“Learn by doing” has long been recognised as the most effective way of teaching skills and techniques. The more complex the skills, the more effective instructor-led workshops become compared to self-paced, self-learning or lecture style teaching.
All IRM courses are practical workshops, led by experienced instructors. Each workshop is oriented around a fully worked case study or practical exercises where course delegates work in teams and individually to re-enforce the skills being taught. One thing we guarantee – these are “roll your sleeves up” courses with an emphasis on doing, participation, interaction—and learning.
Ask a group of business analysts how they got into their role and you’re likely to get as many different answers as there are analysts in the group. There’s no single pathway into business analysis – most come from other IT disciplines such as account manager, developer, tester, help desk, operations, project manager – or from the business units of their organisation. Many will have tertiary qualifications but there is no specific course or qualification which is needed as a pre-requisite.
The role of the business analyst requires a wide range of abilities – from communications skills for dealing with both business and technical professionals through to analytical and creative skills for investigating business problems and business opportunities. Coupled with this are a varied range of technical skills, depending on the employer. Some want modelling and technical writing skills (for documenting requirements and specifications), some want financial skills (to write business cases) and some want project management skills. Some organisations (mainly government departments) advertise for trainee business analysts as part of their graduate intake programs.
If you’re already in full time work, look for opportunities internally in your organisation. Because of the wide range of business analyst roles, many organisations just want their analysts to have an understanding of a particular business field (finance, logistics, health, manufacturing, banking, retail…etc.) and to be able to communicate this to others. Don’t underestimate this approach as we get a lot – and I mean a lot – of new business analysts on our courses who have just moved sideways with their existing employer. These people often volunteer to be the liaison between their business unit and IT. Before long they’re the “official” business analyst for their business unit and have started on a new career path. You can also look for business analyst jobs in organisations similar to yours, again leveraging your business (rather than technical) knowledge.
If you’re fresh out of university then play to your strengths and interests. For example If you’ve got an IT degree then look for an IT job, if it’s in finance then look at banking or insurance. You can always move sideways later and with business analysis being a required capability at executive level, the move sideways can come early or later in your career.
See also: Analysis of BA Jobs
I’d like to organise in-house training – what benefits & outcomes can I include in my request for funding?
Many organisations use in-house training to “kick-start” projects or as a catalyst for change. A common approach when writing an internal business case for a training course or program is the 5 step method:
1 ) Training Objective
A brief paragraph to describe what’s in it for the organisation. A training objective is a statement of the focus and direction of the training.
“to equip analysts with the skills necessary to undertake a new project”
“to train analysts in formal techniques as part of the adoption of standardised processes for capturing and documenting requirements”.
2) Organisational Outcomes
Describes the specific outcomes that the organisation will get as a result of the training. Examples can include:
- less rework and lower costs
- tighter control of specs
- higher quality project deliverables
- better client communications
- improved client relations
- operational cost reductions through the use of consistent procedures
- staff involvement and ownership of progress
- greater milestone control
Organisational outcomes work best when aligned with corporate objectives such as better quality/fit of deliverables to business needs. This in turn supports increased competitiveness of the organisation. Other organisational benefits include reduced operational costs and reduced time/cost overruns on projects.
3) Staff outcomes
Staff development and motivation are direct benefits of training. When run in-house for the whole team, outcomes include:
- focusing the whole team on the business objective
- greater ownership of deliverables
- everyone on the same wavelength
- demonstrating the organisation’s commitment to skills development
4) Cost Benefit Analysis or Cost Justification
This should be tied in with organisational outcomes and quantified wherever possible. Methods for quantifying benefits can range from the general e.g. cost of training represents 2% of the fully burdened cost of an analyst and the projected workplace efficiency improvement is 10%… through to the specific… 30% of staff time is spent re-defining requirements after the prototype phase, by improving the initial requirements definition phase, the re-work overhead is projected to drop to 10%.
5) Measuring results
This step has already been defined in the Cost Benefit Section above so is relatively straightforward to express as a performance metric. Remember that no one becomes a brain surgeon overnight (despite what they say in the How-To books!). Once staff have acquired skills they need time and practice to apply and incorporate them in their work activity. Set realistic time-frames for measuring improvement. Balance a desire to show payback in the short term against the fact that a person with new or improved skills can apply their expertise over many years.
