and I, we’ve had some really in-depth conversations, we kind of had this “Aha!” moment where we were like, other people need to hear this and even chime in on some of the things that we’ve experienced and that we’ve been coming across. We’ve watched business analysts, been a part of it, myself over the last 10-15 years, and it evolved. Some of the problems that we see there are common for all business analyst, and not just to the IT industry. We were saying to each other, we shouldn’t just be having these good conversations and discover these valuable pearls of wisdom and keeping it to ourselves, but instead use them to share and expose our insights and observations to a lot of people. That’s why I was really excited when we talked about doing a show and bringing both our audiences together.
Question: From your perspective when we started talking about this, what came to mind when we first talked about bringing our two audiences together?
Kupe: For me, when we had that “Aha!” moment, there was a period where it seemed like every week we were having an hour, hour and a half long conversations about business analysis and the challenges organizations or individuals were having. That conversation just organically started to form from different topics here and there. We realized that maybe we started with one specific situation of a discussion that I had with a client or that you had with one of your students in class or we had with consultant engagements, but it kind of blossomed because everybody is probably struggling in some form or fashion with these things.
Let’s expand the conversation, not just to you and me, but to allow you and me to have that conversation to a broader audience and bring that audience into the mix and let them ask questions and chime into the topics as well. A lot of the clients that we work with are within the IT organization, but these things around analysis, you and I were having a conversation earlier about it having to be a mindset. My view is everybody at all levels in every organization, whether its from an entry level position — somebody just brand new to an organization — to the c-level — the highest level of an organization — or even an entrepreneur, these are the same battles because analysis is about trying to identify an opportunity, a problem, or a situation within an organization that needs to improve. It’s about figuring out what’s the route to take to improve that. What’s going to add the most value? How should we prioritize our time and our money? What problems do we go after and what opportunities do we go after?
Jacqueline: Exactly. What I’ve discovered is that the language of problem solving and finding solutions is universal. I network with various groups of entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations, women entrepreneurs as well as mixed groups, and what I’ve noticed is that some of the same language comes up when it come to small business coaching: things like critical thinking, root-cause analysis, setting expectations, and scoping the project. It’s the same language, so some of these things are very reusable and transferrable. We can learn from each other. That really excites me, too. It’s not just for people in corporate America or just IT; it’s also for people who are in small business, start-up business, micro-businesses — there’s just a lot of different groups but we’re having the same conversations and challenges. So when one of us finds a solution, why not put it out there so we all benefit from hearing about it. That’s what I’m excited about.
Kupe: I think that’s part of the challenge with business analysis industry-wide, not just in one particular place or in one organization. The misconception or misinterpretation with what business analysis is, people tend to think that, “Oh, there’s a role called business analyst, and people within IT play that role, and that’s the scope of their work.” When it comes down to it, that couldn’t be further from the truth; there are people that do this full-time. To your point that it’s the same challenges whether you’re on an IT project or you’re trying to launch a new product that you’re trying to sell as an entrepreneur, you’re having the same challenges. You have to get over the same hump, so it applies to everyone.
Jacqueline: In your opinion and from an IT/Technology perspective, business analysis is growing. What’s the evolution that you’ve seen? I have some of my opinions, so I’ll jump in as well. But from the time you first got in the “business”, how and why has it changed?
Kupe: From an evolution standpoint, do you mean from people playing the role and where they go from there or just the evolution of analysis and how its being used in general?
Jacqueline: From the latter, because today we have a mixed audience, especially since this is the kick-off, not everyone knows the background of Business Analysis in the IT industry. Start by talking about the role itself: how it has come about and how it’s changing. I know when I look back 15 years ago, if you Google the role of business analysis, it was kind of all over the place. With organizations like IIBA, it has evolved, and the definition is becoming a little bit more concrete.
Question: I just want to know from when you started in business analysis, how you have seen the role change.
Kupe: I started in this space in the mid-to-late nineties. At that time, the common phrase used for business analysis was “the bridge.” It was taking the bridge between the business side of the house to the technical side of the house. The big push in the nineties was the ERP systems. PeopleSoft and SAP, those big, financial applications and HR applications were being implemented, but there was this disconnect between from the technology people that knew the technology from inside and out and knew the programming languages to the business and what they really needed. Analysis was really more focused on translation to help understand what the business needs and then translate that to a technical solution team so that they could implement something. I think over the years, that has started to change for a number of reasons.
