The world is rapidly changing and so are many companies. Working in a fast-paced tech environment is not a rare thing anymore and Business Analysts need to learn how to thrive in these conditions.
The role of a Business Analyst is largely about collaboration and involvement in a number of meetings where we will review and agree priorities or scope for IT initiatives. In a fast-moving environment, when working on multiple projects, this can be challenging. Still, a good BA should be organised and know their part of the project very well.
After almost a year at ASOS, I’ve had the opportunity to grow and develop new skills really quickly. I believe the most valuable knowledge comes from practical experience on multiple, challenging IT projects — so why not take advantage of this? Below, I have gathered some of my tips, which should hopefully help any BA who might be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.
Working on projects simultaneously means working against multiple deadlines. It’s very helpful to write down detailed actions before the deadline of each project.
On IT projects this can be a bit challenging because BAs can not always collate all the activities on their own and their tasks quite often are linked to technical actions, so it’s important to understand these as well. To achieve this, I’d recommend collaboration with your Development team and preparation of the joined plan. I normally use workshops where BAs, Developers and Testers write tasks individually (using sticky notes). They are then pulled together to build one common plan.
The BA then needs to understand dependencies between activities and assign priorities to their tasks.
It’s crucial to review your BA priorities and technical tasks on a regular basis and flag any delays early — you can use daily stand-ups for this.
This aligns to the ‘Transparency’ tip, which I described in my previous blog post: here. You will be less overwhelmed, and others will know that you have everything under control.
2. Learn how to know ‘just enough’
Business Analysts should be detailed and know a lot about tech domain or project. However, in a fast-paced environment, you won’t always have a lot of time to tick off all the boxes that are mentioned in the textbook methodologies or approaches. You need to learn how to deal with uncertainty and how to know ‘just enough’ to be able to start gathering requirements or discussing a solution. Familiarise yourself with scope and understand what exactly is impacted by the changes — this will give you a great starting point.
A very good technique that you can use to know what ‘just enough is’, is building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The MVP means just enough to deliver value to the Customer/Business User. To establish an MVP try to understand with users:
- What is their goal/value/benefit?
- What is needed as a minimum to achieve their goal?
- What are their priorities?
Then, break down captured information into your tasks/features and assess them from Impact and Urgency or Impact and Development Team Effort (should be assessed together with a Development team) perspective.
Once you have more time, you can get to know all the required details. You need to learn how to work with uncertainty and the more projects you do, the more comfortable it is. Once I started working in the data space, which was brand new to me, I had to learn again (and still do!) what ‘just enough’ means — remember being out of your comfort zone brings the best results!
3. Be organised
With a lot of activities to manage, this can be tricky. Business Analysts should be organised and be able to track requirements, respond to stakeholders and prepare tasks for the Development team on time. One of the techniques I use is inbox management and using my inbox as a list of tasks.
Whenever an email comes into my inbox, I assess it:
- ‘Delete’ emails (e.g. not important, you need to read it once, newsletters, notifications etc.) — these emails are deleted from the inbox
- Quick task (e.g. filling out a quick survey, answering with voting buttons, quick confirmation) — I do these straight away.
- Project-related email, but one that doesn’t require a response (e.g. update, information) — I put it into project’s folder in my inbox
- Task (e.g. you need to prepare something before answering) — I leave this in my inbox. When I don’t want to forget about action, I simply send an email to myself and keep it until it’s done. This also helps with clearing your mind, so that you don’t have to think about your to-do list.
The key to my inbox management is the folder structure. It may sound time consuming to set up, but it’s a lot faster than searching for emails, for example:
You can read more about this technique in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.
4. Stay focused
Staying focused can be a real challenge for Business Analysts. The nature of our profession requires working with many stakeholders (Business Users and Development team), which can often involve a lot of questions at the same time. It’s an integral part of our role, but there are times when we need to get our head down to finish a document or concentrate on one thing. With several projects running at the same time, maintaining focus, productivity and organisation is even more important. Some of my top tips to help with this are:
- Turning off inbox notifications and checking emails at dedicated times only (following rules from point 3, of course 😉)
- Grabbing a quiet spot for some dedicated thinking time — you’re still available on email and messenger so your stakeholders can contact you should they need to.
Hopefully, the above tips will help you adjust and thrive in a fast-paced environment. Being on a journey with an exciting company like ASOS is more than fun and worth pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
Kaja Kurowska is a Business Analyst at ASOS. Kaja is passionate about her role and believes that good team work can make anything possible. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking healthy dishes and loves baking paleo cakes!