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New Post 11/6/2007 5:35 AM
User is offline Frank19
20 posts
9th Level Poster


Advice Needed-Business Process Modeling Example 
Modified By Chris Adams  on 11/20/2007 1:58:46 PM)

I have a BS in economics and I worked breifly as a financial advisor after graduating college.  I left that profession to become the operations manager in our family business (an industrial tool distrubutorship).  I have been the operations manager with this company for three years now and I have taken an interest in the business analyst career and I would like to persue it.  Although I have no formal IT training I did serve as the project lead when our company purchased and integrated a SQL based distributor software solution.  I was directly involved in the entire setup and I currently serve as the administrator for that system. 

Does anyone have any advice for me as to what my next step should be to persue a career as a business analyst?  It seems that any of the job listings I search are asking for specific work experience.  Is there a way to break into this field at an entry level?  I'm only 26 so I'm not too worried about the idea of having to re-invent myself.  Thank you in advance for your help.

 
New Post 11/6/2007 9:00 AM
User is offline Chris Adams
323 posts
5th Level Poster






Re: Advice Needed Please 
Frank,

You probably have more business analysis skills than you realize, most people do. The key is identifying those skills and presenting them in the most ideal way in your resume (and eventually in an interview).

Before I give you too much advise I want to make sure I can target it specifically to your situation. Answering the following questions will help me.

1. When you say you want to be a business analyst, what does that mean to you? What kinds of things will you be doing as a business analyst?
2. Please give me a more detailed view of the integration project you led. What were the business goals of the project? How did you or the company go about deciding on a solution? What did the project require of you? Were there any specific challenges that you encountered while leading the project, technicalogical or otherwise?

Chris

Chris Adams
Core Member – ModernAnalyst.com
LinkedIn Profile
 
New Post 11/6/2007 10:05 AM
User is offline Adrian M.
764 posts
3rd Level Poster




Re: Advice Needed Please 

Hi Frank,

Take a look at some of the other threads on the role of the business analyst to get an idea of the diversity of tasks and roles which may be performed by someone with the title of "business analyst". 

You have probably noticed that there are two extremes: business analysts who only focus on optimizing the business operations and those who only work on systems specifications (systems analysts).  Most BAs fall somewhere in between.

Since you have a background in operations you are probably already familiar with the problems faced by the business trying to improve business processes and operations so you should start there.  You should begin by learning how to model (think diagrams) business processes.  One great place to start is with BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation):

BPMN Articles and White Papers

BPMN Specification

Best regards,

- Adrian


Adrian Marchis
Business Analyst Community Blog - Post your thoughts!
 
New Post 11/6/2007 10:30 AM
User is offline Frank19
20 posts
9th Level Poster


Re: Advice Needed Please 

 cadams5 wrote
Frank,

You probably have more business analysis skills than you realize, most people do. The key is identifying those skills and presenting them in the most ideal way in your resume (and eventually in an interview).

Before I give you too much advise I want to make sure I can target it specifically to your situation. Answering the following questions will help me.

1. When you say you want to be a business analyst, what does that mean to you? What kinds of things will you be doing as a business analyst?
2. Please give me a more detailed view of the integration project you led. What were the business goals of the project? How did you or the company go about deciding on a solution? What did the project require of you? Were there any specific challenges that you encountered while leading the project, technicalogical or otherwise?

Chris

 

Chris,

Thank you for the quick response.  Let me answer your questions:

1.) I very much enjoy using my creativity to solve problems and make business run more effiently and more smoothly.  To me it's not only rewarding to come up with creative ways to do business better but also the idea of being presented with different problems is a great way to learn new things.  The company I am currently with is small.  We have roughly 15 employees yet we still manage to be fairly successful in a very competitive market.  However, due to the size of the company new projects are not always in the budget and I find myself not being challenged on a day to day basis.  As a business analyst I would like to be presented with different business problems and senarios on a daily basis and work towards creating solutions to solve those problems so that at the end of the day I can look back on my accomplishments. 

Additionally, while studying economics in my undergrad school I found that I greatly enjoyed the process of collecting, analyzing and reporting data.  I also feel as though I have stong organizational skills.  Therefore I think I can be successful in an analyst possition while at the same time enjoying what I do.

2.) Let me further expand on the software integration at my company.  When I joined the company we were using a legasy AS/400 based software solution for all of our accounting, inventory and all other data reporting needs.  We quickly decided that it was time to move into this centry so we began a procurement process to intergrate a new solution.  Being the project lead I reviewed software solutions with different software reps and working directly with the CEO helped picked the best one.  I then proceded to work as the liason between the software implementation manager and our company.  I helped in the process of extracting the old data off our legacy system and importing it into the new system.  I assisted in the purchase and setup of a Windows Server 2000 system with over 15 desktops that would host the new system.  I lead all training of employees on the new system after being trained myself by the software company.  Most importantly, the thing that I found most exciting was my roll in coming up with on the fly custom solutions to help taylor the new software solution to the specifics of the our business.  This was where there were many company specific challenges that I helped reslove. 