One, I don’t like using the word “bridge” much anymore because that gives the sense of this person getting information from one side of the bridge, walking over to the other side and giving it to the other person, and walking back over the bridge if the technical side had any questions. That’s just a long, arduous process. I think that over the years, the people have a lot more technical knowledge. If everybody that’s listening in looks 2-feet from them, they have technology all around them. They’re even listening to this via technology. Non-technical people have technology all around them, so there’s more of an understanding in that space. Over time, the technical people have also tried hard to figure out what the real business needs are and how to have more business conversations.
I’ve seen the analysis arena and where I think it could grow even more. Take a level up from the lower level conversations between the business and technology, but take a step up and really look at the strategy-side of things and determine what should be focused on to begin with. Once we have a good understanding of what we should focus on and go after, allow the technologists to work with the business to design something that best meets their needs.
Jacqueline: I get your point about the bridge. A term I find myself using a lot is “facilitator.” I think of requirements as a team sport. People shouldn’t look to a business analyst for all of the answers. It’s bringing the right people together and helping to stimulate the right conversation. It’s very much kind of a facilitation role. I think that’s another reason why we wanted to open up the conversation, so that other people within the team, assigned to a project, can also start to see what their role is related to successful requirements, how they can support the BA, and how as a team working together they can come to the right problem definition as well as the right solution.
Kupe: The goal in analysis should be gaining a shared understanding with the whole team. I was on many projects in years past where something would go wrong and someone would ask the QA analyst who was testing the solution, “What happened? Why didn’t you test XYZ?” They’re like, “Oh, that wasn’t in the requirements,” and they point back to the BA. You’re right, it always has been a team sport. With agile methodologies and agile principles that are ingrained in organizations today, it kind of sets up an environment where it’s supposed to be a team sport, but analysis and requirements has always been a team sport. The better team players understand that, the better outcomes they’re going to have for their projects and for their business.
Jacqueline: Exactly. I wanted pause here to speak with our audience to let them know we’re talking with Kupe of B2TTraining. He’s the president. We want you to be a part of the conversation. Maybe you agree or disagree. Maybe you have some additional insights. Also, you may have some questions as we talk about what a business analyst is, what they do, how the role has evolved, what industries they operate in, and maybe even some questions about the future of BA’s. I see several callers on the line. As we’re waiting for people to think about their questions, of course we have some BA’s on the line, so I know we’re going to get some questions today. We’ve talked about some different things in the business analyst space but you can pick the topic and what direction we take the discussion.
Again, it goes back to, it’s not just about the IT business analysts. We can also talk about the generic aspects and transferable skills. And that brings me to a follow up questions.
Question: What are the skills of business analysts? When we talk about BA training, we have a whole range of people on the call today, what are the skills of a good business analyst in today’s world?
Kupe: There’s a school of thought that there’s two sides. This is hot off the presses, and I’m thinking there might be three, but there’s two main sides of BA: the art side and the more science/technical side of the BA role. There might be three in the sense that there’s a social side. One of the things that analysts have to do is to engage people and get a shared understanding. Things like negotiation skills, facilitation skills, anthropology skills, really understanding environments, knowing what’s going on with the people around them, knowing what drives them and understanding them is important. A key skill for BA is being a full-time networker and connecting with people day-in and day-out. The reason for that is — well, I think people don’t get paid these days as much for what they know, but they get paid for who they know, especially in the analysis space.
There’s a lot of information that has to be gathered in a quick amount of time. Some BA’s that get put onto projects, and even if you’re not a BA but the person who has to get information and analyze the situation that the organization is in or the initiative that you’re focused on, you have to get a lot of information fast. Oftentimes, you’re handed a list of people to get that information from. A lot of times, those aren’t necessarily the right people. If you don’t have a good network in the organization you’re working in, it’s going to be hard for you to know any different, but if you’re connecting with a lot of people within the organization, you’re going to be able to quickly assess “do I have the right people in the room?” The only way to do that is get from behind your desk and start having conversations. Often when I do talks via webinar or live, I like to throw out there a question like, “How many of you eat lunch at your desk?” Almost 80% eat lunch at their desk all the time, or 3-4 times a week. That’s an indication that people aren’t getting up and networking and having conversations with people in their organization, whether its people they work with today or people that they might work with in the future.
