Welcome to Issue #034 of The Forcing Function - your guide to delivering the right outcomes for your projects and your users.
✍️ Insights: What a "Tube map" view of my qualifications and certifications reveals.
🤔 Made me think: Beware the “Field Of Dreams” fallacy.
👨💻 Worth checking out: The genius of the London Tube Map.
What a "Tube map" view of my qualifications and certifications reveals.
Back in August 2022 (Issue #002), I wrote about getting my Salesforce Certified Business Analyst credential and three questions I ask myself to ensure that I’m not doing certifications for the sake of them.
Now it’s 2023, and continuing in the same vein, I’m thinking not only about the certification(s) I want to achieve this year, but also where do I want to go next in my business analysis career.
So, this is the first part of a mini-series on my thought process as I work through these questions.
As any good business analyst will tell you when starting a project, you should understand where you are today before skip ahead to where you want to be. Otherwise, you won’t learn from your past mistakes and you won’t realise a better way to get from your as-is to your to-be state. It’s the same for client projects as it is for your career projects.
“You can't really know where you are going until you know where you have been.”
Maya Angelou | Writer
Following my own advice and reflecting on the various qualification and certifications I’ve earned to date, I’ve pulled together this graphic.
Using my own take on a business analyst competency model that better reflects my mental model of how I can develop, I’ve categorised each credential by capability group (e.g. Behavioural Skills) that best fits it. Then, inspired by London’s famous Tube map, I’ve plotted them out on a rough sequence of when I earned each one. All of which has made me think about my credentials from a different perspective rather a single chronological timeline.
This capability group represents the personal qualities that a BA should have to effectively and professionally to deliver their services. Whether that’s for a client or in-house for their employer / end-customers.
Skills includes: verbal and written communication; relationship building; and attention to detail.
A few initial thoughts:
Notably this capability group has the least number of credentials. Partly because of a lack of recognised certifications in this space. Also because aptitude in these skills are closely tied to your attitude, your mindset, and your personality. So developing this involves changing your world view.
Looking ahead, my long-standing view remains that I’ll continue to develop my skills with real-world experience, with time, and by taking on more complex projects with more difficult clients.
This capability group represents the knowledge and understanding of a specific domain that informs how a BA approaches the planning, delivery, and management of their services. It also influences how they adapt the format and the content of their artefacts.
Domains include: knowing how an investment management firm operates versus a private bank even though they both in the financial services sector; understanding key concepts in IT application design; and how business case financing is done.
A few initial thoughts:
Back in Issue #031, I wrote about how I never intended to a Masters but the circumstances required it. That said, one of the benefits of getting my postgraduate degree was that it gave me a much deeper understanding of IT systems which has stood me in good stead as technological competence is virtually a pre-requisite for BAs today.
Before leaving permanent work and going into contracting, I identified that my target market was financial services clients. Both because of my previous experience in this industry and because those clients paid good day rates. So, to distinguish myself from my competition, I invested in earning the Investment Management Certificate. It remains one of the toughest exams I’ve ever taken.
Since then, I’ve branched out to work for clients in other industries (e.g. utilities as well as telecommunications), so focusing on being industry subject matter expert is now of less importance. Going forward, I expect that I’ll be developing my industry domain expertise with the experience I’ll get from working in my client’s industry.
Looking ahead, I think that it’ll be more useful if I get certified in a complementary domain to business analysis - such as enterprise architecture - to widen my skill set.
This capability group represents the specific techniques that a BA should be able to competently and appropriately apply depending on the context they’re in and the outcome that’s required.
Methods include: stakeholder analysis; business and data modelling; and requirements elicitation & management.
A few initial thoughts:
Literally studying to become a business analyst at university (back then it was academically called “Management Science”), laid the foundation for my life-long career in this profession. So getting the BA diploma was a no-brainer as practically every BA role requires it even to be considered for interview.
Whilst I have no interest in becoming a dedicated scrum master or a project manager, I have often found myself fulfilling those roles in lieu of anyone else doing them. So, doing those qualifications was helpful in understanding what the fundamentals are. But, that’s where that branch ends as there’s not much more value for me to continue down that track to do, for example, a programme manager qualification as that’s not where I want go.
