On 26th of November 2020 I attended a “Business analysts’ morning”, a web seminar held by Nortal The topic was, “Business analyst at crossroads – can’t do it the old way and the new way is scary”. The first speaker was the president of ITL and partner of Nortal Andre Krull who gave a general overview of what is going on in the IT market. After that there was a panel where business analyst experiences were shared by Kadri Siinmaa (UX and innovation consultant, adventurer), Inge Prangel (Nortal AS, senior business analyst), Meelis Lang (Helmes AS, development manager) and Antti Haljak (business analyst and designer, freelancer).
In summary, it was very good to hear about the experiences and approaches of different people. Some things that were said stood out for me and so I want to bring them out here. Most of the points are positive, but I do also have a few small complaints. Let’s start with the positives.
When panelists were asked, “what is the most difficult thing in their work?” it was interesting to hear that nobody complained about the lack of technical skills. The main issue was that communication between people can be quite difficult. It can be that the teammates are very different people and want different things, or you somehow have to say to the client that what they want is not what they need. We wrote about communication skills in our article What skills are needed to be a good analyst? and listening to other business analyst’s experiences it is confirmed again and again that those are indeed very important skills.
It was also emphasized that self improvement is very important. You constantly have to analyse your work and yourself. What went well, what not so well and how to do better. There were no specific examples, but they said that they will update the event page with book recommendations, I am waiting with interest. The book I am most interested in is the one that was mentioned during the webinar and is about receiving feedback.
Panelists themselves said that they mostly do self study, when they find a topic that they don’t know much about then they will investigate it and learn more. Another thing that they do is that they listen to podcasts (or read articles) about a wide array of different things and if they hear something that interests them more, then they will find out more about that topic. One general overview podcast that was mentioned was Making Sense with Sam Harris, it has been in my podcast backlog for a while now so maybe now is a good time to finally listen to it.
Business Analyst certificates were also mentioned. Inge Prangel is an IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) certified analyst and she was asked by a listener if this has been useful. Overall consensus was that if you are mostly working on Estonian projects then it does not matter. However, if you want to take part in international projects then this certification might be asked for. The exam itself is based on IIBA provided materials so unless you use them in your work a lot, there is not much merit in the learning process either.
Final positive thing that I want to mention is when a question was asked about how a person would get to be a business analyst. Of course books and courses were mentioned, but the main answer was to go find a business analyst through your friends then invite them out for coffee (bonus points if the business analyst doesn’t have to pay) and ask about their experiences and overall advice. In short, find a mentor, either inside your company or outside. The panelists offered that they can be contacted like that and I would add that you can also contact me (Kristin) or Kaja. We don’t drink coffee, but we will happily have a chat over a cup of tea.
What I would have liked to hear about more
Now we get to the complaints part. When a question was asked about what is the most important thing about business analyst work, the answer was face to face meetings and how the projects don’t really get going without them.
I am going to disagree here. Obviously meeting face to face is a very important communication tool but there are situations where it is not possible. Especially now with COVID-19, it is recommended to not meet up with people. Since the title of the webinar was, we can’t do things the old way any more, then I would have especially liked to hear how face to face meetings have been very important until now, but since we can’t do them as much at the moment, this is how we cope. No matter the situation, projects still have to proceed, be it either with mandatory cameras or allotted time in the meeting for general chat.
These last two things I mentioned are the things that I have been using quite a lot lately. In the last year I have mostly taken part in projects where some people sit half a world away or just stay in their home offices due to COVID-19. Despite that, I still have had to find ways to get people communicating and the project moving. Of course it all depends on the people, and whilst I have been pretty lucky with my team members, I recommend looking up articles or courses that give tips on how to manage virtual teams effectively and what kind of tricks can be used.
My final complaint is that there wasn’t too much mention about what this “new way” is. When I looked at the title, I wondered what it would include. Will they talk about how agile processes have changed the way business analysts work? Or, will they talk about how their work has changed due to issues caused by COVID-19? Unfortunately neither was mentioned.
Overall it was a very nice event and thank you very much to the organizers and participants! I am already waiting for the next webinar, or depending on the situation, face to face meeting.