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Variety, the Spice of a Business Analyst’s Life

Part of the reason why some people still struggle with what it means to be a Business Analyst is because it is a very diverse career by definition. Business Analysis is defined very clearly in the IIBA┬« BABOK┬« guide, and yet, if you read this guide, you will agree that there is enormous scope for a Analyst to do a wide variety of things with their careers. So let’s look at some of the aspects that make our careers so diverse and interesting.

# All industries have BAs.

Business Analysis applies to any organisation big or small and in any industry where there is a form of business need that requires a business solution. Business Analysis is analysing the business needs (regardless of domain or industry) and facilitating the translation of need into a business solution. So as a BA, you pick where you would like to work, and you can keep it interesting by moving between industries every few months or years.

# Business Analysis can live at the top or the bottom of the corporate ladder.

Enterprise analysis is more often performed by experienced BAs; as a result, this is a career goal that you need to work towards. It does however exist as a very interesting and challenging analysis role at the top end of the corporate ladder. This makes Analysis even more diverse, as it is one of the few careers where the same set of skills can be applied in both junior and senior roles. The only real difference is that the level and type of business problem will be more conceptual than physical at the top end rather than at the bottom end.

# Analysis can be fluffy and feel good, or very technical and detailed: which are you?

Some BAs are naturally talented in discussing business needs in a language that business stakeholders really understand. These BAs are great at conversing with these stakeholders about their business needs in terms what they would like to achieve, or what they are not achieving. The Business Analyst can then translate these required business benefits into business requirements which can in turn be captured as part of a proposed solution to the problem. Then on the other side, some Business Analysts like the specifics and the details surrounding good business requirement definitions. These Business Analysts are good listeners, good documentation experts, and can be relied upon to support their counter-part Business Analysts who “talk the talk”. Your strengths and your choices will determine where you fit, and remember that both types of Business Analysts play their roles equally well.

# Do you like to work in a loud and explicit way or do you prefer it to be implied and assumed?

In some types of projects, particularly those that are more waterfall-based, you will find that there is a great emphasis placed on requirements gathering activities – running workshops, documenting requirements and running these requirement documents through various cycles of reviews and approvals. This is what I meant when I referred to “loud and explicit” business analysis. In other cases, the requirements gathering aspect of the project is still very important, but takes a more fluid and implied role in the everyday life of the project. Often this is the way requirements are managed within an Agile project environment. Business analysis is therefore applied in two very different ways without changing the nature of what is being done. This makes business analysis very adaptable and flexible as a skill set.

# Which part of the project life cycle would you prefer?

When you are a software developer, you get involved mostly in the build aspect of the software development cycle. With business analysis, you are involved at some or all of the stages of the software development life cycle. This applies to both traditional and Agile approaches. Your involvement will vary depending on which stages you get involved in, but you will nevertheless be performing some aspect of business analysis throughout. So you choose, once again, what type of business analysis activities you would most enjoy doing, and push to be involved in the parts of the projects that you want to be!

# Do you want to be part of a project team or the operations team?

Some Business Analysts are employed as part of business operations. They tend to work on business cases, feasibility studies and a variety of other enterprise level business analysis activities. This is great because not all business analysts like the project environment. However, most Business Analysts are employed in projects and thrive in that environment of peaks and troughs. Depending on your preference, you can once again, choose what type of environment you would like to be a Business Analyst in.

# Business Analysis can be domain agnostic or it can be deeply ingrained in a domain.

The one big divide that I have noticed through the years between different Business Analysts is that there are Business Analysts who taught themselves to be experts in one specific domain, and then there are others who taught themselves to be experts in any domain. Both of these types of Business Analysts are equally valuable. In some cases a particular role requires the individual to be a subject matter expert as well as a Business Analyst and in some other roles it requires pure business analysis skills. Once again, this leaves the highly skilled Business Analyst with a choice about whether they want to focus on one domain and have one aspect of their role as a subject matter expert, or whether they would like to remain a pure Business Analyst who is an expert in transferring their business analysis skills between different domains.

In a nutshell, these are just a few of the huge number of things to consider when you choose to be a Business Analyst. There are many more dimensions for a Business Analyst to choose from when they embark on this career. So jump in and try out as many different parts of the business analysis profession as you can, before choosing which aspect you most enjoy!

How to Optimize Business Processes

Businesses cannot thrive and grow without efficient business processes in place. From recruiting and hiring employees to sales, marketing, accounting, and managing computer networks, virtually every business function requires a series of processes. The process of business ensure that all related tasks are documented and well organized. In theory, those responsible for carrying out a given process will know exactly what to do and when. However, business methods are not necessarily efficient. Business method optimization seeks to make business method as efficient as possible.

Why Optimize Business Processes?