It’s a similar situation with my product management branch. Interestingly, the key learning was less about the subject matter, which I enjoyed, but the realisation that, practically, becoming a product manager wasn’t feasible for me. It’s more of an in-house role than a contracting role and the salary is surprisingly lower than I had expected for such a crucial position.
Looking ahead, I’m already working on getting my Advanced Diploma in Business Analysis. Truth be told, I’ve already passed the underlying modules and it’s just a matter of submitting my final assessment and proving my experience.
This capability group represents the level of command that a BA has over using a particular software tool or application.
This can be a tool (e.g. Jira) that’s critical to how the BA delivers their services. Or an application stack (e.g. Salesforce) that’s being implemented that a BA needs to be functionally familiar with. So they work with what’s out of the box rather than taking a generic approach and unintentionally causing unnecessary and inappropriate work with their requirements.
A few initial thoughts:
Seeing my Microsoft SharePoint certifications was a blast from the past. Especially as I’m forced to use SharePoint once more at my current client. TL;DR it looks a bit nicer but is still pretty much the same under the hood - warts and all. I did those certifications as that was the tech stack I was implementing for clients in my last permanent role before I switched to contracting and envisaged that I’d be doing the same in contracting.
However, completely unplanned, 2 years into contracting I landed a Salesforce BA contract and got involved in that tech stack instead. Even so, it did take 4 years for me to commit to that stack and start earning the relevant Salesforce certifications. So, I’m in catch-up mode.
Along the way, I was introduced to Jira as a requirements management tool. And, truth be told, I was so annoyed by how badly clients implement this tool that I did the certification so that I could make it serve me (and my team) rather than the other way around. So much so that for one client, that I ended up remediating their Jira even though I was contracted to do a Salesforce BA role!
Looking ahead, the obvious path is to continue to add to my Salesforce certification (and accreditations now as a Salesforce partner). And, branching off as I did with Jira, earning credentials in other tooling that I’m using (such as Confluence and Sigma) so that I can wield them far more effectively than I do today.
So where to go from here?
I hope that you found that interesting to read as I found it intriguing to put together.
In next week’s issue (#035), I’ll continue with taking an overarching view of where I am today and overlay that with the different types of business analyst out there.
If you have any thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear them. Just add a comment and I’ll reply.
🤔 Made me think
Beware the “Field Of Dreams” fallacy.
It’s a bit of a running joke in the Salesforce eco-system to be wary of those who boast on LinkedIn about their Trailhead tier status, the number of (super)badges they have, or the number of points they’ve earned.
If you’re not familiar with Trailhead, it’s Salesforce’s free online learning platform to help you understand their various products. It’s highly gamified with “tests” which grant you those tiers, badges, and points to encourage you keep learning. To a certain extent, it is a useful resource and one I point my clients to if they want to figure out how to, for example, build their own Salesforce reports.
But, just powering your way through as many of the modules you can simply to claim status is almost pointless. The “tests” are unsurprisingly contrived for the purposes of checking that you understand the content. And they are unmoderated so you can always simply search for the right answer to pass.
So, you may build up your overall knowledge but, without real-world experience, would you even know what to do let alone how to apply it properly?
Yet, there is the expectation that just because you have Double Ranger status that should get you a role or that outrageous salary / day rate.
🧑💻Worth checking out
📺 The genius of the London Tube Map | TED
90 years ago, in 1933, the style of the Tube Map that we’re familiar with today officially became the map of the London Underground and the template for public transport maps the world over.
It’s naturally been refined, iterated, and modernised since then. But, what hasn’t changed is that it works not because it’s a geographically accurate map but because it’s actually a geometric diagram. One designed with a specific use case for passengers: to help you navigate the network.
And, if you want a fuller explanation of how Harry Beck’s design for this Tube Map came about, check out Jay Foreman’s whimsical video.
🖖Until next Thursday ...
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For now, thank you so much for reading this week's issue of The Forcing Function and I hope that you have a great day.
PS: Thanks to P for reading drafts for me.
This approach is fascinating, and I might have to employ it soon for my own career. I must admit, I'm feeling a bit lost at the moment. And what better way to find yourself than with a tube map?
You seem to be using certifications like milestones in your career. I only have a few...
I wonder if I can map out the biggest projects I did and the skills I gained from those as milestones in my map? And maybe I can use other types of milestones? I'm just not as academically inclined.
What software did you use to make your map, by the way?