Name: Laura Brandenburg
Title: Business Analyst Consultant
Employer: Clear Spring Business Analysis
What company do you work for?
I consult independently as a business analyst and provide help to other business analysts for advancing their careers. I am the author of How to Start a Business Analyst Career and The Promotable Business Analyst (forthcoming) and host Bridging the Gap.
What kinds of projects have you done as an independent business analyst?
Recent clients include Home Buyers Warranty, Disaboom, and MyWedding.com. At Home Buyers Warranty, I helped conceptualize an effort to bring a customer-intensive process to the web and provide customers with a wealth of actionable information that was previously unavailable or required a phone call. At Disaboom and MyWedding, I’ve been involved in content rich web applications that focus on helping end users. At Disaboom the team was focused on serving those with disabilities with high quality, engaging content and I helped create a site map and content strategy to cross-promote content. At MyWedding, we’re helping brides and grooms have more fun planning their wedding and I’m involved in eliciting, analyzing, and communicating functional requirements for the new tools.
What do you find challenging about your job?
As an independent consultant, you are often on a bit of an island. Most of the organizations I’ve worked for have not had a formal BA practice, so I’ve been involved in building relationships with new stakeholders, establishing a process, and figuring out what works (and what doesn’t). It can be a challenge to fit in within a new organization and find the right mix of process and flexibility.
What have you found that makes your job easier?
Being flexible and focusing on relationships first and foremost while always staying focused on the core principles of business analysis: alignment and clarity. If you stay focused on what you are trying to achieve, it can make a lot of the decisions along the way simply emerge.
What is one piece of advice that you would like to pass on to junior Business Analysts?
Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. Your job is to facilitate a team of people discovering and gaining clarity about the right answers. I see a lot of junior BAs get stuck because they feel they need to come up with the solution and then find themselves in a position of selling it to the stakeholders. When you take a step back and see your role more as a facilitator than a problem solver, you’ll find the job becomes much easier and your value as a business analyst increases exponentially.
What does your day look like?
I am typically up by 6:30 and at my desk writing by 6:45. I try to set aside time every morning to write, either for Bridging the Gap, a guest article, or for my next book The Promotable Business Analyst. I also spend an hour or so each day on a new business idea or service. Then I work out, shower, and start in on my BA work for my current client. We SCRUM at 9:45 MST and the next 4-5 hours I’m on conference calls with business stakeholders or developers talking about requirements or working on documentation and wireframes. At the end of the day I play catch up on emails and do some administrative tasks for my business. I often try to escape the house and walk the dog in the afternoon.
Throughout the week I attend local professional development events. I also try to interview at least 1 or 2 business analysts each week, may have meetings or evaluations to do as part of my mentoring practice, try to stay up to date with what other BAs are talking about across the web, participate on Twitter, respond to questions on LinkedIn, and keep up with my volunteer responsibilities for IIBA, supporting the Denver chapter as VP, Marketing and the international organization as Career Center Product Manager. Some weeks I look back and wonder how the heck I managed to fit it all in.
What’s on your professional development plan for 2010?
I’d like to find an informal study group to read and discuss the BABOK with other business analysts. This might lead into the right time to prepare for the CBAP exam. I’d like to gain some more experience working with organizational strategies and may have the opportunity to facilitate the management of the Balanced Scorecard with my current client.
But my main focus is improving my interpersonal skills. There are really no limits to potential improvement in this area. I am reading a lot about leadership and influence and I want to become a better listener. I have a sticky note that says “Ask before I tell” on my monitor, and this is really my mantra for this year. How can I ask one more question, listen more carefully, and learn more from my stakeholders and the wealth of knowledge captured across the BA community.