In this interview Business Analyst Paul Kitson from Reassure gives us his career story and tells us why being a BA is a bit like Chandler from Friends!
Can you give a brief summary of your career path to date?
Like many others I never intended to become a BA and naturally progressed into the role. I joined my company in 2000, a first job from college, a bit of experience before moving onto better things was the plan……nearly 20 years later I am still here!!
My first 5 years were in admin/customer servicing roles which, looking back, were invaluable. I then moved into IT and did a variety of analysis roles focusing on process improvement, data analysis and then functional defect analysis.
Around 6 years ago I wanted to progress in my career and had the choice of going down the business analyst route or the technical/developer route, I took the former and decided I wanted to make a career out of it.
After a couple of years there was a bit of a turning point when a new manager came in and decided he wanted to have ‘industry standard BA’s’, using techniques and producing artifacts which were considered standard. He also looked at the training & qualifications needed to obtain this.
I progressed to a Lead BA and then a couple of years ago the company decided to introduce a business analysis practice with the new roles of Consultant BA’s who would drive standards & practices within the function and work with our colleagues across the organisation. I applied and was fortunate enough to get the role.
In the last few years I’ve also been able to take a number of BCS exams and this summer completed the International Diploma in Business Analysis.
In your view what is the core role of a Business Analyst within an organisation?
The obvious answer is that we identify problems and come up with solution options. For me, it is bigger than that and we should be the glue that holds the change together.
The best BA’s I’ve worked with are the ones that I’ve approached and can comfortably answer anything. Whether that is explaining the change itself, the driver for it, the process around it and the business benefit. Beyond that it is understanding the position throughout the life cycle and being able to step in to support, during development & testing etc. It is really about owning the change from elaboration to implementation.
I always say to a BA that someone like a sponsor, senior management or a governance forum could ask them to come and talk through the project at any point, if they have to spend time researching it then I’d question their understanding of the change.
Additionally if there are conversations around the project which the BA is not involved in, then I’d be questioning why. Again the best BA’s I’ve worked with, make sure they are involved in those conversations.
What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?
Passing the diploma in the summer was a huge personal achievement but I was so happy to see so many of my colleagues also pass it.
Additionally many other colleagues have passed various national qualifications over the past few years so it shows me how far we have come since I first started out, and certainly a previous managers vision of the creation of a group of industry standard BA’s has come to fruition.
Have there been any low points in your career and how did you deal with those?
Working on a high profile project where I felt I had worked well with everyone and produced what I thought were a comprehensive set of requirements, only to find out what was delivered bared little resemblence to what I had produced.
It transpired that although people had said my artifacts were fine, they decided to go in a different direction and other people in the project were aware of it. More frustratingly, due to the lack of time, what had been built was going to be the end solution and I was asked to update my artifacts to match the design.
At times like that you can seriously question the role, the value it adds and how your colleagues view you. In that instance the end result did cause some problems for the business and highlighted that having someone from outside the BA space influence things isn’t always the best approach.
Although it was tempting to take joy in me being proven right, I genuinely didn’t because I knew it would cause problems for my colleagues.
What do you think are some of the particular challenges that a BA faces in today’s business world?
People expecting a BA to produce a set of requirements within 5 minutes of starting the project and then being surprised when either 1) That doesnt happen (which it shouldn’t) or 2) It does happen but they are given inadequate requirements.
A lot of this can be down to the lack of understanding of the role. In the past when I’ve told colleagues of some of the things I’ve learnt as part of my training & qualifications they have been genuinely surprised at what we can/should do. Some have joked ‘ you just write down what people tell you they want’!!
One of my biggest frustrations is when people can be quick to dismiss techniques and approaches simply because they do not understand them. When I go to things like the European BA Conference I try and introduce anything I think will add value, some of this can be challenged, it is my job to convince people of the benefit of it.
Do you have any career aspirations for the future that you would like to share with us?
For the forseeable future it is contining to embed our BA Practice and put improvements in place.
Longer term, at some stage I think I will look to prove myself elsewhere due to me having only worked at one company. In terms of what role though I’m not sure. I do like my current role but equally I do miss ‘doing the doing’ so would be be more than happy in a traditional BA role.
What advice would you give to anyone who is early into their career as a Business Analyst or considering a move into the profession?
Before you look to step into the BA world, do some research to understand what it is and then decide whether you want to do it. Think of it as a profession in the same way as an account, teacher etc. We have had people move into the role not really knowing what it is and have struggled.
It’s a running joke with family & friends that I’m like Chandler from Friends in that they cant understand what I do. It can be difficult to explain but I think it’s because it can be so varied and that is a huge plus. It is challenging but can be rewarding too.
What about your life outside of work, can you tell us a bit about that?
Sports…..mainly watching!! Football wise, I’m a season ticket holder at Shrewsbury Town so that keeps me busy every other Saturday and I do like a day at the cricket in the summer.
I started running, when I hit 30, mainly to lose some weight but my competitive edge kicked in and I recently completed my first half marathon. So I’ve got a little bit of taste for that and will be looking to do some more in 2020.
I’m also a keen music fan, bit of an indie man so the likes of Stone Roses, Oasis etc. I’ve just got tickets for the Who next year so defintely looking forward to that.
I got married earlier this year so 2019 has been a pretty busy but enjoyable year.
You can connect with Paul via LinkedIn