This is the first in a four part series I ran in the IIBA newsletter starting in March 2012. I wanted to post these here in case you did not see them. Every week, I’ll post another part. Enjoy!
Developers have been using social media for years and just get it when it comes to keeping up with new technology and finding ways to stay current. Some developers even try to use their new toys on our projects even if it is not really needed, but that’s for another day. Years before there was an online business analysis (BA) community like the IIBA’s, developers have been sharing knowledge and experiences online. I remember being very impressed when a developer I worked with was struggling with a way to code a feature we needed. He told me to come back the next day and he’d have an answer. He asked a few simple questions on an online community and poof, potential solutions came rolling in.
Every project a business analysis professional works on is different. You run into different situations all the time. A project is not like manufacturing where you can predict every step in the process. So, you must continually learn and find different ways to attack situations. In the past, our options were limited in how we can learn and our potential number of mentors was limited. For learning you had training classes, books, and maybe some online articles available. Your mentors were most likely people in your company or individuals you met face to face at some point in your career. The good news is that there is no limit to learning or mentorship thanks to social media. I realize that the suggestions you receive will rarely provide the exact solution for your project, but our problems are usually more similar at their core than you may first think. Even if the responses don’t relate 100% to your issue at least you are given other options to consider and practices that have worked in related situations. You may even find that a suggestion will trigger an option you hadn’t even considered and identify that your issue isn’t really a problem after all.
So how do you become engaged in the BA social communities? Where should you start? It’s not so easy just jumping in to all the social media services. If you know little about social media it can seem intimidating or you may think to yourself “I don’t want everyone to know where I am and that I just had dinner with my family.” Even though the reason social media exploded was that it allowed people to share personal information and build their social network, the role of social media has expanded to allow you to build your knowledge network. Social media has given us the ability to easily share information and consume information related to business analysis.
To get started I suggest focusing on two areas: LinkedIn and Twitter. Your first step is to create a great profile for each service so people know who you are. Here is a link from an expert regarding creating your social media profile, How to Create a Winning Social Networking Profile. The main thing I suggest is using a professional picture with your profile. You have three options: don’t include a picture, include a picture of your dog, your kids, or some graphic, or a professional picture of you. Using a picture of you let’s everyone see who they are interacting with. On social media you need to provide ways to make people comfortable sharing information with you. Seeing a picture of your dog, although cute, doesn’t really help.
LinkedIn groups are the best way to get information regarding business analysis and get questions answered by others in our community from around the world. The IIBA group and the BA Forum group are two groups I recommend you join and participate in. If you have a question for the group just start a discussion. You’ll be amazed by the feedback and interaction by the members. Most likely you’ll find some members that you align well with. Don’t be shy, request to add them as a contact. Then you can share information one on one and use each other as mentors. One tip when requesting to have someone join your network. Personalize the invite. Let the person know why you want to connect with them. It can be as simple as saying you have enjoyed reading their posts and feel like we have similar thoughts on business analysis.
Twitter is a great way to get pointed to great articles, blogs, books and general BA news. If you’re not familiar with Twitter you need to know that Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. There is a lot of “noise” on twitter as updates are being created faster than you can imagine. The concept is you follow people, “tweeps”, so you can see what they are posting. To help sift through all the multitude of tweets people use hashtags (#) that you can use to search on specific topics. For business analysis the most popular one is #baot. That is short for “business analysis on twitter”. To get started with Twitter first create your account than search for tweets using the hashtag #baot. As you see BAs you like, start following them and join the conversation. You’ll get the hang of it!
There are other social media services I use like Google+ and Facebook. I’ll cover those and more ways to build your knowledge network in Social Media 201! Feel free to get connected with me on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m looking forward to sharing information with you soon!