Name: Sourabh Balakrishnan
Title: Lead Business Analyst
Employer: Zenta Knowledge Services Pvt. Ltd.
What company do you work for?
Founded in 2001, Zenta Knowledge Services is a knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) and business process outsourcing (BPO) company, offering a full range of back-office, voice and onsite support solutions such as finance and accounting, commercial and residential loan underwriting, loan servicing, due diligence and analytic services, credit card acquisition services, and collections. Zenta serves the commercial and residential real estate, consumer credit, insurance and financial services industries and employs more than 4,000 staff in New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Charlotte, Mumbai, Chennai and Philippines.
What is your main role at Zenta?
I work in Zenta’s IT division which offers scalable end-to-end application development and management solutions from requirement analysis to deployment and rollout to the clients in the US. I work as liaison between Business clients and in-house technology division in delivering optimal IT value. My key roles include eliciting, analyzing and documenting, requirements using object-oriented and complementary techniques. I create business models for client requirements using UML. I make ensure the completion and acceptance of requirements and assist users during the user acceptance phase. I ensure artifacts preparation as per organisational guidelines such as SQA/SEPG guidelines and Release Management.
What do you find challenging about your job?
Facing frustrated and totally discouraged customers – reason being their previous experiences of a long march of poorly implemented IT solutions resulting in, “IT is an expensive mess”. Instead of addressing the problem, many customers just want to kick the kid out of the house. I face the challenge of getting caught in the linguistic chasm between tech-speak and business-speak. I believe that Making IT work has little to do with technology itself. Just having a good IT team and colossal funds is not enough to make IT work. Inspired leadership, superb execution, and motivated people are a must.
What have you found that makes your job easier?
After reading the book “UML for IT Business Analyst: A Practical Guide to Object-Oriented Requirements Gathering” by Howard Podeswa, I try to follow Business Object-Oriented Modeling. Even though this is a textbook, I find it sheds more light of the requirement gathering phase and ensures clarity in my requirement documents. UML is the tool and OO is the approach that makes my job easier.
How did you become a Lead Business Analyst?
I started my career in sales of IT products dealing with customers of different verticals/markets & handling Vendor Management activities with companies like Microsoft, IBM, Novell Netware, etc. However, I was looking for a consulting job instead of a sales job. To land a consulting job in IT you need to have multifaceted experience in a software development company rather than a software product sales company. And that’s how I got into Business Development executive role in a software development company. I'm happy to say, there was no business analyst role in the company so I was involved in client interactions and requirement gathering. Later the company offered me a client consultant job even though I didn’t have any development experience. But as part of my formal education, I have done a lot in programming which really helped me during my tenure there as well as in other firms. Since then I have been doing more Business Analysis and less sales or programming in different roles – Business Analyst to Sr. Business Analyst and now Lead Business Analyst. In the end, it is not the title but the role that matters to me the most.
What type of artifacts/deliverables do you create as a BA?
Deliverables I create/maintain include: Business Model covering the behavioral and structural aspects. Artifacts include: Context Diagrams, Activity diagrams, State machine diagrams, Sequence diagrams, System use-case diagrams, Business use-case diagrams, Communication diagrams and Use-case specifications. Project Scope Document to document the project vision/scope. Business Requirement Document to capture Business/User requirements for the project; includes storyboards and business use case. Functional Specification Document to capture Functional & Non Functional Requirements for the project; includes system use case, Interface and Integration requirements. Requirement Traceability Matrix to trace project life cycle activities and work products to the project requirements. Other documents include Client Meeting Minutes, Action Items Tracker, Change Control Documents, UAT Test Report and Project Closure Report.
Do you use any specific methodology, tool, process in your current project?
If you are focused on the user there must be a "story" to tell. In my current project I use storyboarding & prototyping as requirements elicitation techniques. They provide a vital opportunity to discover potential new functional requirements much earlier in the process. Storyboarding may be focused on the user, but the primary beneficiary is the developer. I don’t understand why this technique is often discarded or rarely used.
What is one piece of advice that you would like to pass on to junior Business Analysts?
The best way to clear any kind of ambiguities during the requirement gathering phase is to use graphical representations. Draw pictures with supporting text representing small pieces of requirements. During the interactions ask the business users questions to discover what to draw next. This drives the users to think out of the box and to appreciate different view points. Also develop storyboards, mock-ups and prototypes to communicate ideas for navigation and interaction.
What does a day in your role as Business Analyst look like?
Client Interactions, discussions with techies and preparing artifacts – the ratio depends on the phase of the project. As I work from India with clients in the US, most of my client interactions happen early morning or late in the evening. During normal hours I work on the deliverables for later in evening or next day morning. Having said that, I make sure that my days are not hectic so that I can spend time every day with my family and prepare for the CBAP which I have targeted for next year.
If you were to learn a new BA related skill or competency what would it be and why?
"Focus on the user, and all else will follow." That is a famous principle and that’s what I love to do ‘Observing Users’. I watch how users work on the system and find out ways to improve usability of the system. I want to improve my analytical ability with regards to observation of user behavior. I haven't yet found a good way to acquire this competency. Have you?