Business Analyst: Tools and Principles for Professional Self-Development

Обновлено: 6 мая 2021 г.


Dmytro Lenda, CFA, FRM, CBAP

15+ years of experience in business analysis across different industries and domain areas; CBAP, CFA, and FRM certificate holder; EPAM professional assessment expert



Target audience: Senior+ level analysts with the desire to expand their professional toolset or get an alternative point of view on their further self-development (although more junior people may also find something useful here)



I am thankful to Denis Gobov, CBAP, PMI-PBA, PhD, Head of BA in DataArt and business-trainer; Roman Sakharov, BA manager, and other EPAM colleagues; Lyubov Posvalyuk, CBAP; and Olga Cherkasova, CBAP for their help and advice in preparing this article. My English teacher Sean Meyer helped me with editing the draft. My family supported me all the time I was working on it.


Intro


During my long journey in the BA profession, I found many valuable sources of information and tools that may be useful for BAs. In addition, I generalized my experience and distilled it into a few principles. Both tools and principles presented will help BA professionals in their way to Mastery of the BA profession. Moreover, they may be helpful for practitioners of other related professions, including developers, testers, POs, PMs, etc. I have assembled the most valuable items from my perspective, so this list should not be treated as exhaustive. At the same time, it may help you select valuable items for your professional collection or at least hint to you about the direction of your search or investigation. Business analysis is not a brand-new profession, so you will definitely benefit from the learning experiences from your predecessors in the BA or peer occupations.


I intended to create a place where you could not only detect your gaps in skills, but also return (maybe multiple times) to find a mention of information or link to a resource you need to deepen your knowledge.


Contents


Principles

Follow the global benchmarks

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something

Knowledge as a background

Overcoming existing limitations

Constant experimentation-learning cycle

SHU-HA-RI

Cases

Codes and certifications

BABOK 3 and beyond

IIBA and beyond

BA profession and beyond

CBAP and beyond

Global and beyond

Tech giants’ benchmark: FAANGs

The interview process

Pre-screen

Technical interview

Product sense interview

Behavioral interview

General advice for tech giant section

Various additional tools

Systems theory: Brief

Systems theory: Complex systems

The potential scope of the BA role according to the BCS

Useful web resources: Major

Useful web resources: Ukraine

Useful web resources: Additional

Tools (for IT BA): Major

Tools (for IT BA): Advanced

Tools (for IT BA): Sophisticated

Path of an analyst

Domain knowledge: How to improve?

Visual modeling notations: UML & BPMN and beyond

Data analysis for a BA: IIBA approach

Data analysis for a BA: Data analysis tools

Conferences: Major global

Prizes and awards: Major global

Major independent conferences & awards: Ukraine & CIS

Language skills

Professional ethics

Appendix 1: Other useful links

Appendix 2: Advice for switchers to BA profession

Appendix 3: Product management intro

Appendix 4: Tech skills intro

Appendix 5: The key trends

Next horizons



Principles (following Sun Tzu)


  1. Follow the global benchmarks

  2. “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something” (Thomas Huxley)

  3. Knowledge as a background

  4. Go beyond BABOK 3

  5. Go beyond UML&BPMN

  6. Constant experimentation-learning cycle

  7. Shu-Ha-Ri


Follow the global benchmarks

The most important principle. The most effective practices survive on a global scale. Usually, these practices were tested by time and multiple adopters. So, it is probable that these practices will suit you.


The most popular industry codes with the global focus:


• BABOK 3 – 50 techniques

• The PMI guide to business analysis

The profession and codes are evolving:


BABOK 2 had 34 general techniques, while BCS primary techniques guide “Business analysis techniques” increased the number of techniques presented from 72 to 99 in the most recent edition for 2021.


Try to learn something about everything and everything about something

Cross-functional teams tend to be more effective in a dynamic environment, thus increasing the value of T, M, and E shaped skill profiles. It seems to be due to the increasing importance of cross-functional integration nowadays. These profiles vary by the depth and width of knowledge. The proper combination of both should be tailored for the BA needs.


Some types of skill profiles:


• – - shaped

• I - shaped

• T - shaped

• M – shaped

• Etc.


Knowledge as a background

Many local entities develop their techniques and tools, including certification entities, with a local (or personal) focus. These techniques may be a good complement to the globally accepted techniques and be used as inputs to design custom BA techniques and tools. The effectiveness of these tools and techniques was proven by local communities of analysts, so they have successfully passed the preselection. Rational considerations should be used for the selection of new tools or approaches.


Examples of local or personal knowledge banks:


Business Analysis Techniques: 99 essential tools for success from BCS (the actual number of the techniques is higher) (https://www.amazon.com/Business-Analysis-Techniques-essential-success-ebook/dp/B00MF6GOSY)

Russian standards (in Russian) (https://systems.education/standards)

Bawiki (http://www.bawiki.com/)


Overcoming existing limitations

Go beyond BABOK 3, go beyond UML & BPMN, go beyond the book of Karl Wiegers, etc.:


• It is a common situation when a tool or approach de facto becomes an industry standard, thus inhibiting its competitors

• At the same time, the outsider approach may have accumulated knowledge that is absent in the mainstream paradigm

• Understanding of the less-popular approaches may give a BA more input for the creation of its BA tools and techniques


Constant experimentation-learning cycle

Usage of a scientific method based on experiments to assess and modify BA tools, techniques, and processes. This approach is actively used in various startup methodologies. How to conclude whether a tool or technique has enough value to be used? A BA may try a technique, collect feedback, correct the technique and try it again with learning as the primary goal of the process. The process may have several iterations and use qualitative or quantitative feedback.


