Five Secrets to Make 2015 the Best Year Ever as a Business Analyst

by Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo

The first thought that’s on your mind probably is why is there a post about the New Year in Feb? Here are some statistics why … 
According statistics published by statisticbrain.com, on average about 65% of the people make New Years resolution in some form or shape. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions… so, this mean that by merely being deliberate about your resolutions and writing your goals down, you increase your chances of attaining them. 
After the first month, more than 50% of the people have abandoned their New Year resolution! This is about the right time when they would need a little push. Or I consider Feb to be the drama-free month when you can really focus on important goals that you want to accomplish.
So, what’s this push and how can you ensure that your goals remain in sight and achievable? 
What’s the secret of setting and attaining goals? 

In this post, I would like share with you a mini-system and some pointers to set and attain goals for your career along with some directions to ensure you have covered key areas of goal setting that will help you advance as a business analyst. 

1. Create a Goal Tracking System 

In my interview with the international best seller and the creator of the revolutionary Getting Things Done (GTD®) system, David Allen, suggests that the most important aspect of focussing on getting something done is to “externalize” it. If you don’t externalize that what you want to get done, it saps you of valuable psychic energy and sub-consciously creates a clogging of information and action. 
So, if you want to make this as your best year ever, you should definitely externalize your goals; and how do you do this? 
Write them down! 
Create a one-page document that lists your key professional goals in 2015. While you may already have a few of them (e.g. to become a certified business analyst, or to get promoted), it always adds value if you have it written down. 
The next most important thing you ought to do is to create a one page high-level strategy and action plan along with key milestone dates. This will ensure that you are serious about what you want to achieve. If you ever feel lazy about doing this, always have the quote below in mind:
Lastly, your goal tracking system should and must have a weekly review window – even if it’s for 10-20 minutes. I usually review all my goals on early Saturday mornings.

2. Make your goals SMARTER 

Apparently SMART is not enough. You may all are aware of the acronym for setting SMART goals. These are goals that are:
  • Specific – you know what you want to achieve (e.g. get CBAP certified)
  • Measurable – the outcome can be measured, tracked and traced (e.g. your studying progress, the final email from IIBA® stating you’ve passed after you hit submit)
  • Attainable or Achievable – reachable goals; not pie in the sky or a pipe dream (e.g. get certified with three months of study)
  • Realistic – your goal can be realistically achieved given your situation or availability of resources (e.g. being able to study for 4-5 hours a week)
  • Time-bound – has a date attached (e.g. become a CBAP / CCBA or PMI-PBA by June 30 2015)
This is what most of us know (if you’ve read the BABOK this is also mentioned as a guideline to defining organizations objectives in “Enterprise Analysis”). 
Then what’s the ER?
I recently took a great goal-setting course by Michael Hyatt (called, the Best Year Ever). In this course Michael introduced me to the “ER” which I think can take your goal to a completely new level. It can energize it and give it wings. I call it as the “spice” (or the tabasco sauce that I seek out for in every restaurant).
  • Exciting – your goals have to be personally compelling! In Michael’s words:
“…You have to get excited about them. They have to be something that gets you through the messy middle so that when you’re tempted to quit, like you will be inevitably, you can press on, because the result, the outcome you get from your goal, is personally compelling…”
  • Relevant – your goal must align to where your career is currently and fit in well with where you want to take it. E.g., if you’ve just joined the organization, you can’t think of becoming a manager in six months (or becoming CBAP). Making your goal relevant makes it go well with where you are in your career. In Michael’s words:
“… You have to find a goal that’s appropriate to you. You can’t look at somebody else’s experience in life and measure your own against that, because you might be in a different season. For example, you might be in the spring season, which is a time of new beginnings. It’s a new career maybe. It’s a new marriage, a time when you graduated from college, whatever. It’s a new time…”

3. Set a CAT goal 

Another key element of making this your best year ever as a business analyst, is to ensure your goals trace to a “CAT”
  • Competency – have you ever thought about picking up a competency and taking it to the next level? If you want to advance your career as a BA, writing the most perfect use case in the world will not cut it. You have to elevate your soft-skills.  But you may be thinking, ahh how vague? which competency? This is where the BABOK® comes to the rescue. If you’re interested in knowing what are the most important competencies / soft-skills that are needed for a business analysis practitioner, you should see chapter 8 of BABOK® (V2). Just pick one and set taking it to the next level as a goal; or you could decide depending on something that you’ve been told to work on (e.g. in your annual reviews, or through your own awareness). As I continue to lead more and more BA teams and work on portfolio of projects, I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. Trust me, this matters!
  • Advancement – make your goal be related to advancing in your organization. If there is a BA career path defined in your organization (lucky you!), talk to others who are already where you want to be. Take them out for lunch or coffee and pick their brains on how they got their. This will help you find objectives and set goals. 
  • Technique – think about one or two techniques in your BA toolkit that you want to take to the next level (or even pickup). Unlike the “Competency” element, this is choosing a hard-skill. You may be already good at use cases, is there a way to take this to the next level? Do you want to learn wire-framing (a prototyping technique). Here again, refer to chapter 9 (Techniques) in the BABOK® to pick your pick. 
“Setting a CAT goal will ensure your goals are well-rounded.”
On a lighter note, if you ever forget about this, think about someone like the guy below reviewing your goals: :) 

4. Network and Peek Out the Window

Make it a resolve to network with at least 10 business analysts (5 in your organization and 5 outside). You maybe wondering why 5? and you’re probably like, I already have 200 business analysts on my LinkedIn network. To answer the first part, having 5 makes it manageable and reasonable to connect and be in touch to build deeper professional connection. Having 200 BAs on your LinkedIn profile means nothing if you don’t know who they are and if you’re not interacting with.
The part which annoys me a lot is when someone reaches out to me out of the blue when their contract expires asking for new opportunities. If you’ve listened to the podcast I did with Doug Goldberg, he points out that “You have to build a relationship with your network”. Keep an on the feed to see what your network is up to and encourage them, answer their questions and try to be helpful if and when you can. This is an important part of building and maintaining relationship with your network.

5. Be a Great BA or be Good for Nothing 

Finally, this is a message I want you to lock in your mind. As I continue to work on more complex projects and provide directions to architects, project managers, and developers, I am noticing an utter lack of good business analysis skills – especially if they were business analysts in their previous ‘life’. 

And, I never fail to notice a great PM or architect who was also a great BA in his/her previous life.

My message to you is this, RESOLVE to be a great BA this year, because if you’re promoted or decide to change your role, having good business analysis skills can go a long way. A good place for you to start is to pick up my free book, ‘The Five Pillars of a Great Business Analyst‘ (which is free btw) and also listen to the podcasts to get insights and tips from the trenches as told by expert business analysts, authors and thought leaders.
Which of the above 5 suggestions excites you the most? What other tips can you share with our BA community to achieve their professional goals in 2015?
Please use the space below to leave your comments, feedback and any further questions.

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Yaaqub Mohamed (Yamo), is the founder of The BA Coach community and host for the #1 ranked business analysis podcast in iTunes. He believes in adding relentless value to the BA community and advancing the practice.  He host this blog, and podcast to help business analysts throughout the world, do analysis better, by providing educational, relevant, and inspiring content. He's the author of 'The Five Pillars of a Great Business Analyst', best selling 'The Ultimate CBAP-CCBA Study Guide' and the creator of the revolutionary 'Ultimate BABOK Kit'. 

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