We understand where you’re coming from – if you’re in the insurance business, then it might be easier for you and your delegates to be able to relate to the training material more easily if it also relates to the insurance business.
Case studies usually take considerable design and development time. They have to meet the following criteria:
- they must bear some resemblance to the real world
- the situation must be readily understood with a minimum of reading
- they must challenge the delegate
- they must be solvable using the tools and techniques being taught
- there must be sufficient ‘meat’ in them to allow for a number of solutions
- they must stand up under examination
The design and development is much akin to building software systems – and takes almost as long!
What case studies are not for…
A case study is not teaching the delegate about their business – whether it’s insurance, tax, or manufacturing. If you really want this, then are better ways of achieving it.
The issue with developing a business-specific case study – apart from the time and cost – is that there are always some delegates who will become involved in the details of the case study itself and the intricacies of the business operations. It often becomes an inward-looking debate on policies and procedures.
The real purpose of the case study is to allow the delegate to apply the newly-acquired skills on a subject that makes sense and allows a solution to be developed. The actual subject matter is of little consequence. In most of our workshops, we are teaching delegates to think their way through business issues so that when they meet the real issues they have a process – and some experience using it. We can’t teach them what the answers will be – but we can teach them how to reach the answers!
Much of our work is done in-house, presenting a tailored version of one of our standard courses. Usually we can quickly modify a course to suit your circumstances, culture and standards. Frequently there is no charge for this, as we have done this many times and we have the materials available. If you want something special, like a particular case study built into the course, then there will be a charge.
If you want a five-day course presented in say, three days, then it is a different course. There is no ‘unnecessary’ material built into the courses to fill time. We would not still be in business if we did that. After many years in the training business we know what can – and cannot – be done. So if you want material from a four-day Business Analysis course presented in two days then we are unlikely to attempt it. The only way to achieve this is to either remove some basic material or to remove the practical work. The latter option doesn’t work – people don’t learn that way. If you and we agree together that you don’t require all the material then we can consider tailoring the course to suit you.
Remember that the learning process has to be designed carefully if it is to be successful – a training course isn’t just about presenting facts.
All of our courses are workshops. This means that much of the time (typically around 50% but it can be more) is spent on practical work. Some of this is individual work, most of it is done in small teams. The courses are designed to maximise the learning curve, and this is usually achieved by a mix of activities – quizzes, demonstrations, examples, discussion, simulations, teamwork.
Yes, but it is usually too expensive for most organisations to consider. Public workshops are designed for a maximum of 12 people, allowing plenty of individual time with the instructor. Following on from our training, we do offer post training support.
Just about anywhere! Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane are the main centres for our public courses. We’ll run in-house courses anywhere in Australia, and overseas.
No, not directly. Unlike many of our competitors, we do not sell or support either hardware or software tools and our training is therefore independent of these issues.
Software packages, whether for project management, application development, capturing requirements or just drawing diagrams, all have their own unique commands, menus and templates. By understanding what you want the package to do – from producing a project timeline to describing your business process – you’ll get the most out of the software and recognise what it can and cannot do for you. In most cases software tools help you work faster. If you don’t know what you’re doing then it’s unlikely that the software will help. Remember the saying “A fool with a tool is still a fool”.
Requirements Gathering & Specification makes a good starting point, as it takes you through the data gathering part of a project and gets you thinking about the wider business issues rather than the technical, computer stuff.
This can be followed with Business Analysis – the workshop that covers structured process modelling, data modelling, specification tools and techniques. However, these courses can be taken in either sequence.
IRM is a pre-qualified supplier to the Federal Government and is on the Australian Government’s Information and Communications Technology Multi-Use List. IRM provides products and services in the UNSPSC Category “86000000 – Education and Training Services”.
We are also an Endorsed Education Provider (Charter Member) to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®). For a current list of accredited courses, visit the BA certification page on this website.
IRM courses are limited to 12 places to ensure maximum instructor to attendee interaction. Attendees are often split into groups to complete exercises and hold mock interviews which helps business analysts learn from others in their team. Our instructors will always be happy to answer any specific questions that the workshop timing allows for.