This all plays into my goal in life. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but I have a goal in life to meet everybody in the world. The whole premise of that goal is that I never filter who I’m going to make connections with. I try to connect with people every day, every week, every month, but I don’t filter who I make connections with. I say, my goal is to meet everybody. If I meet one person, no matter who or where they are, that’s a positive thing. People sometimes feel like with networking and connecting, they have to deal with people above them and try to impress them to climb the company ladder, and I think you should take that filter off and connect with anyone because you never know where that relationship is going to take you. That’s more on the social side.
On the more technical side, there are analysis techniques. You talked about the IIBA, the International Institute of Business Analysis, and they have a body of knowledge. There are other bodies of knowledge that are out there, too, like BIZBOK, an architectural body of knowledge. There’s PMBOK, which is Project Management Institute. There are all these bodies of knowledge that have skills or techniques to help you do the job that you’re after. I’m not going to go through all of them, but there are techniques to help you look at a situation. They’re more analysis techniques to help you decipher the information you have and help you figure out the right path to take. I do believe that people need to look at the BA role as facilitating divisions. That’s a big one for me these days.
There are tons of decisions on projects day-in and day-out. You have to look at the role as facilitating decisions being made. Some of those decisions are, “what problem should we go after?” Somebody in the organization is going to make those decisions. Well, you have to serve up information to them for them to be able to make the best decision. That’s being a good analyst: looking at the current situation, understanding the criteria somebody uses to make decisions, and giving them that information so that they could best prioritize for the organization. When you get all the way down to the solution, the developers have to make a decision of “what’s the best way to design this thing?” All that analysis work you do, and the reason you use all those techniques is to serve up information in a way that your develops can make a decision. QA analysts need to prioritize what they should test first and in general. If you look at the role as facilitating decisions, it starts to put things in perspective for you. What’s your reaction before I keep going?
Jacqueline: I’m just soaking it all in, and I totally agree with you so far. I have some follow-up questions, but I want you to go ahead and get to that third aspect.
Kupe: I look at that third aspect as the analytical, critical-thinker side. The social side is looking at things, being that connector, getting people engaged, figuring out why some people are excited about an initiative and others aren’t, getting them involved, showing that epathetical lens that you care about them and you really want to help them. People look at the science side as more of the techniques you can use. In between all of that is the critical-thinking analysis, using your head to figure out what’s happening. This goes back to my STEM background and where it ties in. I can look at a survey. We’re a learning organization; we provide business analysis classes for organizations and individuals. We always have post-class surveys. We ask people to rate the class, the instructor, the course material, look at how the class is going to help you in the future. We summarize them for class, summarize for companies, and sometimes for an overall course that’s taken by different companies.
I could look at a survey. In that case, there’s a social side to it. How can we interact with the people that we teach? How can we get them to feel good? Getting surveys and getting that information from them is part of the social side. The technical side is, ok, we’re going to do it via survey, and we’re going to use SurveyMonkey or whatever survey tool. Then, there’s the analytical side of, “what does all this stuff mean?” With my STEM background, I can look at a survey and start to quickly make some hypotheses about what went well, what didn’t go so well, and where we can improve. That’s the same thing in the analysis field. You have to have the social side, you have to know the techniques, but then there’s the critical-thinking, the analytical side that answers the question, “What does it all mean?” What do we do now? You have to serve up suggestions to the organization and say, “Here are some options that you should take.” That’s the third side. Does that make sense? Does that resonate with you?
Jacqueline: It does. One of the other things we talk about, too, is that some people don’t really engage that critical thinking side, but that’s part of the education I think needs to go on not just for people in the BA role but across the project team. Sometimes it’s the BA that has to be the person that initiates and starts that education within your organization to get the team to start thinking critically. I think that in the business analysis realm, we kind of have that strategic vs. that tactical BA role. Or your role may even register a step below the tactical, that’s what we call the order-taker. What we want to do is elevate everybody beyond the order-taker to at least the tactical in this conversation. You know you are working at the tactical when you’re getting the projects to focus on feature, functions and the end solution. When your at the strategic level, then what you are doing is adding value by, dissecting, identifying trends, challenging the norm. Not just mapping requirements to a template. You’re actually providing analysis, making recommendations, being a consultant. When you feel like you’re in that role where you’re helping to make better decisions and serving them information not just datea, then you can start to say you’re a strategic business analysis. You’re an internal consultant/advisor. Hopefully, some people on the call are saying, “Aha! That’s the missing link!” Simply understanding the difference between BA the order taker, the tactical BA or the Strategic BA. And then the next inner monologue is How you go about maturing not only your skill sets, (because you can do that through the different training and education), but you also have to share these definition and bring along your organization to make sure they see the value that you can provide beyond be just an order taker or tactical BA.
