I must admit that I was nervous about tackling the IT Element ‘Business Analysts’ in the Table of IT Elements, partly because it’s my profession, but mostly because it is a tricky thing to explain to anyone outside the industry.
The commonly-held view is that healthy balanced human beings shouldn’t be labelled, defined, categorized or self-actualised by a job title. It is perceived as somehow sad, shallow and incompatible with the finer and higher goals in life, such as art, education, health, happiness, family, community, and bucket lists! This is of course errant nonsense, peddled by those who do not have a fulfilling profession, job or career…just ask Abraham Maslow.
I’m being mostly serious here….although I am not excluding the self-employed, portfolio careers, unpaid or voluntary workers, the carers, cleaners, cooks and candlestick makers, whatever the colour of your collar and whatever floats your boat, if work is important to you, then it is important. Work-life balance is a myth, work is a part of life, [a] life can be enriched and wholly or partly justified by the work that you do.
(Ed. to provide some editorial balance; you do not have to agree with any of the preceding paragraphs to enjoy the rest of this post)
To Be-ay, or not to Be-ay
I digress. I have tried in other posts to explain what I do as a Business Analyst. So I was pleased when the long-awaited new version of the Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (version 3) was published by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). The guide purports to, ‘…describe business analysis knowledge areas, tasks, underlying competencies, techniques and perspectives on how to approach business analysis.’
So far, so good, as a worthy tome running to 500+ pages it does what it says on the tin. By the way, I am only aware of one other profession with a ‘BOK’, Project Managers/Project Management – yes you guessed it PMBOK. These professions are closely linked with each other and software & IT projects, although not exclusively, there is a wider reach into commerce, non-IT projects and other business support and change activity.
Speaking as a practicing Business Analyst, and creator of IT elements (that’s it I have declared my interest!) I find it full of jargon and too big to engage someone with only a passing interest in the topic, or even someone wanting to move into the profession, but maybe doesn’t know what they don’t know.
That said, the guide does provide a very neat one-sentence description of Business Analysis 🙂
The practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.
Need to know
Unfortunately, a lot of the competencies, tools and techniques described here are both very specific and ‘abstract’ when taken out of context. Knowing that there are techniques to elicit requirements, analyse stakeholder needs, and document processes, for example, is as much as you need to know without a real project and a business & technology environment to practice in. The practicalities of context, compromise, people and politics, have to be experienced in real life. An excellent BA, as with a lot of fields and professions, is not born complete, but emerges and blossoms through experience and nurturing.
There is a danger that such a young profession cuts off this rite of passage and the organic evolution of talent with barriers to entry, either accessible knowledge, experience, qualifications, or all three. The IIBA promotes CBAP and CCBA certification routes, which are primarily aimed at established practitioners. An alternative, the SFIA ‘Sophia’ Skills Framework for the Information age, offers a measure of achievement and competency that can be mapped to a number of disciplines, so does offer somewhere to start and a place to grow, but relies on professional bodies and training organisations to provide the content.
Here to help
So what does the table of IT elements offer that the Bee-ay-bock or Bay-bock doesn’t (other books on Business Analysis are available!):
(1) Stuff that you need to know (but didn’t ask the right questions on google) in the context of a wider roadmap of basic terms.
(2) 40 concepts explained from first principles from Process and Strategy to Computers and the World Wide Web…you can find all these on the table, just click the topic/box you are interested in
(3) Knowledge areas that naturally link to other knowledge areas – no prescribed syllabus or programme of study.
(4) Small, bite-sized modules.
(5) No entry requirements – other than a web-browser, a bit of time and the ability to read English.
(6) An inclusive, open and growing community of learners.
(7) Three friendly guides and mentors to help with your journey of discovery; the IT Chemist for the technology; Annie List for the tools & techniques, and; Captain BA for the bigger picture.
(8) Oh yes, I nearly forgot, a simple description of the role of Business Analysts (watch this space!)
(c) 2015 Antony Lawrence CBA Ltd.