Variety, the Spice of a Business Analyst’s Life

Part of the reason why some people still struggle with what it means to be a Business Analyst is because it is a very diverse career by definition. Business Analysis is defined very clearly in the IIBA┬« BABOK┬« guide, and yet, if you read this guide, you will agree that there is enormous scope for a Analyst to do a wide variety of things with their careers. So let’s look at some of the aspects that make our careers so diverse and interesting.

# All industries have BAs.

Business Analysis applies to any organisation big or small and in any industry where there is a form of business need that requires a business solution. Business Analysis is analysing the business needs (regardless of domain or industry) and facilitating the translation of need into a business solution. So as a BA, you pick where you would like to work, and you can keep it interesting by moving between industries every few months or years.

# Business Analysis can live at the top or the bottom of the corporate ladder.

Enterprise analysis is more often performed by experienced BAs; as a result, this is a career goal that you need to work towards. It does however exist as a very interesting and challenging analysis role at the top end of the corporate ladder. This makes Analysis even more diverse, as it is one of the few careers where the same set of skills can be applied in both junior and senior roles. The only real difference is that the level and type of business problem will be more conceptual than physical at the top end rather than at the bottom end.

# Analysis can be fluffy and feel good, or very technical and detailed: which are you?

Some BAs are naturally talented in discussing business needs in a language that business stakeholders really understand. These BAs are great at conversing with these stakeholders about their business needs in terms what they would like to achieve, or what they are not achieving. The Business Analyst can then translate these required business benefits into business requirements which can in turn be captured as part of a proposed solution to the problem. Then on the other side, some Business Analysts like the specifics and the details surrounding good business requirement definitions. These Business Analysts are good listeners, good documentation experts, and can be relied upon to support their counter-part Business Analysts who “talk the talk”. Your strengths and your choices will determine where you fit, and remember that both types of Business Analysts play their roles equally well.

# Do you like to work in a loud and explicit way or do you prefer it to be implied and assumed?

In some types of projects, particularly those that are more waterfall-based, you will find that there is a great emphasis placed on requirements gathering activities – running workshops, documenting requirements and running these requirement documents through various cycles of reviews and approvals. This is what I meant when I referred to “loud and explicit” business analysis. In other cases, the requirements gathering aspect of the project is still very important, but takes a more fluid and implied role in the everyday life of the project. Often this is the way requirements are managed within an Agile project environment. Business analysis is therefore applied in two very different ways without changing the nature of what is being done. This makes business analysis very adaptable and flexible as a skill set.

# Which part of the project life cycle would you prefer?

When you are a software developer, you get involved mostly in the build aspect of the software development cycle. With business analysis, you are involved at some or all of the stages of the software development life cycle. This applies to both traditional and Agile approaches. Your involvement will vary depending on which stages you get involved in, but you will nevertheless be performing some aspect of business analysis throughout. So you choose, once again, what type of business analysis activities you would most enjoy doing, and push to be involved in the parts of the projects that you want to be!

# Do you want to be part of a project team or the operations team?

Some Business Analysts are employed as part of business operations. They tend to work on business cases, feasibility studies and a variety of other enterprise level business analysis activities. This is great because not all business analysts like the project environment. However, most Business Analysts are employed in projects and thrive in that environment of peaks and troughs. Depending on your preference, you can once again, choose what type of environment you would like to be a Business Analyst in.

# Business Analysis can be domain agnostic or it can be deeply ingrained in a domain.

The one big divide that I have noticed through the years between different Business Analysts is that there are Business Analysts who taught themselves to be experts in one specific domain, and then there are others who taught themselves to be experts in any domain. Both of these types of Business Analysts are equally valuable. In some cases a particular role requires the individual to be a subject matter expert as well as a Business Analyst and in some other roles it requires pure business analysis skills. Once again, this leaves the highly skilled Business Analyst with a choice about whether they want to focus on one domain and have one aspect of their role as a subject matter expert, or whether they would like to remain a pure Business Analyst who is an expert in transferring their business analysis skills between different domains.

