In the latest in our series of interviews I talk to experienced Business Analyst Jonathan Hunsley who tells us about his career story to date, his involvement in the brilliant BA Brew podcast and even his practice of martial arts!
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Can you give a brief summary of your career path to date?
My first role after leaving university was as an insurance underwriter. This gave me lots of exposure to operations and the services and systems that underpin an insurance organisation. After a year, I applied to move internally to an Information Technology (IT) graduate scheme and was successful. I was rotated across a variety of IT teams to gain experience.
I quickly realised that I was interested in solving business problems and improving systems for internal users. After I completed the graduate scheme, I moved into a permanent BA role working for one of the Senior IT managers. I was responsible for strategic reporting to group headquarters, which included putting together reports on the UK IT Strategy and reporting on the business cases for the ten largest UK projects. It was quite a responsibility as the reports were for the UK CIO to report to the Group CIO.
When the company made an acquisition, I was often the first BA to arrive. I had to understand their IT systems and processes. I enjoyed meeting new people and learning about different businesses. Solving problems was also integral to the role, as well as looking holistically at strategy. It was then that I realised that business analysis was the career I wanted.
After a few years, an opportunity came up to become a business architect. I really enjoyed this as it allowed me to work as part of a wider enterprise architecture team, looking holistically across the business and leading on efficiency improvement efforts. During this time, I was approached to join an external consultancy. This took me outside of my comfort zone but provided some fantastic learning opportunities. I worked with some great people on challenging projects across financial services. I developed the global agile requirements engineering standards, relishing the challenge each new assignment brought.
After completing my MBA and becoming a dad I decided that a lifestyle change was needed. I found a role working in the change team for a bank. After a few months I was given responsibility for leading a small team. We built a reputation for developing knowledge and excellence and set up a global knowledge share forum. Some years later I ended up as the capability development lead for a group of project managers, testers, and business analysts. I was in my element helping people to develop and grow.
After a short stint as a business analysis manager, I was invited to join AssistKD. I’ve since helped to architect several certifications such as ‘Advanced Requirements Engineering’ and the ‘A4Q Certified Service Designer’ qualification. I also played a key role in the development of the AssistKD approach for supporting UK Business Analysis apprentices, mentoring the UK’s first ever BA Apprentice.
I’ve had many opportunities to get involved in organising, and sometimes speaking, at industry conferences and forums such as the BAMF (BA Manager Forum) and the IRM UK Business Analysis Conference Europe. I also help to organise the BA Brew Podcast. If you haven’t seen this, please do check it out! You can find it on AssistKD’s YouTube channel or in our Learning Zone here: BA Brew | AssistKD
In your view, what is the core role of a Business Analyst within an organisation?
The core role of the BA is to facilitate strategically aligned, holistic and beneficial change for the organisation and its stakeholders. While facilitating this change, the BA needs to consider both the short-term needs and the long-term development of the capability of the organisation. Our work should always be both outcome and customer focused. We act as both a critical friend to the organisation and as a catalyst for thinking.
What would you say is your proudest achievement so far?
This is a really difficult question. One of my proudest moments was being invited to become a judge for the Business Analyst of the Year (BAOTY) Award. This award means a great deal to me personally as I was shortlisted to be a finalist for it earlier in my career.
Contributing and authoring chapters of the Business Analysis (4th Edition) and Business Analysis Techniques (3rd Edition) have also been huge highlights.
Have there been any low points in your career and how did you deal with those?
I think that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. I was once on a programme that was, amongst other things, restructuring a department. This meant making some of my colleagues redundant.
Senior stakeholders often made decisions without discussion or considering their full impact. Seeing the trauma that this caused was extremely stressful and caused many sleepless nights. Reflection, working with mentors and building my own personal resilience has helped a great deal.
What do you think are some of the particular challenges that a BA faces in today’s business world?
I think that this is an exciting time to be working as a BA. We live in a volatile and uncertain world where technology is developing extremely fast. This is combined with an increase in customer and regulatory expectations. I think that keeping up with all of this is a challenge. Dealing with the complexity of current state business systems and services is also a major issue.
To move forward I think that we need to improve both our confidence and competence levels. I also think that knowledge acquisition, retention and sharing presents a major opportunity for the development of the profession.
Do you have any career aspirations for the future that you would like to share with us?
I like to think that I will continue to work towards helping individuals and the overall profession to grow and develop. I think we should all aspire to leave things in a better state than when we found them.
My main aspiration is therefore to contribute to further improving the profession.
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 main advice would be to find a role where you can learn, grow and develop. Finding a mentor or coach that can help you build your BA skills could be impactful. In the UK there is a Business Analysis apprenticeship scheme that may be worth considering.
Structured learning and reading can also be extremely beneficial.
What about your life outside of work, can you tell us a bit about that?
I’m the proud dad of two young children. I love going skiing and have, for many years, practiced martial arts. I enjoy watching movies and walking my dog while listening to music or a good podcast.