The approach is described in the following books:

SHU-HA-RI

The principle is a part of oriental philosophy, but it has followers in the West. Mastering each subsequent stage is more complex but boosts the abilities of a BA. The abilities of the Master are the most developed according to this model. As a result, the most effective analyst must be able to create his artifacts, tools, techniques, and approaches.


Three major stages of mastering a craft:


• Mastering forms created by other masters (SHU)

• Modifying forms created by other masters (HA)

• Creating your forms, i.e., becoming a master yourself (RI)


Cases


Codes and certifications


BABOK 3 and beyond

BABOK 3 is only the beginning of the journey. In my opinion, currently, there is a tilt towards the BABOK code in the BA profession in Ukraine. At the same time, IIBA produced or shared other documents that are worth noting also.


It may be complemented by the following IIBA resources and documents:


• Agile extension to the BABOK guide (version 2)

• Business Analysis Competency Model (https://www.iiba.org/professional-development/business-analysis-competency-model/; recommended by Denis Gobov)

• IIBA digital library (https://www.iiba.org/professional-development/knowledge-centre/digital-library/) for $50-$110 per annum (cost of membership)


IIBA and beyond

IIBA is not the only professional organization that has developed valuable artifacts. In addition, there is one more major BA institution with a global focus and two more with local focuses on the UK and EU, respectively.


The major remaining ones:


• Project Management Institute (https://www.pmi.org/pmbok-guide-standards/foundational/business-analysis)

• British Computer Society (https://www.bcs.org/business-analysis/)

• International Requirements Certification Board (https://www.ireb.org/en/service/literature)


BA profession and beyond

There are other professions with established practices and sets of tools that may be useful to know for a BA. This knowledge will definitely increase a BAs flexibility and understanding.


IT Business analysis has dependencies on the following professions and disciplines:


• Project management profession (PMBOK) (1)

• Software engineering (SWEBOK) (2)

• Enterprise or software architecture (EABOK) (3)

• ITIL standard (4)

• SCRUM (Scrum Guide) (5)

• Software testing certification (6)

• etc.


The links:

1.https://www.pmi.org/pmbok-guide-standards/foundational/pmbok

2. https://www.iso.org/standard/67604.html

3. https://www.mitre.org/publications/technical-papers/guide-to-the-evolving-enterprise-architecture-body-of-knowledge

4. https://www.axelos.com/itil-4

5. https://www.scrumguides.org/download.html

6. https://www.istqb.org/downloads.html


CBAP and beyond

Business analysis is a mature profession, so someone needs to assess the standard knowledge of professionals. The most popular BA certification with a global focus is CBAP from IIBA, but there are other valuable options. It is worth considering your situation in order to choose the best option for you.


The major certifications:


• IIBA (3 levels of BA certification from beginner to professional: ECBA, CCBA, CBAP) and a plethora of certifications with a focus on various elements of business analysis

• Project management institute (PMI-PBA)

• British computer society (5 levels of BA certification from foundation till expert)

• International Requirements Certification Board (3 levels of BA certification from foundation till expert)


Global and beyond

The following major certification entities have a global focus:


• International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA)

• Project Management Institute (PMI)


At the same time, BCS and IREB have tilted towards their regions, i.e., UK and EU. In addition, there are less popular certifications that may also be taken into consideration.


Tech giants’ benchmark: FAANGs


IT professionals from all over the world dream to get a job in a tech giant company. There is an abbreviation for these tech giants: FAANG (or FAAMG). This is for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Microsoft, and Google. These are large and influential IT companies. They are known to employ skilled engineers and work on large-scale projects. Their corporate cultures vary, but you could learn from any of them.


The below information may be helpful to you even if you are not going to apply to FAANGs. First, it may help you to improve your skills to pass the interviews. Second, it may help you to improve your skills to conduct interviews and assess candidates. Third, it may be useful for correction of your self-development plan as tech giant companies are the benchmark for others in terms of practices, processes, and corporate culture.


These companies attract the best, so the competition among the applicants is tough. The application process is multistage, and there is a lot of information about it on the Web. Below, I will share my findings of the application process. I would advise you to use them as a starting point for your research.


The interview process

The application process to FAANGs is a real challenge, so it should not be approached carelessly.


The pre-screen phase is usually held online (may contain up to 2-3 sessions, for example, initial and technical screens). In contrast, the latter stages are held onsite on the company campus within one day as a series of interviews.


Usually, the process contains the following stages:


• Pre-screen

• Technical interview

• Product sense interview (as tech giants are product companies)

• Behavioral (& cultural fit) interview


Pre-screen

You may expect various non-sophisticated questions here, i.e., the focus is on breadth, not depth and a part of the questions are common with other industries.


The major goal is to quickly assess the caliber of the applicant and decide whether he/she is worth further interview stages that are more costly.


My recommendations here:


• The first impression does matter (appearance, clothing, video background [for video interviews], and responses [both verbal and non-verbal] should be relevant)

• Invest enough in your communication devices

• Set up your audio and video in a proper way prior to your interview

• Be prepared and avoid stress or exhaustion


Useful links:

https://partners.wsj.com/epos/bad-audio-is-bad-business/

https://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/pre-screening-interview-questions


Technical interview

You may expect algorithmic, SQL coding, and enigma questions and cases there.


The major goal is to assess the technical skills of the applicant and pick up the best people. It mainly focuses on the low-level areas of the system or product design.


You may use the following resources to be prepared:


• SQL learning books or resources

• Leetcode, Hackerrank, etc.

• Books & articles on the topic of cracking technical interview in FAANGs. This is a plain layer of literature.


Useful links:

https://leetcode.com/

https://www.hackerrank.com/

https://www.sql-ex.ru/

https://www.interviewquery.com/

https://towardsdatascience.com/the-google-business-analyst-interview-b52e5108e0be

https://www.gayle.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Are-Smart-Enough-Work-Google/dp/0316099988