Since then I have served as the system administrator and I have familiarized myself with all aspects of our new distribution software.  I greatly enjoyed the whole process and since then have taken on project lead assignments on other things such as bringing in a VOIP phone solution to replace our old copper lines.  However, since this is a small business I am limited in the number and frequency of which we take on new projects.  I think that as a business analyst I will be able to do more of these things that I enjoy.

I am in the process of drafting my resume and I would love to have any type of constructive critism on it.  Mostly though I am just looking to see what steps to take to persue this career.  Again, I thank you in advance for your advice.

 

 
New Post 11/7/2007 9:01 AM
User is offline Chris Adams
323 posts
5th Level Poster






Re: Advice Needed Please 
Modified By Chris Adams  on 11/7/2007 4:37:19 PM)
As Adrian mentioned, some BAs are focused solely on documenting and improving the manual business processes and operations while others are more focused on implementing IT solutions that make these processes more efficient. And then there are those that fall in between and do a bit of both. You will have to decide where you fit best.  This is a big topic, so I will first comment on the non-IT related aspect. Then in a follow-up post I can take you into the systems side of things.
 
We should approach your question in three parts. First, I will list some of the high level tasks a BA may perform. You should take the time to understand and contemplate these. Then, we have to identify and relate your work experience to those types of tasks. You will have to assist with this since I don’t have any knowledge of your work experience. Finally, I will list a few skills/techniques that you should probably acquire. This will give you the tools required to perform in the role of a BA.
 
Tasks a BA may perform (not comprehensive)
 
Document the business workflows/processes as they exist today: Understand the processes the business uses to bring value to there customer, the things of the business that are needed or used in these processes, and the data or information that flows between processes. The processes are documented using a process flow diagram. The things of the business can be a simple business glossary of terms with their definitions or it can be a more complicated but richer business entity model. The goal here is to create a commonly understood vocabulary among all involved. You would be surprised how often people think they are speaking the same language only to find out far too late that they are not. The data and information can be modeled using a data flow diagram and also by adding attributes to a business entity model. Don’t get too worried about these terms if they seem foreign. The Modern Analyst community is here to help and mentor!
 
You may have heard of the term use cases. I have not mentioned them only because they convey the same information as a process flow diagram, but in a narrative format like telling a story. They are typically used later when a systems solution is involved. I’m trying to prioritize and focus you attention on the most basic items at the moment.
 
Analyze the business workflows/processes and identify possible improvements: Now that you understand the details of the business workflows and processes (the operations of the business), try to identify process complexity that can be simplified. Complexity costs money and creates errors, defects, or general problems within the organization. Begin to visualize and document how these areas that you have identified can be improved. Document the improved process using the same tools/diagrams you used to document the current state of the business, i.e., process flows, data flow diagrams, edits to business glossary or business entity model. Often you may document more that one possible improvement to the same area of the process which is great.
 
Compare options and weigh cost of each versus benefits of each:   Now that you have several options for improving the process, address the feasibility of each. Are they all realistic? May be some are not. Try to estimate the monetary benefits of the improvement. How many defects will you eliminate per week, or how much rework/redundant work will be eliminated? Can positions be eliminated? What is the dollar savings of this? Then identify the costs. How much will it cost to make these changes and improvements? What is the risk involved? Every risk has an associated cost if it develops into a real issue. So what is the cost and what is the probability that it can occur? Use all of this information to create a nicely organized Cost Benefit Analysis report.
 
One you have completed this work the decision makers can choose a direction.
 
While this is very high level and not at all comprehensive, it’s enough to move on and identify how much of this you may have experience with, even if informally.
 
 
Relating your work experience to those tasks
 
This is the part that I need you to help with. How much of the above have you done? Remember, it doesn’t have to be a formal project and you may not have created process flows and the like, but you still probably have some experience with the BA tasks in general. Also, if you’d like you can email me your resume and I will try and help identify areas where you may have “hidden” experience.
 
 
Skills to acquire (We will refine this list based on your current skills and the responses you give.)
  • Read the IIBA Business Analyst Book of Knowledge (version 1.6 is available for free download at their site www.theIIBA.org)
  • Learn to create a Process Flow Diagram (using BPMN Workflow Diagrams or UML Activity Diagrams)
  • Read up on the advantages of a Logical Data Dictionary or Business Glossary (there is an article on the Modern Analyst site on this.  Also search the web)
  • Understand how to create a Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Understand how to create a Risk Assessment, taking into account both the associated cost of a risk and its probability of occurring. Decision Trees are helpful for this.
  • Learn to create a Data Flow Diagram and Context Diagram (don’t focus on this first, this is not as high of a priority)
  • Learn to create a Business Entity Model (don’t focus on this first, this is not as high of a priority)
 
 
I will list some additional skills in future posts for systems analysis; items such as requirements elicitation

Chris Adams
Core Member – ModernAnalyst.com
LinkedIn Profile
 
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