The Business Analyst and Knowledge Management

Rodin
Knowledge is valuable

I have read a few articles recently that have talked about the promotion potential of Business Analyst’s, particularly at Laura Brandenburg’s excellent http://www.bridging-the-gap.com.  What jobs are open to a BA? What skills do you have that can open new avenues?  I think this is a very valid discussion as the BA role can seem pretty flat in terms of long-term potential.  What is the career path? Senior Business Analyst? Super Senior Business Analyst?

There are typical answers to this, the most common being Project Manager, but that is one that I find distinctly unappealing.  I think being an Analyst means you are the type of person who likes to get in to the weeds of a project a little too much for you to transfer nicely to a PM role.  In a previous post I spoke about the cross-over between a BA and an Information Architect, and I still believe this is an open avenue, but this may be too “webby” or design focused a step for some people, as well as being a rare field, still growing and maturing and hence difficult to access.

As part of my Masters in Business & Information Technology at DePaul, I am taking a course in Knowledge Management, and it is fascinating.  It is such a fuzzy area and almost a non-subject according to some, however I see a lot of value in it.  It centers around not only how do we collate what we know in to knowledge bases but also how do we identify, stimulate and capture this information from experts within the organization.

Something that seems very clear to me is how a Business Analyst can significantly help in this area, if they have worked within an organization for a period of time.  Over the course of various projects, many interviews have been conducted, problem domains examined and modeled, and a sense of the organizations knowledge centers would have been subconsciously formed.  As the BA who is observing and objectively analyzing how information, data and processes flow within a company, they are essentially tracking the knowledge flow through a company, how it is formed and who are the creators, experts, team players etc. who contribute to it’s formation.

So when you are next creating an Activity Model, or interviewing key stakeholders for a new system, keep in mind that you are also tapping in to a key knowledge resource, that has a broader importance.  If there is a knowledge management initiative at your company you may then be able to leverage this information outside of the main project focus.  But if there isn’t a knowledge management initiative, then maybe this is a good way to propose one and perhaps land yourself with a Knowledge Management project.

Related posts on the Business Analyst career path:

http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/can-i-be-promoted-as-a-business-analyst/

http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/whats-next-what-do-i-do-after-im-done-being-a-business-analyst/

http://www.businessanalyst.com/advance-from-business-analyst-to-business-architect/

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The Business Analyst and Knowledge Management

New job!

On Monday January 18th I will be starting a new job as a Business Analyst / Project Manager, at a small IT consultancy that creates custom web applications as well as offering hosting solutions.  They predominantly use Agile methodologies where possible, however the final approval comes from the client, so if the client wants Waterfall then so be it.  This is a very exciting move for me, and I cannot wait to get started on Monday.

I started this blog in 2008 to track my career change from a recruiter with 10 years experience to a Business Analyst (hence the blog name, see my first post).  My first role however was not ideal, and I knew that going in as it was an Implementation Consultant role for a SaaS product.  Although it involved business analysis type work, such as requirements gathering and extensive customer interaction, it was within a very confined environment.  Essentially the product existed, we were just tailoring where possible and getting the customer trained, live and bringing in revenue.  It was a good starting point but not what I wanted long-term.  I entered Business Analysis with the idea of working on new software product development and release, preferably web applications as that seemed so fluid and exciting.  This new role seems very much in line with what I saw in my minds-eye when I started this career change adventure.

This new job is a combination, they are bringing together the Business Analyst and Project Manager roles.  Previous experience has shown the owners that at present there is not enough work on either side for a full role and that there is also a lot of cross-over.  I will get involved in so many different areas, from requirements gathering, developing and managing a project plan, wireframes, information architecture, testing and so much more I’m sure.  I have a lot to learn.

I will be working my way through the following books recommended by one of the company owners as I get started, and will post a quick review of each as I go:

So a new chapter opens in my career change, and again I will be blogging my progress.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has worked in a joint BA /PM role such as this, and any other suggestions on readings would be most helpful.

New job!

Business Analyst or Information Architect?

Which way to go?
Information Architect or Business Analyst? Which way to go?

