There are a growing number of professional communities across the globe dedicated to business analysis. Whether it is a community cultivated by a professional association such as BCS or IIBA, a not-for-profit organisation such as the BA Manager Forum, or one of the many excellent online webinars or blogs there are plenty of opportunities to hear and learn from other practitioners. Often, information and knowledge generated by these communities are stored online and can be accessed at any time – and prove extremely useful. A typical (and sensible) first approach to resolving just about any problem is to Google it—after all, there’s a good chance that someone else has faced a similar issue in the past. Of course, the challenge with the Internet is its expanse but for those prepared to sift through the masses of information there are gems to be found.
Every single person reading this blog has undoubtedly benefited from free services or content provided to them by community-supporting practitioners. Whether it’s reading a blog about Use Cases or asking for advice about a project during a meet-up, these real-world and virtual communities help significantly with the sharing of knowledge. However, a community can only be sustained if there are sufficient contributors. Any community needs people and organisations that are willing to stand up, contribute and give back as well as people who read, view and consume.
This is perhaps more obvious in a ‘physical’ setting where effort is more visible. Go to any business analysis networking event or conference and the level of effort is obvious. Everything from marketing, processing registrations, hiring a venue and managing the logistics needs to be considered. In the same way though, ‘virtual’ events – such as taster ‘technique’ sessions, free online learning packages and YouTube videos – also require a significant amount of effort to plan, develop and deliver. Often, this requires significant effort form those wishing to support their professional community.
What If We Contributed 5% Of What We Consumed?
The BCS Advanced Diploma in Business Analysis and the coveted Expert BA Award were developed with extensive support from the business analysis community and both have a specific requirement for candidates to demonstrate contribution to the community. This reflects that giving back is not only encouraged, but it is expected from senior practitioners. If we step back, this makes absolute sense: those who have been in the profession for a few years have almost certainly benefited from the efforts of others. Why wouldn’t they ‘pay it forward’ and help others by sharing their perspectives and learnings?
One challenge is finding the time. With project deadlines beckoning, it can be difficult to think about writing a blog or preparing a presentation for a conference. It can help to have a target: perhaps you might aim to contribute 5% of what you consume. If you read twenty blog posts, why not write just one? Or if blogging isn’t your thing, make a short video, or perhaps just reply to a LinkedIn update with your thoughts. Contributing doesn’t have to be time consuming or formal. It could be as simple as posting an update on your social media network of choice with your thoughts about a particular topic. If you use Twitter this would take at most a few minutes. Even these small micro-actions help strengthen and build communities, and you will almost certainly find that you meet others through virtue of your efforts too.
Contribution Is A Virtuous Circle
Another important aspect to contribution is that whilst it takes effort, it brings a whole range of emergent benefits that you probably can’t predict at first. You might start a blog and find you are asked to speak at a conference. When you speak at a conference, you might meet someone who asks you to speak at a BA practice meeting. When you are there you might find out they are recruiting for a new senior role... and who know where that might lead. Whilst the focus of personal contributions concerns supporting others, if they are done well they can also help to hone skills, generate understanding and make new connections.
‘Paying it forward’ is an important concept in every domain, and business analysis is no different. How do you plan to contribute to your communities? We’d love to hear from you. Why not start a conversation in our LinkedIn group.