For me, learning is probably one of the most key competencies of a business analyst and it is key to doing your job effectively. The more efficiently and effectively you can learn, the better everything else flows down the line. While it is impossible to know everything, its is possible to create the habit learning as much as possible about every bit of information you come across, just like a detective might inspect every piece of everything at a crime scene.
At some point you’ll have to make an assessment and draw conclusions, and every piece of data you mis-interpret or just miss altogether is a part of the big picture that you are missing and a picture is exactly what you are trying to create. The difficult thing about learning is knowing whether you have learned enough or if there is more out there to be learned.
Consider this scenario, a friend of yours has a brand new car and you want him to describe it to you. What kinds of questions would you ask? Probably things like what color, how many doors, rims, etc. Now what if your job was to write a description in such a way that a team of engineers can create the exterior exactly. How would your questions change?
The goal when learning anything new is to create a complete picture and to accomplish this, the best bet is to think in pictures. For us, this is primarily in the form of models and diagrams. You should get in the habit of modeling any new and complex information in appropriate diagrams whether process models, data flow diagrams, sequence diagrams, etc.
This does two things:
- First, the human brain can more easily take in pictures than data. A single image can establish relationships, hierarchy, and so much more making it easy to grasp all the smaller working parts.
- Second, Trying to draw this picture, will immediately point out the gaps that need filling. Ideally, you should have the picture you want to draw in mind before you start the learning (elicitation) process. This will give you clear objectives as you dig for information, and will help you know what questions to ask.
How to Practice
Use pictures more often. Use them when you are explaining complex ideas in emails, presentations, and documentation. Get your brain to get used to the idea of pictures. Before you know it, you’ll have a vast catalogue of pictures. Soon, new ideas will simply be additions or amendments to the pictures you have stored away and you’ll be able to grasp new things with ease and efficiency.