Some business methods start out efficient but become less efficient over time. For example, as rules and regulations change, you may add tasks to a process in order to comply with the new regulation (Source: “Optimizing business processes”, InfoWorld). However, some existing tasks may no longer be required due to the change. Did you remove those tasks from the process? Likewise, changing one process may affect another process, resulting in unnecessary duplication or tasks that no longer need to be done. If secondary processes are not updated, inefficiency is the result.

Inefficient business processes can result in:

. Unnecessary delays
. Mistakes
. Employee frustration
. Customer dissatisfaction
. Accidents
. Wasted time
. Unnecessary use of resources
. Duplication
. Unnecessary costs

How to Optimize Business Processes

Businesses cannot afford to waste time, money, and resources. They cannot afford the risks of errors and accidents, employee frustration, and unsatisfied customers. In order to address these problems, improve productivity, and streamline operations, business method must be evaluated and optimized on a regular basis (Source: “What Are the Best Tips for Business Process Optimization?”, wiseGEEK). One approach to business method optimization consists of just three steps: identify, analyze, and automate.

1. Identify – Identify the process that needs to be optimized. Break down the process into its most basic components. What are the individual tasks that need to be done to complete the activity? What is the activity’s desired outcome? When does the activity begin and end? Who is involved in this activity? Which deliverables, reports, or information is generated or required as part of this process? Are any secondary processes likely to be affected by your changes?

2. Analyze – After identifying the components of a process, the next step is to rethink the process. Look at all of its parts in search of inefficiencies. Ask yourself “what if?” and “why?” and think of ways to reduce waste. For example, “What if we generated PDF copies instead of paper ones?” or “Why are we generating three paper copies for each order?”

3. Automate – As you fine tune the process of business, explore solutions designed to automate it. For example, business management solutions exist for any number of business method such as invoicing and accounts payable (Source: “Process Tracking System for Accounts Payable (PTS-AP) for SAP Finance”, Dolphin). Automation can ensure that the workflow is carried out consistently as well as do so more efficiently. Whether automating accounts receivable, invoicing, or any other process, business process automation can deliver substantial cost savings, risk management benefits, and cash-flow improvements.

Sources:

“Optimizing business processes”, InfoWorld, http://www.infoworld.com/t/business/optimizing-business-processes-867

“What Are the Best Tips for Business Process Optimization?”, wiseGEEK,
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-best-tips-for-business-process-optimization.htm

How the Better Business Bureau Affects Your Business

Putting up a business is never an easy task, especially if you are planning to set it up from the ground up. Some people opt to go for a franchise, not only because this is the easier route, but it is also because of its risk-free nature-most scientific studies sup-port the conclusion that franchises have a higher success rate than independent businesses. However, whether a business is a franchise or independent is the end-all and be-all of a particular venture. Streamlining your business to the needs of your consumers is also a key player, and this is mostly influenced by the level of trustworthiness your company has.

What comes with a Better Business Bureau accreditation?

One way to build your company’s trustworthiness is by applying for a Better Business Bureau accreditation. The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit organization that strives to build trust among marketers and businesses. It has been around for 75 years, and most of it was spent setting standards that help build the reliability of the businesses in its network. The main thrust of the organisation is to promote ethical, principled, and just business practices among its members. The tenure of the organization speaks for itself, because every year, tens of thousands of users look up businesses in the organisation’s database, especially customers who are not that familiar with existing businesses. For this people, there is no benchmark, and if all businesses are on equal footing, being part of Better Business Bureau will definitely boost your company’s trustworthiness.

What’s in it for my business if it gets accredited by the Better Business Bureau?

Helping your business gain credibility is not all that you can get from getting accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. When you get recognized by the organisation, it also helps widen your network, which will in turn, help you attract more business. Being a member gives you access to a system that collaborates with other entrepreneurs to establish the best practices in the industry, helping your business gain expo-sure to potential market and partners. Also, there is a lot of merit in exposing yourself to an organisation that highlights the transparency of your business because this way, consumers are more likely to trust you. In a nutshell, being a member makes your business the front runners of the ones doing the best practices.

Can anyone become accredited by the Better Business Bureau?

Getting accredited by the Better Business Bureau is open to everyone, but sadly, not everyone who applies makes the cut. This is because of the time and effort one company has to dedicate in order to achieve the most coveted recognition of the organisation. It takes more than a year to fully get cleared, and what comes with this is a very extensive and conscious dedication from the business so that they can truly prove the credibility of their company. Aside from meeting the requirements of the Better Business Bureau, it the company is also tasked to make sure that they minimize the complaints from their customers. This, if any, should easily be resolved and the company must not be subject to any legal sanction from the government. The implication of this is that it becomes apparent to the public that only businesses with high standards will get membership.

Despite the very detailed process every business has to go through in order to get
accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, it is evident how this has a positive effect on your business. It is not just because of the prestige, but mostly because of how it helps you create a relationship with your customer that is built on trust.