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New Post 10/30/2009 11:42 AM
User is offline Veena
5 posts
10th Level Poster


How to improve BA skills? 
Modified By Veena  on 10/30/2009 1:46:14 PM)

Hi all,

I'm a relatively new BA; have been working for about 4 months now. I have good analytical and writing skills. I have been doing okay at work; my mangers seem happy with me. But so far all I have been involved in is some client interviews, requirement documentation, some basic Visio process flow diagrams. I have not been asked to create use cases etc.

I have a Master's degree in Ecology (!) and have very limited IT knowledge, although I work for a software consulting firm. Currently I have been feeling that I should to something to improve my skills and make my resume look good. The problem is that I can’t seem to stick on one thing.

I had learned a little bit of SQL, HTML and Access on my own sometime back (when I was preparing for the interview), so I thought I'll refresh my memory on those. Then I thought maybe I should learn more about Visio since I just know the basics and heard that there is tons of neat stuff that you can do with it.

Then I thought of reading a good book recommended for BA's (have 'More about Software Requirements' by my side). Then I heard about this CBAP certification and thought may be I should prepare for that, only to find out that I'm not even eligible for the test yet.

Can someone provide me guidance on what should I do to become a better BA? Any good books, trainings etc etc ??

Sincerely,

Confused.

 

 
New Post 10/30/2009 12:43 PM
User is offline Tony Markos
493 posts
5th Level Poster


Re: How to improve BA skills? 

Jess:

It sounds like you want to iimplement solutions - not just to analyze the business.   Such a desire is very common.  

You have a tough decision to make.  If you look at the BABOK 2.0 , the handbook of BA best  practices, you will find very little referrence to implementation tasks.  However, in the "real world"  the majority of BAs probably spend most of their time implementing a solution of one kind or another.  What is your calling?

Tony

 
New Post 10/30/2009 1:38 PM
User is offline Veena
5 posts
10th Level Poster


Re: How to improve BA skills? 

Thanks for a quick reply!

Honestly, I'm not sure what exactly do I want. I guess I just want to be more than just an average BA. I want to be good at what I do.

I feel that since I'm just a junior BA right out of school, the expectations from me are not too huge right now. I want to utilize this time to learn things that will make me a better BA. Should I spend my time trying to learn to create DFD's, use cases etc or maybe learn some modeling language if that is considered necessary for performing BA role?

i just need someone to tell me what junior BAs should do at the beginning of their career to progress. Read books? Go for trainings (ASPE?) or certification? Read blogs? Learn to use some software? Try to learn from experience while performing everyday BA tasks?

I look at my resume and feel that except for saying that I probably have good writing skills, analytical skills, people skills etc., but I really don't have much to show off.

Sorry if I'm just rambling.

Thanks!

 

 
New Post 10/30/2009 8:07 PM
User is offline KJ
243 posts
6th Level Poster


Re: How to improve BA skills? 
Modified By KJ  on 10/30/2009 10:12:27 PM)

Jess,

Welcome to this forum. First, the best analysts are those who have liberal arts degrees. A Masters in Ecology will do you well. Second, interviewing business users and documenting their requirements is a very good start. I think you need a bit of methodology, systems thinking, process analysis and data analysis skills in your kit bag.

Now it would serve you well to read up on DFD (data flow diagrams) in the old structured analysis design technique (SADT) of such gurus and DeMarco and Ed Yourdon (I think Yourdon has made his old book available for free to download). This is an old and dated technique; but it intuitively teaches you to think of deconstructing your users’ sentences into Process (actions) and Data (things). Why the old DFDs? Because it stresses that a process has INPUT and OUTPUTs. This point is not explicitly emphasised in the newer techniques, and you may miss a fundamental conceptual building block.

Once you have some understanding of the old technique, focus you energies on UML as a technique (Its not a methodology). Again, you will again notice that the UML diagrams are split into two groups: one group for process (actions) and the other group on Objects (things). A light tome to digest is “Fowler, M (2004),UML Distilled, 3rd Edition”.  

