Have you ever had a sense of business analysis déjà vu – the feeling you have used a particular business analysis technique before, but can’t quite remember what you did or how you did it? I know I have!
Business analysis is a broad and varied profession that can involve everything from narrow, well-defined tasks to broad, strategic assessments. Business analysis can be performed in the context of a specific project or initiative, as part of pre-or post-project activities, or in support of ongoing operations. Over the course of a career, a Business Analyst can be exposed to numerous project delivery methods, business domains, and organisational cultures. It is this variety and continuous learning that bring many practitioners to the profession in the first place.
With the BABOK containing 50 techniques and the 3rd edition of BCS’s Business Analysis Techniques containing 123, it is impossible to be an expert in every business analysis technique. While some techniques will become the mainstay of a business analyst’s arsenal, other techniques will be used infrequently to assist in specific circumstances. A final, polished piece of analysis is often achieved by carefully selecting and combining multiple techniques to build a coherent picture that encompasses different perspectives. Business context, stakeholder preference and understanding, project constraints, and a Business Analysts own personal experience can all impact technique selection.
Creating a work portfolio is a good way to keep track of the techniques you have employed in the past and the outputs you have delivered. As you move through your career, your portfolio can provide:
- reference material to support the delivery of similar analysis products.
- illustrative examples to use when explaining analytical approaches and deliverables to managers and junior Business Analyst colleagues.
- a record of professional development and growth.
- inspiration when applying for new positions or promotions.
Your portfolio can include:
- Work Samples: Where possible, maintain copies of business analysis outputs you have produced for future reference.
- Templates: Templates areparticularlyuseful for those structured techniques that are performed infrequently. Generic templates can be adapted to different business contexts and domains.
- Articles and Reference Material: Keep a record of the sources you have referenced when delivering analysis, either by keeping copies and/or maintaining a catalogue of useful books, articles, and websites.
- Work Diary: Narrative descriptions can be used to record what you did and how you did it in enough detail for you to reference should you ever need to perform a similar task again. Use a work diary to record information about the business context, tasks perform, stakeholders consulted, and/or techniques used in the production of an analysis deliverable. Work diaries are particularly useful in circumstances where contractual restrictions, privacy and/or secrecy prevent you from holding original copies of your work. You can also use business analysis techniques in your work diary entries, such as mind maps, process models and scenarios.
- Course Material: Include information from any courses, study groups and/or conferences you attend that might be of use in the future.
Some things to consider for your portfolio:
- Maintain it – review your work and add to your portfolio regularly. While routine maintenance is recommended, project gateways, end of employment/contact, and/or end of year are good times to take stock of what you have achieved, what you have learnt, and what information you want to retain.
- Organise it – you are more likely to use an organised resource then an unorganised one. How you organise your portfolio is very much dependent on you and how you work. However, aligning your portfolio with BABOK Knowledge Areas or stages of the Business Analysis Process is often a good starting point. Also consider using naming conventions and keywords to tag portfolio items to assist with searching as your portfolio grows.
- Remember context – the amount of work required to deliver a single, pristine business analysis output is often deceiving. A myriad of techniques may be employed on route to the final, acceptable product. It is good practice to file your work with some contextual information to remind yourself of the business situation, intermediate steps, additional techniques, and issues you had on the journey to the polished artifact.
- The good, bad and ugly – whileyou shouldn’t dwell on the negative, remember that bad experiences are learning opportunities too. Using a work diary entry to reflect on a situation where a particular approach didn’t work can provide useful learnings for the future, as well as help put bad experiences behind you.
- Be mindful of copyright – remember that the copyright for work you have been paid to produce for another entity is almost certainly held by a third party. Take care to respect all copyright. When in doubt, de-identify information and/or use work diary entries in place of original copies. In cases where you do own the copyright, you may still want to take care when sharing material as it is your IP!
- Be creative – while you will most likely draw on your professional roles for the most of your portfolio examples, there are other, creative ways to build your portfolio. Many aspects of life can benefit from a bit of business analysis rigour – getting your home budget under control, selecting the best suburb to move to, or assisting a community organisation to suggest a few. It may sound flippant but using techniques in general life can be a good way to try new techniques, apply techniques in a different context, and build examples to draw on in the future, particularly when you are just starting your business analysis journey. (You never know, it may also help you achieve a better outcome for you, your family, and/or community group!)
- Use it – a portfolio is only valuable if it is used… so remember to use it!
- Business Analysis Book of Knowledge v3, Institute of Business Analysis, 2015.
- Cadle J, Paul D, Hunsley J, Reed A, Beckham D, Tuner P, Business Analysis Techniques: 123 essential tools for success (Third edition), BCS, 2021.
Anna is a Certified Business Analyst Professional with a career spanning 20 years’ and multiple countries. She is the chair of the Perth IIBA branch and has had some of her thoughts and reflections published at the BATimes.com.