Kupe: You brought up a good point around education — maybe educating is a better term — I like to use the term marketer or salesperson. Sometimes, I get these odd looks when I say, “You need to be in the sales profession,” especially with organizations that don’t see the value in business analysis and don’t understand. Sometimes it’s not that they don’t see the value, but they don’t understand the time that it takes. They look at it as, “Oh, you’re a good communicator. You can go have a meeting, and you can facilitate a conversation and just put the information into one or more of the techniques you have available.” What they’re not seeing is the thinking part, the analysis part. As an organization, B2TTraining, we’re actually going through some system enhancements. We’re getting a new class management system, a new CRM system, and we had to go through that piece, too. It wasn’t as simple as, “Oh, just go out and buy the system.” We did some analysis and had some conversations, but I had to use different techniques to make sure we weren’t missing anything. That is the critical-thinking piece.
It’s way above being the note-taker or the tactical BA. Sometimes the note-taker/tactical BA has the conversation, puts it into some form, and moves on to the next thing. It’s a hard thing to convince people that you need time to think. Some people have the idea that thinking is just you sitting at your desk with your feet up and you’re looking out the window. There is some of that. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower, brushing my teeth, driving to work, or doing something completely different.
I wrote a blog a few months ago titled, “The BA Role is not a 9-to-5 Job.” I got some slack for that, too, because people are like, “It’s just companies taking advantage of us and making us work more hours.” That wasn’t what I was saying. My point is, every awake hour you can’t shut off work-type stuff, because in the subconscious, things are working, and they’re going to pop up into your forethought. You need to let that happen and at least pause what you’re doing when you can and jot it down. I just got a Samsung Note 5, and the beauty of that is it has a little pen. When one of these thoughts hit me, I’ll just pop it out and write myself a quick little note so that I’m able to get back to whatever I’m doing with my wife or kids without forgetting it. When you leave the office at 5:00, you can’t just let that shut off, because these ideas just hit. I’m sorry if I went off on a tangent there.
Jacqueline: Not at all – I get exactly what you saying. We were having that conversation about going from being that order-taker to tactical to strategist, and part of the difference in those level’s of BA is stepping back and having time to think. It’s not just about going from meeting to meeting to meeting having to capture things and put them into templates. You’re do busy work but are you doing meaningful work? Sometimes it feels like organizations want to see you really busy throughout the day to the point where when you take time to try to think, to management it looks like you’re idle. At some point, your mind needs that opportunity to process the data coming your way.
Kupe and I, we did a presentation where we talked about having opportunities to use different thinking styles and to think outside of the box. One of the analogies that I think is so important is not just skimming the surface of the problem using that picture of the iceberg. I’ve seen it reused in a lot of different forms and fashion. If you just start chipping away at the tip of the iceberg, the real, deep-rooted, deep-seated problems don’t get address — if everybody just wanted to look at what’s above the surface and not do a true, root-cause analysis to look at problems, you’ll find yourself spinning over and over.
Let me pause our conversation for a minute because we’re on a roll. You and I, we can take a word bounce off of each other and create some great discussion points. We have a lot of people on the phone with us, and I want to thank you for joining us on our kick-off of our Business Analysis Insight Show.
This is a live Q&A, so we do want questions. We’ve got callers on the line. I don’t see any hands raised. It’s really an open conversation. I’ve got Kupe, the president of B2TTraining. Kupe, you might’ve have a thought that you wanted to get back to.
Kupe: Make sure everyone on the line knows that I don’t bite, at least not during this podcast. Feel free to chime in. I say this a lot when I do different talks and webinars: I love Twitter because it’s a great way to share and get information on a daily basis. One of the skills that BA’s should have and everyone should have is being life-long learners; listening to podcasts like this and trying to find ways to learn constantly. I think Twitter is a great way to do that because you can get information in any subject you’re looking for at any time.