Once you’ve intuited the UML and the old SADT, its prudent to focus on Process and Data (Objects) techniques. The description of Activity diagrams in UML is deficient as it an extension of state diagrams, so its better to focus on BPMN. You can download information from the BPMN.org site. As you digest the BPMN compare it to UML Activity Diagrams (see http://www.bpmn.org/Documents/Notations%20and%20Workflow%20Patterns.pdf). A point that is oft missed with these beautiful diagrams is processes have INPUT and OUTPUT flows. Suddenly you are thankful that you’ve spent a bit of time with the old DFDs, which emphasises INPUTs and OUTPUTs.

Data (Objects) analysis is akin to the old ERDs (entity relationship diagrams). So get some information on data and how to normalise data and to simplify cardinality. For example you often get the relationship cardinality of Many-to-Many: a Customer can order many Products, and a Product can be ordered my many Customers. You will also notice that some classes (objects) contain other classes. Eg. Hotel contains rooms. Again, you’ll be glad you’ve read UML distilled because suddenly the object/class relationships make sense?

Some smart people have noticed that we use the same process patterns as well as the same object patterns. You’ll notice that the BPMN site refers to process patterns, and the reference above compares the famous Vander Aalst process patterns in BPMN to UML activity diagrams. As an analyst part of your job is to save time and money, and if you can recognise patterns it makes life much easier. I’ll skip the notion of Object patterns (Google object patterns, and you’ll find lots). From a business perspective you begin to notice some end-to-end process patterns eg. order-to-cash etc. These patterns make the analysis process so much easier.

Having done a Masters in Ecology, I’ll skip systems thinking part. But, lets focus on methodology. BABOK is not a methodology, its a meta model! This means that such methodologies like ICONIX, AGILE and RUP and even the old SADT can be deployed and governed by BABOK. I like the ICONIX methodology. It takes you through the steps to create software from the initial user requirements (see http://www.iconixsw.com/). It also starts with USECASE driven approaches.

I hope this rather lengthy description helps!

Warm regards,

K

 

 
New Post 11/1/2009 2:09 AM
User is offline Guy Beauchamp
257 posts
www.smart-ba.com
5th Level Poster




Re: How to improve BA skills? 

K,

"the best analysts are those who have liberal arts degrees"???

First, define "best business analyst" in specfic, measurable terms.

Second, where is the evidence that these "best business analysts" have liberal art degrees???

Even if I accepted that degrees demonstrated anything other than the ability to answer some questions in a certain type of way at a specific point in time (which I don't) what exaclty is the causal relationship between taking one of these aribitary form filling exercises and being the "best business analyst"?

And where is the verified evidence that this causal relationship manifests itself in the real world?

Don't know how good the rest of your advice was as I just got all steamed up by this proposition and replied immediately: hopefully your post goes on to make some justified assertions instead of propogating the "education is all" myth. Normally I agree with most of what you say which is why I find this assertion so surprising.

Jess: business analysts apply logic to the specification of requirements for solutions to problems. That's why I am so surpirsed by K's assertion as it appears to lack logic (certainly in the deductive sense and almost certainly in the inductive sense).

All the best,

Guy

 
New Post 11/1/2009 3:35 PM
User is offline KJ
243 posts
6th Level Poster


Re: How to improve BA skills? 

Guy,

 
You are absolutely right or perhaps just right! The statement “the best analysts have liberal arts degrees” is too strong a claim; it’s empirically flawed and not falsifiable! Empiricists like Hume and Locke would turn in their graves. 
 
However, in my experience, SOME of the BETTER BUSINESS analysts that I have worked with do have liberal arts degrees, which enable them to better articulate and present the user’s needs.
 
Early in the year, I posted the following: This bit of news [about liberal arts degrees] is not wasted on recruiters as you know. Google "liberal arts and business analyst " see for example, http://www.silasg.com/jobs/emerging_business_analyst.php specifically note the last paragraph.

warm regards,

K

 
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