How To Be a Great Business Analyst

Are you a business analyst who wants to be better at what you do? Have you been recently promoted to being a business analyst and have no idea what is expected of you? Well never fear, my friends, for we here at Swimlane Flowcharts are here to help you. The business analyst role is critical to the success of any significant project and there are many resources available to help the aspiring BA improve at their job. In this post we are highlighting a number of resources than can help you become a great business analyst.

The first book I recommend is The Business Analyst’s Handbook by Howard Podeswa. This book was the first of it’s kind that I saw – a book designed specifically for the business analyst. Given the importance of the position as a liaison between the business and information technology team I don’t know why there wouldn’t have been more written about this key role but there really hasn’t been. Of course since the advent of the International Institute of Business Analysis professional association there has been more written material on this position, but in the end I still like this book the best.

One thing to keep in mind is that this book has solid reference material that experienced Business Analysts can utilize on virtually any assignment. This is not the best book for a new Business Analyst and is really geared towards a practitioner that understands their craft and appreciates additional guidance. But that shouldn’t discourage new BAs from purchasing this book. After all, someday you too will be that experienced practitioner!

Next up on our recommended list is Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis by Barbara A. Carkenord. Don’t let the textbook-like cover fool you. This book is not just for academics – it is for real life business analysts out in the fields.

This book provides a how to approach to mastering business analysis work. It will help build the skill sets of new analysts and all those currently doing analysis work, from project managers to project team members such as system analysts, product managers and business development professionals, to the experienced business analyst. It also covers the tasks and knowledge areas for the new 2008 v.2 of The Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge and will help prepare business analysts for the IIBA CBAPA certification exam.

The best aspect of the book is it’s use of real world, practical examples. It really helps to understand the topic. Here is one of the most succinct reviews I’ve found:

Barbara Carkenord has really gotten it right! This book takes you through what is needed to analyze a business completely and correctly, which will feed into the best solutions for that business. ‘Seven Steps’ is well laid out, understandable, and hits all the right notes. I would recommend this book not only to new business analysts, but also to seasoned analysts looking to hone their skills.

I think that says it all.

If you can’t succeed at being a business analyst after reading and absorbing these guides to being a business analyst then perhaps you are in the wrong line of work!

Making Swimlane Flowcharts with Google Docs

I have used a variety of business process mapping software to create flowcharts over the years and none has impressed me as much as the simple flowcharting available now in Google Docs. It is so easy to create swimlane flowcharts and other useful business process modeling documents that if I were starting a small business I would certainly consider using Google Docs for all of my documentation needs.

In the past I have used Office 2007 for example flowcharts that I have posted on here like this swimlane flowchart example. And frankly I think it looks pretty good. Pretty easy to make them, but not super easy. And of course Office isn’t cheap.

So it was with great interest this morning that I read New flowchart shapes and multi-line text in drawings from the official Google Docs blog. I didn’t realize that Google docs had any flowcharting at all!

Well, indeed it does and it is very, very easy to create a simple swimlane flowchart in a matter of minutes. Here is what it looks like when you are in edit mode:

Swimlane Flowcharts in Google Docs

And here is what it looks like when inserted into a document:

Google Docs Document with SwimLane FlowChart

To make the swimlanes you simply add a large rectangle for each lane you would like to draw. Remember that in a swimlane flowchart each lane represents a different person, group, team, etc. There are a wide variety of different flowchart shapes to choose from and there are connectors like arrows as you would expect. Regarding the arrows I was a little disappointed that they are not smart arrows than can be snapped to each shape effectively, they don’t seem to have any relation to the shapes which I think could use some improvement.

However, remember that Google Docs are free! And these can be easily shared with members of your team for business process collaboration, which is what I think, other than cost, is the biggest benefit to using Google Docs.

Looking for a cheap business process mapping tool to create your own swimlane flowcharts? Give Google Docs a try!

4 Simple Business Process Management Tools

You’ve probably navigated your way to this site because you have an interest in business process management, however you choose to describe it.  I say that because business process management means something different to each and every person.  In my worldview it is all about aligning a business with the needs of it’s customers, and […]

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Swimlane Flowchart Example – Student Registration

One of the things that I found very useful when learning about swimlane flowcharts was looking at real world examples that I could learn from. This example, which I modified from a post on camagazine, shows the before and after of a simple student registration process that was improved by utilizing swim lane flow charts. […]

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Cross Functional Flowchart

A Cross Functional Flowchart is the same thing as a Swimlane Flowchart – it is used for showing departmental or individual responsibilities in a process flow. The bands of a Cross Functional Flow Chart represent each individual department or individual that participate in the process that you are documenting. One decision you will need to […]

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All About Swimlane Flowcharts . Com

If you have spent any time on a business process mapping project then I am sure you have come across swimlane flowcharts. Swimlanes are brilliant for a number of applications but where they really shine is in business process improvement. This is because the nature of the swimlanes is that they clearly show when a […]

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