The first 5 steps to take as the new Junior Business Analyst on a Project
Have you ever been assigned to work on a new project that you didn’t really know anything about? This happens to all Business Analysts throughout their careers and it can be a little overwhelming to find your feet when you are still a Junior Business Analyst.
Let’s imagine it is your first day on the new project as a Junior Business Analyst and you are the only Business Analyst assigned to the project. So what should be the first things that you do as a Junior Business Analyst?
Step #1: Determine which project phase the project is currently in.
This first step is an essential piece of information because it sets you up for the rest of the steps. If you know which phase the project is currently in, you will know whether you will have access to a lot or a little bit of information about what the project is all about. It is likely that you will be assigned to a new project as the Junior Business Analyst when a project is in one of these two phases:
Initiation / Idea Phase: If you are lucky, you will be assigned as the junior business analyst right at the start of the project. This means very few people really know very much about the project and you are not the only one who doesn’t know what is going on! It is also a great time to be assigned because you will understand ‘the whole story’ of the project as it unfolds. If you are lucky enough to be the junior business analyst assigned you can look for the following two documents before moving to Step #2 below: Business or Idea Brief and the Business Case if these are available. Ask the Project Manager whether there are any other documents available as well. Keep in mind there may not be any documents available to review yet!
Analyze Phase: Very often this is the phase that a junior business analyst or any business analyst is assigned to a project. The main reason is that this is the phase during which the Business Requirements are being gathered, analyzed and documented. It is also typically the Phase after formal approval for the project has been obtained and therefore there was funding released to assign a junior business analyst just like you! This phase can be a bit longer in duration and if you are not there from the word ‘go’ you can start looking for the following types of documentation to review: Scope and high level requirements statements or documents, all documents created during the Initiation / Idea phase of the project and remember to look for any presentations that the Project Manager or Project Sponsor may have made available to the team.
If you are assigned as the Junior Business Analyst during a later stage of the project, then follow the principles described in these first two phases to get familiar with the stage the project is at and the main deliverables that has been created.
Step #2: Read the previous material created for the project.
This step might sound simple and straightforward but now that you have found some of the key documentation for the project, as a Junior Business Analyst you should read at least the most important documents to get familiar with the project. You can also talk to the rest of the project team about the project and this is a great way to ‘get up to speed’ as they say but it can be irritating to others if you expect them to spend time with you without you demonstrating that you are trying to be pro-active by reading what is available.
TIP: A great approach will be for you to ask people which documents do they believe are the most important ones for you to get very familiar with! They will then probably volunteer to talk to you about the content of the project anyway!
Step #3: Who is who in and outside of the project team.
You may have discovered the project team members by this stage but for larger projects this may not be the case. It is a great idea that now that you, as the Junior Business Analyst member of the team, have some basic knowledge of the project content to start building relationships with all the members in your project team. Make sure you understand each project team member’s role on the project and this way you will know where to turn when you need particular types of information moving forward on the project.
Once you know the project team members and their roles, it is a good next step to make a point of meeting the stakeholders who will be interacting directly with your project. Understand also where they are from in the business and if you feel comfortable enough try and gage whether they are in support of the project or not. As a Junior Business Analyst you can do this by simply understanding what benefits the project will deliver for their specific area.
TIP: If it is early in the project and the stakeholders have not been engaged, then as the junior business analyst you might want to suggest that you will perform a stakeholder analysis to help the project manager to understand whom the stakeholders will be. You should create a RACI Model for this activity.
Step #4: The project plan, find yourself.
By this time you will have a familiarity of the project phase, what the essential purpose and content of the project is and whom the people are that you will be working with as a Junior Business Analyst. Now it is time to determine what the project plan says about the future timeframes, milestones and tasks that need to be performed. As a Junior Business Analyst your project manager may have created Business Analysis tasks on the project plan on your behalf already and it is therefore very important that you are familiar with what these tasks are and when they will need to be delivered.
TIP: As you become better acquainted with the project manager and the project plan itself, you could potentially discuss some of the tasks assigned to the junior business analyst and make changes if required.
Step #5: Plan your Business Analysis approach and execute.
As the Junior Business Analyst on the project team you are now ready to work out what specifically you need to do as an immediate next step on the project. It is always very important to communicate (especially as a Junior Business Analyst still learning the ropes!) with the project manager (or requirements lead and more Senior Business Analysts on the project) about the following:
- What you must do on the project. It is totally fine for you to ask this question from the project team members (probably the project manager). You don’t have to try and work this out for yourself.
- How you are planning to perform the piece of work you must do. Once you considered the task, think of an approach and the verify your approach with another team member to make sure you are on the right track.
- Frequent peer reviews of your deliverables. Talk to your peers often even if that means for you to talk to other business analysts on other projects about how they approach certain tasks. You will learn a great deal from others about how to do things and sometimes also how not to do things on a project!
TIP: As a Junior Business Analyst it is the time for you to learn from others. This means you must build strong relationships with people who knows more, has more experience and most of all, is willing to help you achieve your goal as a junior Business Analyst.
Now that you have completed these essential first 5 steps as a Junior Business Analyst on the project, you are ready to start performing within your new project as their Junior Business Analyst! Good luck!