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Guiding hand for business analysts

Mentoring ensures newly trained business analysts are immediately productive.
Read time 4min 50sec

What can project leaders and managers offer employees hoping to carve out careers as business analysts? What path do business analysts follow? Do they simply attend training courses, shuffling through the process from one end to the other, emerging on the far side as qualified but inexperienced BAs? What courses should they attend?

There are few organised structures that formalise the industry, which means business analysts` training, certification and experience aren`t readily recognised.

It is critical that the industry is formalised so that business analysts and their employers can gauge their potential and value. Currently there`s only one organisation that has established a structure governing standards for the role of the business analyst. It`s the IIBA: the International Institute of Business Analysts.

The IIBA has created the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge, known as the BABOK. On the back of the BABOK, it has developed a professional certification process that concludes with the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) certification. The CBAP certification can only be written after submitting evidence of five years` practical experience in business analysis and tests business analysts` knowledge of the BABOK. That`s significant because it means that business analysts graduating its certificate exams have the knowledge and can apply it. Need to know up-front

While the IIBA represents a significant and important step in the right direction, it is not the final word in business analysis career development. What it doesn`t do is help people gain the necessary experience to become business analysts and it doesn`t tell them whether they`ll make suitable business analysts before they invest a great deal of time and money on the journey.

Not many people naturally make good business analysts. Based on my experience and consultations with psychology professor Dawie Smit at the University of Johannesburg, only 4% of the population is likely to have the ideal temperament of a good business analyst.

While it`s not the end of the road for those who don`t fit the profile, it`s best they know before they embark on the journey because they`ll need to apply themselves in specific areas to make a success of their chosen career.

Smit`s tests examine the temperament profile of an individual. Business analysts need to be balanced left- and right-brained people. Those that don`t inherently possess such a profile will require specific interventions to give their weaker components an appropriate boost. Where the gap between their temperament profile and the ideal profile is too wide, people will be better advised to pursue alternative careers.

While the test illuminates necessary interventions to give business analyst hopefuls appropriate assistance, it also divulges necessary training appropriate to candidates. South Africa, in particular, needs this.

Business analysts bridge the gap between business users and developers, creating new or changing existing IT systems. They talk tech to the propeller heads and commerce to the business people. They also make sure the new or changed system is actually meeting the business`s needs and that it`s not going to be a wasted effort of time and expense.

Government is on the brink of embarking on a programme to rewrite all of its systems and it`s going to need business analysts - lots of them. But the country is experiencing a shortfall.

Immediately productive

Not many people naturally make good business analysts.

Robin Grace is principal consultant at IndigoCube.

Since it takes five years for business analysts to progress through the IIBA`s certification system, they`re not going to be productive for government`s programme when it kicks off.

While that`s only one example, it highlights the need to get business analysts trained and immediately productive as they set foot into the business arena.

What government needs, as do many organisations seeking business analysts, is an additional step in the process that makes business analysts immediately productive. They need mentors.

It`s a proven concept. Military air forces around the globe have been using the approach for decades. Experienced pilots return from the front to train rookies and teach them how to stay alive by avoiding the common mistakes that can lead to lost battles.

But many may think it undermines return on investment and makes projects financially unviable, and it is costly. But it does offer solid and irrefutable return on investment.

Consider the mistakes that inexperienced business analysts, like rookie pilots, will make on the job. The current industry average for IT maintenance projects requires 50% of the total IT budget, and 50% of that goes to rectifying mistakes resulting from poor requirements extraction. For example, an organisation with a total annual IT budget of R1 million will spend R500 000 on maintenance projects and R250 000 of that rectifying the errors resulting from poor requirements.

That`s a relatively small annual IT budget, but even an organisation similar to the example will have R250 000 to invest in mentoring and coaching, which is the best possible solution to the problem.

Training, internationally standardised and recognised certification and coaching or mentoring offer the best possible career path for business analysts and the best possible outcome for their employers.

In the third and final Industry Insight in this series, I will examine in greater detail how people who fall outside the ideal temperament profile can still realise their dream of becoming a business analyst.

* Robin Grace is principal consultant at IndigoCube.

Robin Grace

Principal consultant, IndigoCube.

Robin Grace is principal consultant at IndigoCube. He entered the IT industry via the Van Zyl and Pritchard Cobol Course in 1979, rising through the normal IT ranks to the position of systems analyst. He has been involved with methods and methodologies ever since reading up on James Martin's Bubble Diagrams for Data Modelling. Grace has used, consulted on and taught on many methods since then, worked for Comcon as method manager and spent many years working for Mike Bergen & Associates as a consultant, involved with information engineering among its various clients. He believes the importance of business analysis is under-recognised in the industry. He has been exposed to methods as diverse as catalysis to information engineering, and more recently UML and BPM.

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