The role of senior business analyst requires a natural desire to solve problems for people.
After joining Liberty IT nine months ago, Anthony Mulvany quickly settled into his role and appreciated how well it was suited to his skillset.
The role, Mulvany explains, elegantly marries the use of interpersonal skills and getting involved in the tech industry. It is ultimately about moderating expectations and maintaining relationships, and the workplace environment provided by Liberty IT has fostered the development of those skills.
Not only has he been able to develop professionally, but Mulvany has developed personally as well and thrived in the culture of freedom and self-improvement.
What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?
For years, I didn’t know what I wanted to do career-wise. I knew I wanted to work with people and also to get involved with technology at some level, but not be a programmer. After spending some time working in projects in my previous company, I discovered the business analyst role, which I felt suited my skillset down to the ground.
Ultimately, it was through observing experienced business analysts and project leads, witnessing the collaborative nature of the role, and immersing myself in the role that drove me on to pursue a career as a business analyst.
What education and other jobs led you to the role you now have?
I studied business in Dublin City University for a short while and I have a professional diploma in business analysis in addition to scrum master certification. However, I feel that this role is primarily based on experience and a natural desire to solve problems for people – whether that be through lean process improvement, improving technology or introducing brand new technology.
The best way to get comfortable with the business analyst role and improve in it is to actually do it.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?
People will always surprise you. Working with people from all areas of the business – from executive directors to the end users – leads to many challenges.
Directors and end users tend to have different goals when it comes to implementing change. As a business analyst, you must be able to manage relationships and manage expectations, which is always challenging.
Human nature, of course, leads to people changing their minds, too, which again is a challenging aspect of my role. By ensuring the business is involved at every step, and building software incrementally and iteratively, we can help ensure that we deliver the best possible solution.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
Over the years, I have worked with many people who have influenced my career directly, in particular two former colleagues. They’re just normal guys, not ‘celebrity’ business analysts or gurus or anything like that! I won’t name them here, but I consider them both to have taken career paths that I want to emulate.
What do you enjoy about your job?
There are many aspects to the business analyst role that are enjoyable. I like working with people from all areas of the organisation, including business users and the developers and testers that are building the product.
I like using technology to solve problems for people, and also working with the business to design and implement process improvements, which make our customers’ lives easier.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
My ability to engage with people makes me suited to the business analyst role. Yes, we are building software, but ultimately we are building it for people to use.
The people that will use the software we build will be using it to help people in their everyday lives. Establishing, fostering and growing the relationships with people is the key to everything that we do.
Of course, it’s also about managing the relationships with my colleagues, too – project managers, subject matter experts, developers and testers. It’s vital that everyone is pulling in the same direction and I think I have the type of personality that enables that to happen.
How did Liberty IT support you on your career path?
I’ve only been with the company for nine months as of January 2017, but already it’s obvious that Liberty IT is very keen to help their staff as much as possible to develop both as professionals and as people.
I have found Liberty IT extremely supportive and encouraging as I look to implement aspects of agile into the project work in which I am involved, for example.
Liberty IT always challenges us, as staff, to continuously look at how we do things and to improve the way we work. There is a real culture of freedom and self-empowerment to make improvements ourselves rather than waiting for management to implement improvements for us.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?
The role of the business analyst is forever evolving and changing. That’s a good thing because we are ‘change agents’, so we must embrace change. The main aspect of our role involves people. As a business analyst, you are the linchpin that connects the business with the technology.
I have always said that I don’t really care what the technology does, I care about what the user does. If we are building something for a customer that is beautiful to look at and has amazing functionality but it’s completely unusable, then it’s only fit for the shelf. We must put the user first, and that’s where the business analyst role really comes to the fore.
By ensuring that customers’ needs are captured accurately, and frequently revisiting these needs as time progresses, we can be sure that what we are building is what they want. Always include the business. Make them part of the team – that’s how you get business buy-in. If you have business, buy in; everyone will be happy and your life as a business analyst will be so much easier and more enjoyable.
I would also say that anyone considering this role should read up on agile methodologies such as scrum and Kanban. Guys like Mike Cohn, for example, are recognised and respected worldwide as being authorities on agile, and there are YouTube videos and books galore to satisfy your agile appetite.
Look up example mapping, value-stream mapping and other requirements-gathering techniques. Understand how to document the business requirements through user stories or business requirement documents. Work on your communication skills, particularly your listening skills. Learn how to actively listen.
Be comfortable with the MS Office suite – Excel, Word and PowerPoint in particular – as these will be tools that you will use more than anything else.
The business analyst fulfils a very important role within a company and provides a very rewarding career for someone who loves working with both people and technology.