About PhilWork - what do I do?
Simple, I'm a Business Analyst, or more precisely I'm an IT Business Analyst. Sometimes I fulfil the Project Manager role, and sometimes a bit of Systems Analysis, but I've more experience as a Business Analyst with more companies and it's my preferred role. I'm good at it and I enjoy it.
My role is to fully understand what a business is currently doing, how they are doing it and how they want to change. It is all about BPI - Business Process Improvement – if a business doesn't improve, then it is standing still, and if it's standing still then it is actually going backwards due to factors like inflation and competition.
Successful businesses maximise their use of IT - Information Technology, computing. They use it to both hold and process increasing amounts of data, and they want it done quicker and more accurately. The data they want to capture changes, as does how they use that data. The applications available to perform the data handling is forever changing, as are the hardware and operating systems on which to run those applications.
And that's where I come into the picture. The people running the business will have an idea of how they want to change. They may have an idea as to what they want do and how they want things done in the future, but, and it's a big BUT, they don't know how to move from where they are (the As Is position) to where they want to get to (the To Be position). As a Business Analyst I work with the business managers, talk to the people that use the current system (the end users) the people in their IT support department and all Subject Matter Experts, and I determine exactly what happens and how it happens, digesting operating, user and training manuals along the way. I liaise with the selected supplier (if there is one) the IT developers, everyone who will need to be involved in providing the solution, all in order to determine the criteria for deploying the solution, the amount of customisation required, the interfaces to other systems that will have to be built and the changes to working practices for the staff that will be using the new solution.
And I document it. That documentation is important, it has to be suitable for reading at all levels from the Director at the top to the most junior staff member. They all have to understand the picture that I paint using words and diagrams. Why? Because it is their business that I/we are trying to improve. They will ultimately use the system that I am describing, so in many ways I am an interpreter - making sure that I’ve documented:-
a) exactly what the users want in a way that they can understand,
b) communicating that message to the boss so that he knows the budget and pays for it,
c) making sure that the programmers and techies know what it is they have to build, and
d) communicating the functionality and benefits that the team have to deliver.
Like many things in life, business analysis has various methodologies (i.e UML, OO, Rational Rose to name a few) that businesses pertain to adopt and use exclusively, but in actuality, they don't. I once read that there are more than 1.3 million varieties of Ford Transit - yet we all recognise a Transit when we see one without realising that it is one of many permutations selected as the best fit for the tasks that the owner has for it. So it is with Business Analysis methodologies and tools. In reality, most businesses use Microsoft products because they are cost effective (just like a Ford Transit) but Microsoft Project, Visio, Word, Outlook, Communicator, Paint, etc... are applications, not methodologies and in the end it is the quality of the analyst and analysis and not the quality of the methodology that counts. As an inquisitive chappie I'm very lucky because people pay me to be nosey, to ask questions, to dig around, turn over (metaphorical) stones and rocks to unearth root causes that they can't see because they are too involved with the day to day running of the business, they "can't see the wood for the trees."
My experience is mainly in the implementation of software applications, infrastructure hardware and software upgrades, interfaces between applications, etc... whatever is needed to move the business forward and maximise efficiency and return on investment (RoI). Most client's require adherence to Prince2 methodologies (or their flavour of it) and so that's what I'm familiar with even though I've never sat for an IPM or PRINCE2 qualification. Despite that I've implemented solutions for a number of major clients:-
Clients I have worked for:-
2010/11 - National Australia Group (Clydesdale & Yorkshire banks)
2009/10 - Sygma Bank (Laser UK) Solihull based credit card company
2008 - Windsor Life Assurance, mainly in Telford & Hitchin
2007 - Argos Financial Services, split between sites in Bolton and Widnes
2007 - Argos Business Solutions, in Milton Keynes
2007 - Windsor Life Assurance, mainly in Telford and Hitchin
2007 - Homebase, in Wallington & Milton Keynes
2006 - Alliance & Leicester Plc at their Head Hoffice and Ashford Call Centre
2005/06 - NFU Mutual at 3 locations in and around Stratford-upon-Avon
2004 - Kingston Communications, mainly in Hull but also Wakefield and Nottingham
2003/04 - DHL at Staines in Middlesex
2001/03 - Argos Head office in Milton Keynes and various distribution centres
2001 - Kays in Gloucester
2000 - First Direct at Head Office in Sturton, Leeds.
Unemployment - an occupational hazard
Banking collapses and economic uncertainty has resulted in the last few years being quite turbulent and interesting. I've recently had periods of unemployment. At the start of 2008 I was working for an IT services company called ZEDA Ltd., but on 31st January the company went into Voluntary Creditor Liquidation - in layman's terms it went bust and all 125 employees were redundant, myself included. Luckily I quickly found work but after just 4.5 months I was again made redundant. That time it took me 7 months to get back into work, and I joined FIS in their Leicester office as a Business Analyst (which was more System Analysis and Tester than Business Analyst, but all good experience). However, after a little over 2 years I was again made redundant (along with 9 others) but this time it was for just a few weeks before I secured fresh employment and started with Capita IT Services.
And that's where I am right now. How long for? Nobody knows these days. This time I've an additional Team Leader role to hold down, my first "man manager" role with direct reports since June 1989. But what will tomorrow bring? One thing is for sure, tomorrow will bring change.