I’ve felt for a long time that if you want to be a BA you are most likely meant to be a BA

In this interview we feature Business Analyst David Beckham. David is a familiar face to many in the Business Analysis community and his story is definitely one you should take the time to read.

Can you give a brief summary of your career path to date?

I joined Norwich Union after a brief spell of unemployment back in the mid-80’s. (I didn’t have a maths O Level…. Seven others but no maths) It took me a couple of go’s to get the darn thing during which time I spent a fascinating 11 months as an unpaid volunteer on Archaeological rescue digs.

Once I was inside Norwich Union I was randomly allocated to Pensions Admin, spending several years there before getting thrown out as a troublemaker into the embryonic business change division.

I then gravitated into a Business Analyst role (even though we didn’t know what that was at the time), was a founding member of the BA Practice and held the Practice Lead role for two terms.

In-between I was doing a lot of IT projects. In the last three years I have been in a dedicated training & development role for the Aviva UK community    

In your view what is the core role of a Business Analyst within an organisation?

Delivering the right outcome for the business and/or customer even if they don’t know what it is!!

What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?

Hmmmmmm…. as a Business Analyst I’d have to say my first major project in which we delivered an end to end contact system into our Call Centres back in the late 1990’s. It was hard work but a great team vibe and I made many long-term friends during the two years I was on it. The system has only just been de-commissioned as well so it couldn’t have been too bad.

On a personal level I’d have to say I’m extremely proud of all the people I’ve managed or mentored who have gone onto (or are going onto) greater things.

Also, I’m very proud of my new line as a conference speaker which lead me to another high point last year when I got the opportunity to meet and introduce Sir Clive Woodward at BA2018. As a huge England Rugby fan this was a truly memorable moment! 

Have there been any low points in your career and how did you deal with those?

The first time we went through a head count reduction was pretty intense but I made sure I provided my manager with plenty of positive evidence of my performance through taking pains to acquire feedback.

This is one of the things I’ve always stressed to people I’ve managed or mentored; give your manager plenty of evidence to make you stand out from the pack (In a positive way) when the redundancy or bonus discussions are being had……

What do you think are some of the particular challenges that a BA faces in today’s business world?

For me it’s the erosion of the role from a change facilitator to a ‘writer of user stories’…….. it may not be universal but I’m seeing BAs being buried in feature teams where their focus is kept down at backlog level, not allowed to look up and across other projects/programmes. It reduces the interest, skill-set, creativity and overall fun of the role. Also, it fundamentally reduces the value that business stakeholders can get from a BA If they allow them to do their job properly.

Which leads me into another area where I think the BA profession needs to up its game namely getting onto the top table within organisations and shaping up change activity from the very start. We need BAs sitting on the shoulders (figuratively) of CIOs and showing how the BA skill-set really adds huge value and effectiveness at an enterprise level. But I’ll get off my soapbox now….!   

Do you have any career aspirations for the future that you would like to share with us?

Well, as it happens, I’m just about to leave Aviva after 33 years in order to walk the Earth and have adventures in new pastures. It’s a bit scary but also an exciting opportunity to hopefully do more of what I like doing at a wider level plus develop more of my thoughts about dealing with change as part of life’s experience.

I’ve been a strong advocate of following your personal bliss for a number of years now and circumstances seem to be telling me this is the time to follow mine a bit further!

I shall be continuing to blog regularly and hope to keep up or increase my speaking appearances at conferences and BA style events, which is something I really enjoy.  

What advice would you give to anyone who is early into their career as a Business Analyst or considering a move into the profession?

My advice would be to learn the basics in terms of tools, techniques and methods and build on those. Definitely get some certification, which wasn’t as relevant when I started because there weren’t any; these days the Profession has grown immensely so qualifications can be a significant differentiator.

Then for me, it was a case of expanding these into a dependable, repeatable but also adaptable framework that I could apply to assignments I was allocated to. Once I became confident in the practicalities of the role (which I allude to as the ‘sciences’) I then began to concentrate on the behaviours and softer skills (which to me are the ‘humanities’) until I built a reputation as an ‘expert’ facilitator, which allowed me to broaden my profile even further.

My next major breakthrough was when I began to present at conferences which allowed me opportunities beyond my immediate organisational boundary and network at a totally different level. We’re lucky as BAs that we get to network with a huge amount of people and I strongly recommend taking advantage of that!

In terms of wanting to be a BA, I’ve felt for a long time that if you want to be a BA you are most likely meant to be a BA so keep pushing for it!         

What about your life outside of work, can you tell us a bit about that?

Outside of work I enjoy a reasonably quiet life with my wife Anj and our Border Terrier Branston.

As for hobbies I enjoy reading, both fiction and non-fiction. In terms of the former I suppose my favourites would be Patrick O’Brien’s “Master & Commander” series, anything by David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas/Bone Clocks rather than the comedian) and am currently reading the ‘Expanse’ sci-fi series of novels.

I also draw with ink pens confining myself mostly to sci-fi, sword & sorcery/Celtic/Norse mythology or film related stuff. I have also, in conjunction with a colleague I mentor, recently dabbled in t-shirt design, which has been fun!

As mentioned above I am a massive England rugby fan and in terms of domestic rugby I am a Wasps follower.  

I also like travelling abroad (Italy and Greece especially) and walking in the countryside; I live in Norfolk so I’m never far from the fields and hedges and I think it’s a great way to recharge.

The most significant factor of my life has been my diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease at the early age of 43. Living with this progressive condition has obviously fundamentally changed my life and the lives of those around me but it has also provided me with a huge amount of opportunities which I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been in this situation.

I believe in playing the cards you’ve been dealt as well as you can and if I can make a difference by being a BA or being a BA who talks about Parkinson’s then that’s good enough for me…..!         

You can connect with David via LinkedIn

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