I’ll tell people when I’m doing my talks to please feel free to tweet anything that you hear, love, or agree it. Tell all your friends. If you hear anything you disagree with, keep it to yourself. I kid, because I’d actually rather have you post things you don’t agree with because that’s how we learn: by having good conversations and by debating back and forth. When you and I have these conversations, Jacqueline, we don’t necessarily agree on every single topic. I think that’s the beauty of it, and that’s how you and I get to grow. I hope people feel free to share information, agree, disagree, chime in with a different kind of thought because that’s how we’re going to grow and get better.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. Today’s show is an hour long, and if we don’t get anyone to talk to us on the line, we are both on Twitter. You can reach out to and follow Kupe: @Kupe. For myself, I am @RequirementsPro. We want to keep the conversation going. We even want to know what other topics you would like us to hit on or expand on. We’ll even have some additional guests on the show with Kupe and me in the future. So in the meantime, back to our discussion. That’s one of the things I wanted to circle back to, Kupe, In the business analysis space, at least for myself, we are continuously trying to learn new ways, new skills, learning the industry. It’s constant motion. It’s just a continuous learning process. We’re always learning and evolving. For some people, especially those attracted to business analysis, that’s the fun of it, the beauty of it.
Question: For those people that are potentially interested business analysis, why is continued education a key component of that?
Kupe: I think there are two reasons. First, no situation is the same. I’ll go into my soapbox about best practices and how I don’t necessary love that term. In our field, like other fields, companies want to feel like they’re doing the best practices. In some situations, that makes sense, but in the software development field, there are not a lot of situations that are the same.. The practice that is being claimed to be the best practice is best in a certain context. You have to take that with a grain of salt and figure out how you can take the pieces that make sense for your situation.
When it comes to learning, there’s so many techniques and things you can focus on that depending on your situation, you need to have this huge toolbox so that when you come up on a situation, you have a lot of things to pull from and try. If you’re not constantly learning, then your toolbox is going to get stale. All the right tools won’t be ready for you. If you’re not constantly learning, there’s new things that pop up day-in and day-out. They might not be completely new, but they might have different twists on them. You have to keep your ears and eyes open, and keep your mind open to allow that stuff to come in so that when a situation pops up, you’re like, “Oh, I remember reading about that. Let me go find out more and maybe we can use that situation in the context that we’re in.”
The other area comes down to experimentation, being able to learn from what you’re doing, and being open to trying new things. Part of my background, when I was in that phase of being bored to tears being an accountant, prior to becoming a BA I felt I had to do something to keep myself occupied. I ended up doing stand-up comedy. I went to a comedy show with my then-girlfriend and now-wife, and I made the comment, “I can do that.” She said, “Alright, so why don’t you?” I took the challenge. I kind of had the same results as the CPA Exam, but I did audition for an improv comedy troop. I was trained up, and I performed improv for over 9 years in Atlanta. That’s a space that has gotten me comfortable with taking risks. Improv is all about risk-taking. You don’t know what the audience or the other actors are going to throw at you. There’s no scripts. You have to go for things, and you have to try things. If it works, great, and if it doesn’t, why didn’t it work and what can we try differently to improve? That’s a level of learning.
If you’re not constantly listening and open to learning, then you can really cut yourself short and have this idea of, “I know everything, already.” That’s never true. The other aspect of learning, and this might seem odd, but I think it’s happening now in design thinking. A lot of the techniques in design thinking are business analysis techniques. I think people shoot themselves if they don’t start to learn the new terminology that’s part of these movements. People get this attitude of, “Oh, I’ve been doing that for years. I call it this. I’m not changing what I call this to what the design thinking movement is calling it.” If you don’t do that, the problem is, you might’ve been calling it one thing all along, but the people that are hiring you and looking for your services are calling it something different. If you’re not up-to-speed on this new terminology, you can really shoot yourself in the foot. I think that’s really important. It’s actually a good thing in the sense that you already know the stuff, but just change your terminology as you talk about them.
Jacqueline: Right. It’s important to stay up with the terminology and the jargon because you don’t want to have the attitude that you know it all, you’ve been there and done that. There’s always a little different twist to it. I’ve got some callers on the line with 10 minutes to spare. We are happy to have them. Let me talk with area code 610. Your mic is open. Who do we have on the line?
Dawn Miller: Hi, my name is Dawn Miller. Thank you for hosting this. This is great. This is the first time I’ve joined one of your podcasts. I’m a fairly new analyst, less than one year, and my question is, is there a suggestion or recommendation for some preliminary classes to start out with, particularly surrounding requirements that would be key for me?