In a nutshell, these are just a few of the huge number of things to consider when you choose to be a Business Analyst. There are many more dimensions for a Business Analyst to choose from when they embark on this career. So jump in and try out as many different parts of the business analysis profession as you can, before choosing which aspect you most enjoy!

Do I Really Need a Business Plan for My Business

Most successful businesses have created a business plan at some point, usually before their start-up.

Why?

A business plan is needed to address all of the central components to starting a business. It is essential to make sure that you, as a new entrepreneur have carefully thought through many if not all, of the important components of your business. Ideally, you need to do this BEFORE starting your business.

What is a business plan?

They are generally prepared for two reasons:

1. To obtain financing for the business

2. To help determine if essential components of starting a business have been considered.

Often times with new entrepreneur’s (and sometimes even with the more experienced!) they overlook certain aspects of starting a business. So the business plan helps to ensure that most, if not all reasonable questions have been answered and strategies thought about.

Although business plans are often considered optional – they serve a vital importance to entrepreneurs.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs and even experienced entrepreneurs fail to recognize their importance. It is often considered an “optional” component of their business and should only be prepared when absolutely necessary.

Not so!

It is needed to address all of the central components to starting your business. It is essential to make sure that you, as an entrepreneur of quality, have carefully considered what you are offering, how you are offering it and whom you are offering it to.

Although it may be tempting to say “I have everything in my head about my business” – could lead to a lack of clarity.

Why?

The idea of keeping everything in your mind makes it possible for you to:

forget certain things
remember things incorrectly or too modified to later be useful
misconstrue thought combinations that you had at one point but later revised
revisit ideas that you already have thought of and since dismissed…

Preparing a business plan will allow you to document what you know and have the permanent impact of writing it down.

But this is complicated – Right?

In the context of the larger corporate world a business plan is not only essential but required. Many formats of business plans are modelled after the layouts and inclusions used for larger public companies. The time frame and level of detail is much greater for large corporate entities as they are required for various interested parties (stakeholders). However, it is not necessary for smaller businesses, especially start-ups to prepare overly lengthy and complex documents.

Your business plan need not be a time consuming, uncontrollable and over-the-top difficult process!

How Can I, As an Entrepreneur Achieve This?

Through the simple process of preparing a Preliminary Business Plan you will:

Engage in a key strategy that will help you to organize your thoughts
Help you to focus on your business intentions.
Apply a straightforward, step-by-step process to prepare one.
Obtain clarity about your business.

Why is it called a Preliminary Business Plan?

Traditional business plans, like those used for large public corporations can be very complex and have the level of detail that is not required for most smaller, private businesses.

A Preliminary Business Plan is shorter, designed more for the start-up of the business and it is easier to understand and prepare.

Here are just some of the questions that it should answer:

Describe in detail exactly what your business is to be.
Describe whom your products and/or services are for.
How do you plan to deliver your products/services to your customers/clients.
What pricing do you plan to use.
If you have a product, list the major suppliers
Indicate whom your major customers/clients are likely to be.
What are the risk factors that you see for your business.
What current businesses pose as competition to your business?
How many employees do you plan to have in the company and at what point will they become active?
Have you completed one?

It will address all of the central components to starting your business. It is essential to make sure that you, as a new entrepreneur have thought carefully through and considered all that you need to BEFORE starting your business.

A Preliminary Business Plan is a step-by-step method that allows you to organize your thoughts and WRITE DOWN your intentions through documenting them in a meaningful way. It also provides you with a document to provide to interested parties (for example, banks, investors, etc.) if the need arises.

You need to prepare one, if you are:

An aspiring entrepreneur who is serious about properly planning a business and would like to discover if you need one for their new business.
An experienced entrepreneur who never has prepared one, but would like to learn how.
An aspiring entrepreneur who is skeptical, but would like to explore the process and know more.
Any entrepreneur who has heard about them, but are confused and would like some clear DIRECTION of what to do.