We all know that the way to become a more proficient business analyst is to practice. But practicing is not the complete answer. I can go to the driving range and hit three buckets of golf balls – practicing – but if my coach is not there to tell me to tilt my shoulder further or shorten my backswing, all of my practicing may be wasted. Not only wasted, but it may be detrimental. I may be practicing bad habits.
When we practice we need a coach or mentor to watch what we do. As we work they can encourage us on the parts of the work that we are doing well and correct us when we are heading down the wrong path. In other words, prevent us from practicing bad habits.
With work as complex as business analysis, I think that we should bring new analysts into the profession by having them work as interns for a number of projects, always being supervised by experienced BAs. This system should be similar to the medical profession where interns rotate through different specialties and learn from experienced practitioners. This will allow new BAs to practice on real projects with oversight and allow the new BA to learn about different types of projects and different types of analysis. They may find a particular area that will become their specialty.
These interns would be evaluated by their mentors/coaches and graduate when they are ready to work without oversight. They would then be assigned to mentor others.
The analogy to the medical profession is a good one for business analysis because there are such important consequences to the work. Business analysts can influence an organization to be more profitable or make a mistake that could waste significant resources. Both professions have a knowledge component (do you know the way that bones are connected to ligaments) and an experience component. We can easily test for the knowledge but the experience must be monitored and assessed by seasoned professionals to protect the integrity of our reputation.