Kupe: Alright. If you’re new to the field in general, the area to look in is to figure out what questions to ask, how you form questions, and look at situations and know who to ask those questions to. The other area that you might not be as deeply involved in but you have to understand is the overall scoping of your situation. What are the boundaries of the initiative that you’re working on? What that does is by understanding those boundaries, it starts to formulate and give you the framework for what information you have to gather. From there, it’s kind of looking at some different analysis techniques depending on your organization and what techniques you have to be familiar with. That’s a really good starting point because that will give you a full breadth into the area and some depth in some areas. Then, you will know what you don’t know and know what to focus on. Sometimes focusing on one particular area can hurt you because it will get you into a situation where you have a hammer and in every situation, you’re trying to find that hammer. Starting out, that’s where I would look.
Dawn Miller: Ok, thank you.
Jacqueline: Thank you. By the way, where are you located?
Dawn Miller: I’m located in Pennsylvania, Valley Forge, specifically.
Jacqueline: Excellent. Well, thank you for calling, and thank you for participating in today’s show. Kupe, I have another caller on the line who has a question for us. This is Arlesa. Arlesa, how are you, today?
Arlesa: I’m great. How are you all today?
Jacqueline: We are doing excellent. Thank you for calling into the show. Do you have a question?
Arlesa: I do. I might’ve missed the entire talk that he was giving earlier about whether or not business analysis is actually a full-time position or if it’s a function. I was hoping Kupe could expand a little bit more on that. The reason I’m asking this question is because I’ve been a practitioner for a number of years, now, and I’ve been working in an agile type of organization, a large organization, where I’ve actually seen that from a business analyst perspective, it has become more of a function that a lot of people take on vs. it being a full-time position. I wasn’t quite sure if that’s what you were mentioning earlier, and if you could talk a little bit more about that, I would really appreciate it.
Kupe: Great question. Great topic. I’ll give you my view. I believe in the next 4-5 years, and the years aren’t necessarily the important part, but I think the business analyst title is going to go away because I do see it more going towards a function. I like how you used that word, a function. Some people call it a role, I’ve even used role, but function is actually better. It’s a function that teams need to have, and I see less and less teams needing a full-time business analyst, someone with that title business analyst. Multiple people can take on different pieces. I think teams need to look at themselves and say, “What do we need on this team? Who has the capabilities? What capabilities do we need as a team to be successful? Who has those capabilities?” Years ago when I was managing teams as project manager, I would get assigned to teams, and we would get in a room, understand the scope of the project, and say, “How do we get from where we are today to meet the goals of the project?” We would lay out all these tasks, and the question became, “Who can do these tasks?” These are the days of titles such as project manager, BA, QA, developer, and et cetera. 80-90% of those tasks went to the BA, but there were 10% that would go to other people based on time and skill set.
I think over the years it’s going to start to get to a place where more people are doing analysis-type work, and I think long-term, the first thing people should look at is do they like being on IT teams and working on IT projects. If that’s the case, that’s good. What they might bring to the team is that analysis skill set. You might continue to grab those analysis pieces, but you have to be open to doing other things. I think over time, people will become more hybrids. You’ll be an overall generalist but have 2-3 specialties that you can add to the mix that might not just be business analysis. I’m on this volunteer organization, and in this team that I’m on, none of us have a title, but there are things that need to get done. People just step up and take tasks off the wall, and they get help where they need it. We all bring our experiences to the table, but none of us have a title for one thing, and many of us are doing different things that we don’t typically do in our normal jobs. I think that’s the way teams are going to go. Teams still have to realize that this function is still necessary. People used to be like, “We don’t need business analysts. We just need to have conversations with the product owner, the business,” but analysis still happens day-in and day-out regardless of what people think. I think that over time, it will be more of a function that teams need rather than somebody with the title BA.
Jacqueline: We’re ending on a hot topic, here. That is a great segway. We’re going to end today’s episode. Thank you everyone for joining. Again, follow us on Twitter: @Kupe and @RequirementsPro. Continue to dial in to future TechnologyExpresso.com broadcasts, and check out our archive of our various guests and STEM topics. Look forward to our next date with Kupe and I as we continue this series about insight into business analysis with live Q&A. #BizTechLiveChat
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