Life of a Business Analyst: Expectations vs Reality
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
I was chatting to a few of my peers in another business analysis community, and I asked what they would like to know more about, particularly on the subject of business analysis. The response was an interesting one, I was saddled with the task of talking about the practical aspect of business analysis as opposed to what happens in the book. So I decided to change my approach to share an experience of a day in my life as a business analyst. Hope you enjoy the experience!
I usually get in at 8.30 am; it gives me enough time to have a light breakfast and get my mindset in the right place to face the day. So around 9 am, I chose to read through my emails from the previous day, and then checked my calendar to see how much, and what tasks I had planned for the day. It seems like today will be one of those very busy days but then again, busy is good (sometimes).
Got prepared for the first meeting of the day, and looked through my meeting agenda to ensure there are no surprises. We have some vendors joining us today to pitch their products and services.
We are at the early stages driving a transformation project involving the implementation of a global CRM that would help drive the entire organisation and improve the way we work. I had prepared a series of questions and sent it ahead of the vendors’ visit; this was to ensure they understood our problem statements and had an idea of what we would be looking for in a product (we were not interested in any blind selling). I went up to the 3rd floor to ensure all the equipment (projector, laptops, phone and video conferencing screen) were working fine; as I said before, I did not want any surprises. Technology has a way of surprising you on a big day
The first vendor arrived and I got an email from reception, so I had to hurry to the ground floor to welcome the vendor and showed them the way to our meeting room on the 3rd floor, good thing the elevators were working fine, otherwise It would have been a good exercise for us all climbing up the stairs. I secretly wanted the adrenaline rush, to get me all pumped. I exchanged a few pleasantries with the vendors and tried to break the ice by using my BA communication skills; as you know it can be a nerve-wracking exercise trying to sell to a multinational organisation. I have been on the other side of the fence too (that's another story for another blog).
10 AM- 2.50 PM
Almost every day in the life of a business analyst has its own unique challenges, stress, joys, learning and busyness. Today was certainly one of those long busy days with four back-to-back sessions with four different vendors. These vendors had responded to our Request for Information (RFI) and they came prepared to answer a series of questions. Sometimes you have to ensure people are giving feedback to a specific request, so I had to prepare a series of questions and sent it to them ahead of their visit. It helps to ensure they were on track with the level of information we required and everyone was on the same page. Also, it was important for us to ensure that the answers, suggestions and proposals were carefully aligned with the business case
Although I did my best to ensure the vendors remained in the right direction relating to our challenges and questions, we still had some “Expert Sales Director” with one of the vendors who still decided to pitch some add on products, to a product we hadn't even reviewed (way to go salesman). Needless to say, I had to diplomatically set him back on track, without making him look bad, I guess it's another skill set of a business analyst, i.e. managing stakeholders.
My main task was to prepare a vendor's requirement document, that is a document that the business will eventually send to the preferred vendor, who will help us to build and implement the global CRM. So at the workshop, my core focus was on eliciting and documenting all the necessary information from the vendors, however, I was, at the same time updating my knowledge bank with new and relevant information from the workshop.
Finally, the workshop came to a close around 2.40 pm, and we said our goodbyes to the last of the vendors. After our visitors had left, I had to collate all the information from the sessions and gathered all the sticky note, magic wallpaper, pens and you name it, all the tools of the trade. I then started to put the pieces together for the early part of the Vendor’s Requirement Documentation. I had gathered enough information to get me writing and making sense of what was said, responses to questions and high-level process maps. I immediately started creating a Vendor Selection Justification Pack (version 0.1), while the information was still fresh in my mind. I had to flesh out the notes because I knew that I will still have another session where I will present the outcome of the workshop to the Project Steering Committee and Head of Procurement. There must be a concrete reason or justification for any vendor that was either selected or not selected and I was responsible for ensuring this was aptly captured (uneasy lies the head that wears the BA crown).
3 -3.45 PM
So, it's been a long day, and I am starting to get low on energy, so I hurried to the kitchen on the ground floor to get myself a shot of double espresso and an energy snack bar and then rushed back to my desk, just in time for the team meeting; "...did I just hear you ask if meetings are all we ever do as Business Analysts?" (let's save that for another blog). The weekly team meeting is chaired by the Project Manager, who tries to review the progress of all the project under his watchful eyes and discusses any project Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies (RAID). This is where we throw it all out in the open, project status, who's holding us back (those difficult to handle stakeholders), where are we now and what is the next plan. Almost like a weekly sprint, but we're not talking agile or waterfall, that's a discussion for another blog.
The BA gets a chance to talk, finally, so I updated the project team on where I was with the end to end analysis I was carrying out on another project, and then gave a structured walk-through on the High-Level Process I had designed for the project. A few changes to some steps in the process was suggested by the team. Some risks I called out previously were also closed. I also gave a brief overview of what happened at the just concluded workshop and what the next steps are.
The Systems Architect and the Subject Matter Expert (SME) suggested that I engaged with some newly identified stakeholders who may be affected by our project. This also meant I had to carry out some more People Process & Technology (PPT) analysis; talk about identifying your stakeholders early on in the kick-off phase of a project.
4 - 4.20 PM
After the team meeting, I quickly switched back to work mode and focused on completing the first draft of the “Vendor Selection Justification Pack” and emailed it to the Project Manager. I popped over to his desk for a quick chat to ensure that I had adequately covered all angles (remember always try to keep your project manager on your side). He made a few suggestions and I went off to update the pack, uploaded it to Sharepoint our repository and emailed the link with a short note to all the concerned stakeholders.
4.25 - 5.45 PM
With the justification pack out of the way, I decided to reduce the amount of work I will do the next day, so I started to put some flesh to the Vendor Requirement Document. However, I still had some unanswered questions and I figured the SME is the best person to speak to. I opened up Microsoft Lync (Skype for Business) checked if he was at his desk; got a yes and off I went. I was able to clarify a few of the open questions with SME and the Head of Analysis for Business Support Systems (BSS), not a bad start!
Feeling a little energetic, thanks to the double espresso and some progress with requirement document (still work in progress "WIP"), I pulled up my spreadsheet and took a stab at creating the framework for the Vendor Scoring Matrix that would be used by the project team for the next phase of the vendor selection process.
Almost feels like I am jumping in and out of tasks, and the time is now 5.20 pm, and getting a little tired from a long busy day, so I parked (temporarily suspended) the requirement document. I quickly put together an agenda for the next day’s workshop with key stakeholders. The aim of the workshop will be to go through the intermediate vendor selection process and to review the first draft of the Vendor Requirement Document with the stakeholders. It is always important to get their input and to ensure you all are fully aligned.
I finally had the chance to read through the outstanding emails for the day. By the time I was done with the emails, I knew it was clearly time to head out. Quite an intense day but all is well that ends well. Tomorrow will definitely be another busy day.
To learn all about the tips and tricks on how to deliver on your role as a business analyst and be seen as a true and trusted advisor, check out “The Business Analyst’s Playbook”. It's an online course that will help you hit the ground running on any project as a business analyst, with practical steps, questions and processes that hundreds of my students and I have used to successfully deliver multi-million pounds projects in some of the top organisations in the UK.