I’m Paul Benn, founder of Altitude Journeys, a space to develop and design your pathways, or journeys, of success.
I often get asked by people who desire to begin a career as a Business Analyst “Where do we start?”
I am also asked how easy it is to get into business analysis. That is not a simple answer, as there are many factors that differ from individual to individual.
How much work experience do you have?
Do you have a degree?
What transferable skills do you have?
How good are you marketing yourself?
Here is my 6 step plan to starting a business analysis career
STep 1: THE eXPRESSION OF INTEREST
You might have heard about business analysis from a friend, colleague, or a career coach. Maybe you have worked with a business analyst and have decided that this is a career for you. However, you still need to find out more information before you decide if this is the right career for you.
Particularly find out:
What is a Business Analyst and what do they do?
Why would you want to be a business analyst given what you found out in point 1 above?
What skills are essential for a business analyst?
What of the skills in point 3 above do you already have? – do a skills audit
Connect with other business analysts and find out about their journey.
Have a look at the IIBA.org website for information.
STep 2: LEARN THE Foundations
This part of your journey is about understanding business analysis, gathering knowledge, and learning the mindset of business analysis.
This is where getting enrolled in a good foundations course is going to help you learn some business analysis foundations. Like:
How to elicit and analyse requirements
How to package requirements
How to plan the tasks of a Business Analyst
Prioritising requirements and managing the lifecycle of requirements
What are business rules and how they are used?
Software Development Life Cycles,
Techniques used as a business analyst and when to use them, e.g., process modelling, Business Canvas Modelling,
Identifying, managing, communicating, and collaborating with stakeholders,
How to model concepts and requirements,
Current state, future state, and gap analysis within strategic analysis,
Soft skills of business analysis, for example.
Leadership and influence and others
In this step, you are going to be looking at training in business analysis.
There are a few options available on the market.
Here are some pointers for choosing the right option:
ECBA certification for new business analysts from the IIBA
This is purely a knowledge-based qualification and teaches you the what about business analysis, not the how.
As a new entrant, it is going to do little for you to get into a business analyst role.
It lacks the practical and experience building that is required for this profession.
Online repeatable learning, e.g., Udemy, etc
Online courses like this are great for learning a new skill, hobby, or how to use something like Adobe Photoshop.
However, they lack the ability to produce practical experience, which accounts for 70% of adults learning
You experience little to no interaction with lecturers or other students, which accounts for 20% of adult learning
These two eliminate 90% of your learning efficiency
Studies show an adult learns more effectively when they incorporate the elements shown in the graphic below. A lot of the courses above don’t offer this type of learning.
It is what I call a Diversified Learning method that incorporates multiple elements to enhance the learning an adult goes through.
You can find a good, diversified learning coursehere, with the Faculty Training Institute.
STep 3: build your foundations
This step and step 2 work together in tandem, with step 3 lasting longer than step 2.
The diversified learning method I introduced you to in step 2 is the reason. A good course is going to comprise theory and practice.
Have you ever done one of those one/two-day courses where you get this extensive file of notes, and someone lectures you and then you go back to the office and it might be weeks or months before you use that skill?
Remember how it felt trying to remember what you did in class?
Maybe those lecture notes are still on the shelf, and you have never used that skill.
That is a wasted opportunity to effectively learn.
Learning can be overwhelming, so being able to apply what you learn at work straight away, as well as in the class, is very important to help with the efficiency of your learning. This is the 70% of a diversified learning method.
You want to be on a course where you are doing practical work to further your learning of the concepts taught (see the list below).
You also want to apply your learning while you are working. Even if you are not currently working as a business analyst, you can practice your skills in your current role. For example:
Let us say you just learnt how to do job observation as a technique in class. It is a technique used to observe how someone does their job, process, or task and learn from it. You could ask a colleague if you could use the technique to learn about something they do. You can practice open-ended and closed-end questions with this. You could practice doing a process flow from this. Finally, you could suggest improvements or solve a problem they encountered.
See what happened there?
You learn the knowledge of a skill and you have to build experience in multiple techniques that you can show to an employer. Experience and the ability to apply it on the course is important – Diversified Learning.
Here are some skills you will learn on a good course and can apply in your workplace as you learn. This list is not all, but just a taste.
Identify and defining problems
Elicit (gather) information and analysis it
Plan out business analysis tasks
Visual modelling techniques
BPMN and UML
Business Canvas Model
Customer journey maps
Stakeholder maps, models and other tools
Additional Business Analyst tasks you might learn include:
Agile and SCRUM
Software Testing and test plans and scripts
Project Management as you assist the project manager
Stakeholder identification and communication planning
Business Analyst Soft Skills.
Leadership and influence
Negotiation and conflict management
STep 4: Understand the value you offer
Now that you have some knowledge, experience, and understanding of business analysis, grab your CV and run to the interview door.
This is a mistake I see so many recent graduates make in every career. You cannot effectively market yourself if you do not know the value you offer.
You need to stop and think about your value offering so that you can sell yourself as the right candidate for the job.
How do we do this?
My 5 step plan:
Identify all your value from past jobs that apply to business analysis
Use the course and knowledge you have just built to talk about that experience in the language of a business analyst
Create your value statements that highlight your skills, with experience, and examples
Then update your CV and LinkedIn profile, so you sound like a business analyst
Research jobs available.
My Value Blueprint course and workshop teach you how to do the above. Contact me for more information and the price. I also do this as a series of coaching interventions if you are interested.
STep 5: Enter the job market
You have understood your value and your CV is updated. As well as your LinkedIn profile.
So now you are applying for jobs. Well, not as easy as that. Another big mistake made is to attach a CV and cover letter to an application and hit send.
Going back to our value statements in step 4, you now need to adjust them to the job you are applying for. You also need to update your CV, so it reads like a selling pitch to the job you are applying for.
If you were a car sales agent and a customer asked you for a BMW, would you talk to them about a FORD pickup truck? I doubt it.
So here are my 6 steps for you to take before sending out your CV:
Read the job spec and your value statements and see if you are a good fit or the job is a good fit for you
Identify any new value statements that you might not have thought of from the job specification, e.g., they might ask for experience on customer journey maps, and you realise you had not thought of that as one of your values that you have.
Write your value statements next to the relevant section on the job description. Take it with you to the interview.
Think about the questions you could be asked by reading the job specification, and practice how you could use your value statements in the answer (I show you how to do this on my values blueprint course).
Update your CV to be in line with the job specification, e.g., if they are looking for someone who has experience in conflict management, then put a value statement in that reflects that.
Update your cover letter
There is a lot more to the above, but there is no time in this article to cover all of that. I deal with this in my Value blueprint course.
STep 6: build, learn, and adapt
This is out of scope for this article, but I want to make some brief comments about this.
First, your learning doesn’t stop. You now need to be aware of what is happening around you. What is changing, what skills are needed, what is the next big thing and what is the job market looking for.
Look at the projects you working on and the skills needed