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The Starter Project Business Analyst – a job description

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

You may have just finished college, or have none of the skills needed for a more advanced BA role. You are interested in a Starter Project BA position either to learn more about the job to see if it is something of interest, or because you have decided on this as a career.

All Business Analysts use the skills of the Starter Project BA. Even if you end up starting as a Mid-Range Project Business Analyst, you will still need the skills of the Starter Project Business Analyst. There are a lot of projects where you will be the only BA, so you will have to have the skill set of all three levels of Business Analyst. The Starter Project BA skills are also very useful or required in a wide variety of jobs.

If you are a Starter Project Business Analyst you work on a project team. This could be a software project, a business process improvement project, or many other kinds of projects. You are responsible for collecting information and communicating it to the appropriate team members.

Like a Ham (Amateur) Radio Operator on an emergency response team, your specialty is Communications. You need to be good at finding all kinds of information by researching in documentation of all kinds and by eliciting it from people. You also need to be good at sharing the information in a wide variety of formats and technologies.

As a Starter Project BA, you need to be comfortable with a wide variety of people and situations. You should not hesitate to make a telephone call, send an email, or instant message any one from whom you need to elicit information. You need to be good at setting up meetings, taking notes, and following up on action items. You should be comfortable talking to people one-on-one, as well as comfortable facilitating a meeting.

You do not need to be an expert at every possible form of communication before progressing to a Mid-Range Project Business Analyst. But the more comfortable you are with a wide variety of people and technologies, the better you will be at any BA role.

As a Starter Project BA, you are not expected to work alone. A more senior BA, Project Manager, or BA Manager will direct your work. He or she will also mentor you to develop more BA skills.

The most important skills for a Starter Project BA are:
• Listening
• Scribing
• Facilitating
• Holding interviews
• Research, both online and in documentation
• Writing

Technologies you should master are:
• Email
• Instant Messenger
• Telephone and VOIP
• Standard office software
• Digital Recorder
• Projector and computer for meetings
• Teleconferencing System

The most important personal traits are:
• Warm and friendly personality
• Comfortable with all kinds of people
• Comfortable in all kinds of situations
• Self-motivated
• Organized


The Importance of the Job Description

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

You have been thinking of becoming a Business Analyst, and are not sure how to go about it. Since few people leave college and start working as a Business Analyst, you are probably making a career change, or at least are looking for a way to move from a related role into a Business Analyst role.

Everything starts with a job description. You have to know what you are looking for in order to find it. I think the area of career development for Business Analysts is a bit difficult because the career path is not well defined. There are efforts to define the role – Prince 2 and CBAP – but I don’t think there is widespread agreement throughout the industry yet on really what is meant by Business Analysis. I do have specific suggestions on a Business Analyst career path, including how someone might become a Business Analyst directly after college.

I used to think that a person should work 3-5 years before becoming a Business Analyst. I realized that I was only thinking of a Senior Business Analyst. That is one of the problems currently facing Business Analysts, that we do not have defined levels. So I have defined a useful progression of Business Analyst roles.

I created these job descriptions based on my own experiences as a Business Analyst, Project Manager, and leader of a team of Business Analysts on very large and huge projects. I have asked other people with backgrounds as Business Analyst and various kinds of managers to review these descriptions. They all agree that this is a useful and reasonable approach to a Business Analyst career path.

In defining a series of Business Analyst roles, I had several goals to achieve. First, each position I described had to be useful to a company and project team. Second, there had to be a clear increase in responsibility from one role to the next. Finally, I wanted to be very precise in the descriptions so that you can take them to hiring managers, and the hiring managers can see the usefulness of the work for their teams.

While reviewing the work of very senior project Business Analysts, I determined three clear, useful roles for a Business Analyst to play on a project team. These roles are: Starter Project Business Analyst, Mid-range Project Business Analyst, and Senior Project Business Analyst. There are many other jobs that a person called a Business Analyst can do. In this and succeeding articles, I have outlined the project BA roles because I believe these are the most common roles for a BA.

If you do not have work experience, you will begin as a Starter (or Junior) Business Analyst. If you are making a career change, you will probably be able to start in a Mid-range or possibly even Senior Business Analyst role.

The first step in looking for a Business Analyst position is to look at descriptions of different levels of Business Analyst to see where you fit in terms of your skills and experience. Then you can take the appropriate description to a hiring manager and explain to them that this is the job you want to do. If you do not yet have the necessary skills and experience, then you can use the descriptions to determine where you need further education and experience.


Intro to Finding a BA position

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

I get a lot of emails and blog posts from people who want to be Business Analysts, but are not sure how to go about finding a BA position. This article is the first in a series discussing techniques for finding a BA position.

One of the issues all Business Analysts face is that the role is poorly defined. There are efforts to define the role – Prince 2 and CBAP – but I don’t think there is widespread agreement throughout the industry yet on really what is meant by Business Analysis.

In other articles on this site, you will see that I have defined a progression of BA roles. You can look at the pages for Starter Project BA, Mid-range Project BA, and Senior Project BA for descriptions of those roles. Having these descriptions in hand will make it easier for you to talk with a hiring manager about what he or she thinks a Business Analyst is. They will also help you communicate how you can bring benefit to the project team or company.

You need to think about whether you are changing jobs within your current company or looking outside your company. The techniques are quite different in these two kinds of job search.

If you are looking outside your company, the first obvious step is to apply to job ads. This does not work for me, nor have I known it work for many other people. In fact, a friend told me about some research where the best people in a company were asked to put a different name on their resume and send it to their own human resources department in response to some job ads. This was to see the effectiveness of applying to job ads. Not one of those people was offered an interview!

The basic reason is that the people in human resources get a lot of resumes in response to job ads, so they use automated tools to do keyword matching. If the tools do not find the right keywords in your resume, then it is rejected. If your resume is rejected, very often no human has even looked at it.

The next technique you may try is working with a recruiter. A lot of BA positions are only advertised through recruiters. If you find a good recruiter, that person will understand the position you are applying for and will be working closely with the hiring manager. If you do not find a good recruiter, your results will be the same as applying to human resources through a job ad.

In this series of articles, I outline some other strategies for looking for a job outside your company and inside your company. These techniques include networking, direct marketing, and creating a transition plan.

If you try out some of those techniques, post your results on this blog. If you know another way to find work, post that as well, so we can all learn more ways to effectively look for a job.