The BA community needs to advocate the value of business analysis even if you no longer hold the job title!

In this interview we talk to Business Analyst Grant Wright who tells us about his path to setting up his own BA consultancy.

You can connect with Grant on Linkedin here

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

I’m not sure how to squeeze over 20 years of working in Business Analysis and related fields into a brief summary!

My first proper job was working as a Risk and Information Analyst for a cheque guarantee company (back in the days when people actually used to use cheques in retail outlets!). I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already performing business analysis to identify stakeholder needs and translate these into reporting solutions and risk control processes.

When I decided to move on from that role I didn’t really know what a Business Analyst was, but I saw a role advertised with a local software company specialising in Life & Pensions solutions, interviewed for it and somehow got the job!

Over the next few years I developed my core BA skills & knowledge, dabbled in other areas such as testing, pre-sales & project management before eventually progressing to become a Business Consultant/Architect, taking a more holistic view of the problems the company was trying to solve rather than focusing on specific IT projects.

About 14 years ago I decided to pluck up the courage to set up in business on my own and established Scarlett Solutions, a boutique consultancy firm specialising in Business Analysis,

Business Architecture and change delivery. Since then I have broadened both mine and my company’s skill set to include disciplines such as Agile Product Management, Business Change Management, User/Customer Experience (UX/CX) and Service Design.

More recently I have focused on helping organisations to improve their BA capabilities and champion the use of Visual Thinking to help create shared understanding and alignment.

Sorry, that wasn’t brief…

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

When asked about the role of a BA, I used to say that BA’s help explain what the business wants to delivery teams, acting as the ‘translator’ between business & IT etc… But with the advent of agile ways of working and the desire to bring the voice of the customer closer to the development teams I think things have moved on.

I now see the BA being less of a ‘translator’ and more of a ‘change facilitator’, representing the business/customer perspective in decision making and delivery discussions. I have also seen a shift towards BA’s taking a more holistic view of the business need beyond IT systems alone.

BA’s need to be able to investigate the landscape, clarify the problem to be solved and consider all of the other aspects that are needed to embed the change and make it successful (e.g. training, business readiness, supporting manual processes & procedures etc.)

What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?

I’m one of those people who gets a little uncomfortable when talking about my own achievements (I have no idea why!).

The one that springs to mind is successfully setting up in business on my own and being able to sustain it. I left a good permanent job to take a 3 month assignment that meant I had to work away from home four days per week when my eldest daughter was just 6 month’s old. It took courage, personal sacrifice and support from my amazing wife (who probably believed in me more than I did myself, and still does…) I worked so hard to prove that I could do it and that 3 month assignment ended up turning into 9 months.

Then baby number two arrived and I managed to find my next opportunity closer to home. I haven’t looked back since.

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

Interestingly, that period (when I transitioned from a permanent job to setting up on my business on my own) also stands out as a low point. I mean that in the sense that I felt I was stagnating in my permanent role and I was getting frustrated because I wanted to progress more quickly. When I took the leap to go it alone, the first 3 months were hard because I was away from home, doubting my decision every day. I persevered, believed in myself and through sheer hard work I feel that I got out of the other side of it pretty well.

Other than this I have had countless challenges and frustrations throughout my career. I have encountered difficult stakeholders with political agendas and people who feel that they need to give you a hard time in order to ‘motivate’ you.

My advice is to be true to yourself, treat people with respect and try to remain positive and objective throughout. It has worked pretty well for me so far.

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

The advent of agile and the whole idea of generalising specialists / ‘T-shaped people’ has seen some people question or challenge the BA role (Scrum, for example, only recognises the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team roles)

I think the BA community needs to continue to advocate the value of business analysis as a core skill set, even if you no longer hold the job title of Business Analyst.

The other obvious one is the emergence of digital technologies. Fundamentally, the role of a BA in digital delivery isn’t that different. You may do things in different ways, at different times, but the core skills are the same. BA’s should however take the time to understand emerging technologies and new capabilities that they can leverage in solutions – things like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology, AI etc. are here to stay and a BA needs to be understand what they are and how they can enable transformative business change.

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

Currently I am focusing on growing my own consultancy firm. My vision is to expand my business by bringing on board other talented, like-minded people who can strengthen our value proposition even further.

In order to achieve this I am investing more time networking and giving back to the BA and Agile communities. I recently ran a Digital Product & Service Design workshop for year 10 business studies students at a local school, which was challenging but good fun!

I also have a number of talks & workshops lined up already for this year and I’m looking into to maybe trying my hand at conference speaking. In addition, we are looking to expand the services we offer to include training and consultancy in the field of Visual Thinking. It is a subject that fascinates me, it brings out my creativity and the more I learn about it the more I can see the huge potential for its use in a business environment, especially in the field of Business Analysis and related disciplines where creating a shared understanding is such an important part of what we do.

If people want to find out more about visual thinking and how it can help BAs they can listen to an interview I recently gave for the Visual Thinking podcast on this very subject:

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

I think you have to be inquisitive, never be afraid to ask ‘why?’ if something doesn’t make sense (or even when it does!). Always take the time to really understand the business context within which you are operating.

On a practical level, I would recommend researching the BA profession and understanding more about the purpose of the role. I kind of stumbled into the role, relied on my common sense and learnt on the job, but in hindsight I wish I had read up more about business analysis and understood more about the different tools & techniques that are available.

Nowadays there is so much information available online that can help new BA’s, many of which are free of charge. You can also find local IIBA events where you can meet other BA’s and find out more about the profession.

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

I’m a father of four girls aged between 4 and 15 so a lot of my spare time revolves around ferrying them to various clubs and competitions. I have come to terms with cheerleading and musical theatre being a big part of my life!

When I do get some time to myself I enjoy watching football (I’m a little too old to play the game nowadays), sketching and spending quality time with my wife.

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