This post from Paul Culmsee at Cleverworkarounds.com tapped in to something that has rattled around my head for a while.   My career aim is to work as a Business Analyst in software development.  I pursued this role whilst still in my old career as I understood that the BA role most closely fulfilled the idea I had of being a bridge between the business and technology.  Not that being the business-IT bridge was an original idea, but it was the basis from which my new career direction has sprung.  As my knowledge has grown and I have moved in to a semi-BA role (I say semi because half of my role falls under customer service and training), my horizons are expanding and so has my confusion about where the BA fits in to a project and the role they play. It seems the simple answer is that the BA role is however that particular company, or project, defines it.  There are common threads of course, the requirements gathering function being the key one, but other tasks and responsibilities float around the position, liable to be cherry picked from organization to organization, project to project.  These include PM responsibilities, testing, product strategy and many more.  The question I am throwing out to the blogging ether is does it stretch in to the usability and information architecture realm also?

For lack of a better description, this last month I have been gripped, reading and learning about usability, user centered design, user experience and information architecture.  As mentioned before, my Interaction Design course at DePaul has really kickstarted this frenzy, but also in working with my friend at Booyant.com, and some possible usability testing and website analytics work I will be doing for them.  I think the user focussed and user centered design (UCD) methods are intriguing and certainly something I would like to get involved with.   But how do Business Analysts fit in with these methods and roles?

The main reason I ask is that Requirements Gathering is a key part of UCD, as it is for BA’s, so are there BA’s out there who are usability specialist BA’s?  Or does the requirements gathering neatly split between user requirements to the usability specialist and the business requirements to the BA?  I see how that may be possible with a consumer/public facing product but when the software is for internal use, the user is the business. Who takes the requirements then?  It also seems that the usability focused requirements gatherer takes those ideas further down the design path, creating conceptual designs and wireframes to encapsulate the requirements, rather than the BA method of perhaps mapping data flow, artifacts or business processes and documenting the requirements in a traditional style.  However use cases and stories are used on both sides……

Lets just say I am a little confused.

Which moves me on to the Information Architect role.  The idea of this position seems perfect based on my interests.  From the outside looking in, I see the role like the usability focussed BA .  It does not fall directly under the creative or graphic design umbrella of software development, so I do not need engage my non-existent artistic side, but looks instead at getting more involved in the layout and structure of the site, mapping the user requirements to software functionality.  In that way it seems like a more fulfilling, engaging and strategic position that enables you to put in to action the requirements gathering and understanding work you have done, and structuring the sites information. I particularly like this quote from The Information Architecture Institute(IAI) website:

Jeffrey Veen, Adaptive Path and author, The Art And Science Of Web Design
“I’ve found information architecture serves business as a development process as much as a discipline for structuring content. IA demands a clear understanding of how content can connect customer goals with business objectives. And regardless of medium, that’s the definition of success.”

I love this idea, but as I said I am on the outside looking in, and as Paul Culmsee’s post says, the name of a role can be little more than group of people getting together and forming a club.  So is what I described anywhere close to what an Information Architect does?

My research will continue, the Information Architecture book from Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville seems like a good place to start and there is a good reading list on the IAI website, but any suggestions and input will be gladly accepted.

Help me if you can.

Thanks for reading.

Business Analyst or Information Architect?

Blogging objective

So this is it, my first blog post and I am wandering in the dark a little wondering who will ever read this. But I throw myself at the feet of the Internet and the belief that there is always someone, somewhere, who could be interested in my meandering sentences.

The idea behind starting this blog is that……

I HAVE A NEW JOB!!

Well good for me you may say, and I would tend to agree with you. But it is more than just that, it is a career change. I have been a recruiter for the last 8 years but for the last year or so I have been trying to break into the field of Business Analysis as it just seems to be a great fit with my interests and work style. To get through the barriers of no experience and no qualifications, I started the Masters program in Business & Information Technology program part-time at DePaul University. The money and time have paid off ! I was offered a Business Analyst – Software Implementation role last Friday for a large HR software and services outsource company and start work on May 12th.

The job itself is not ideal, at least from my perspective so far, it seems very specific to one software product and is very customer service oriented, but it is a step in the direction I want to go. So I wanted to blog from this point, to trace my learning, raise points and ask for help as I push in to this new field and ideally towards a role with a company such as ThoughtWorks (http://www.thoughtworks.com/).

The Business Analyst career is not very well defined and there are many options open to people, with no clear entry point or career development path, so I hope that this blog over the coming months and years will act as a reference point for anyone else looking to pursue a job in this area.

Thanks for reading!

Blogging objective