I found some more very good articles today. Courtesy of BATimes website. I found this website absolutely great not only in advising and job search tips for Business Analysts but discussing our day to day duties and approaches. They might be relevant to the other professions but BA is the website major target.
What Every Executive Needs to Know About Hiring Business Analysts
The ability to hire great people is one of those skills that differentiate hugely productive managers from the mediocre. When dealing with a specific project, it gets even tougher with the number of distractions, time sensitivities and need to fill head-count numbers on a project plan. It's very easy to get sucked into short term thinking, and sometimes HR management practices get short-sighted as well. No, the probationary period of a new hire is not a generic safety net.
Here's some fast thinking you can do in under 30 minutes to help you hire better:
Get away from hiring generalists Rather than trying to hire people that are generally great at all things, focus on the areas of greatest value to the organization. Take a few minutes to jot down the services this person is going to offer the organization. Figure out where in the project cycle and which requirements definition and management processes will really impact your organization's performance. Be brutal in your focus to get it down to one or two areas where this person needs to shine.
By getting 'service focused' (verb/noun pairs like 'Facilitate Requirements Meetings') you're being blunt about the competency that is essential for success on the project.
List the Skills Needed
Most companies have defined templates used in their requirements
definition and management approach. How many hiring managers look at
that document and simply extract use cases, cross-functional swim lane
diagram, etc from the template to get a list of techniques the analyst
would need to know to be successful. How many people look at the
services and say, what techniques would need to be known here to be
successful? If you're looking for requirements definition capability and
"Facilitate Requirements Meetings" then you probably want someone who
knows the techniques for facilitating a cross functional team.
Want a good technique for listing soft skills? Just list the things that annoy you as a manager.
Test Required Skills
I'm a huge believer in testing skills, before the interview and after
the interview. It reduces your reliance on your first impression. It is
way too easy to get caught up in thinking the first 30 seconds is the
make/break part of hiring. I always end up reminding myself, I'm not
hiring a politician. Put more weight on getting the person to do a
pre-interview task, get them to do a post interview task and look at the
judgment, work quality, and skills used in doing those tasks. Give a
documentation focused person a requirements document and say, is it
done? Have a facilitator run a simulated facilitation session. Nothing
elaborate, just focused on the skills that are essential to success. You
could even look to outside organizations that do skills testing
(Inquestra, etc) if you're not feeling particularly creative or need to
hire dozens of people and don't have time to administer the tests.
Get Away from Trying to Hire Industry Experts; Focus on Analyst Skill Here's a basic rule of thumb: your line of business managers are the subject experts that know the business. Analysts, need to know analysis. If the analysts are competent, they will function really well, regardless of the industry or position. Granted, if you want a systems analyst for SAP, you need to focus here a little more, but definitely not for business analysts. Let's face it, the pool of candidates can get really small, really quickly. And chances are, if someone is emphasizing being an industry expert, I'll bet they are not overly strong in pure analyst skills.
Be Happier There is nothing worse than dealing with a bad hire. Well... I hate it! Not just the HR stuff, but also what it does to your good performers and the overall project. If your company doesn't already have great role descriptions in place, try some of these techniques. Having a great team is just a happier place to be.
A Few Thoughts for Those of You Looking for a Job Lots of folks are out looking for positions today. Here are a few thoughts on positioning yourself for something else: Consider positioning yourself as a specialist. You do a few things really, really well.
Try putting more active tense "services" you provided to the organization in your resume. Hiring managers (and google) scan for keywords.
List proof of your skills as your accomplishments. (How about: 'Lead analyst principally responsible for facilitating requirements meetings on over 50 projects')
Make your expertise as an expert analyst come out
Trying these ideas means deliberately writing a resume that does not fit every opportunity for a contract BA. The idea is to position yourself for certain types of opportunities, and to be successful in landing a spot when one of those types appears. As an interesting side benefit, employers tend to pay more for someone they perceive to be a specialist than they would someone they see as a generalist.
I wish you all great success.
There is one more article that I liked and wanted to share with everyone...
Five Ways to Do More with Less - and Be Successful
Do you find yourself suddenly being asked to do more with less? Was there once someone in the office beside you whose job responsibilities have suddenly become yours? Are you feeling pressure from your boss to deliver, deliver, deliver?
It isn't as if you were slacking off before. Between the meetings, the email and just doing your job there wasn't a lot of time left over. So how, exactly, are you supposed to manage now? Here are five success strategies for getting more accomplished with the time and resources you have.
Success Strategy #1: Clarify your role and responsibilities. This is the first thing you should do. If you are taking on responsibilities that are new to you, it is critical that you spend some time with your manager defining what they are. While it can be tempting to rush over this because there doesn't seem to be time, making assumptions about expectations can slow you down later. Questions to ask include: Why did you give me these responsibilities? What do you expect me to accomplish and by when? How will my progress and success be measured?
Success Strategy #2: Establish priorities. There is a pretty good chance you now have too much on your plate. You will need to look at your tasks and deliverables and start putting them into three categories: 'urgent', 'must do', 'maybe someday'. One thing I advise people to do is make a 'not to do' list for themselves and their organizations - it helps us focus and be efficient when we know what we don't need to worry about. Make sure you also think across the system - whose work might be dependent on your getting something completed? Once you've categorized things it is time for another meeting with your manager. Making sure the two of you are in agreement around priorities will save you time and effort.
Success Strategy #3: Identify what you need to learn.
If you are taking on things that are new to you, you will have to
invest some time and energy into your own learning and development. You
should identify your gaps in three key areas: knowledge, skills and
Knowledge is usually the easiest to acquire but can be time
consuming. Figure out who can help you get up to speed or point you in
the right direction. This is where having a good network inside and
outside of your company can help.
Skills are tougher than knowledge - you have to actually do
something. Maybe there is a quick course you can take to accelerate your
progress, but that may not be realistic or in the budget. Think about
how you have acquired new skills in the past and what worked for you.
Some people like to start with the theory before they try something.
Others like to start by experimenting and learn on the fly.
Even if you have the basic skills already, doing something well
requires practice. Watch for these opportunities and seize them.
Warning: this could push you outside your comfort zone! Finally, give
yourself a break. This is new to you - don't expect to be perfect.
Success Strategy #4: Ask for feedback. One item that
frequently gets a low score on employee surveys is, "I get timely
feedback from my manager." Turn that around. Instead of waiting for
someone to give you feedback, ask for it. If there is something you can
do to be more effective or efficient, don't you want to hear about it?
It is up to you to create the conditions where others can give you good
feedback - be open, listen, ask clarifying questions, say thank you, and
put good ideas into practice. There is no better time to ask for
feedback than when you can honestly say, "I've never done this before,
I'm trying, but I would really like to get your suggestions on how I can
Success Strategy #5: Keep things in perspective.
Yes, there is a lot on your plate and so little time. This can lead to a
lot of stress, particularly if you are someone who strives to do
everything well (maybe even perfectly). You are only human. Remember
that others are feeling exactly the same way. What you can do
is focus on what is most important and strive to get it done. If others
see you doing your best, they will respect you for it. by Dr. Rebecca Schalm