Paul Johnston looks at business analysis across Africa, sharing with Joe Newbert how business analyst roles differ and how to cater for cultural differences.
Paul Johnston is a business analysis manager at Sybrin Systems (an EOH Company), and has 14 years’ IT experience as a startup entrepreneur turned fintech business analyst.
Paul’s expertise is focused on payment solutions including cheque, EFT, RTGS and ACH. Paul has performed the lead business analyst role on projects across Africa, and is able to bring a unique viewpoint to analysis by combining what he’s learnt through his startup and business analysis experience. His past entrepreneurial endeavours include having started an e-commerce business that repeatedly ranked as one of the top 20 e-commerce sites within South Africa.
Congratulations on your recent talk at the Business Analysis Summit Southern Africa, it was well received by many. For those who weren’t fortunate to attend, could you give us a synopsis of what your presentation was about?
My presentation focused on lessons learnt running workshops across Africa. Some aspects included the importance of workshop preparation, the need to establish your credibility and expertise, and how to address the all too common expectation for the business analyst to be a subject matter expert.
The topic is clearly an area that you are personally passionate about. Why do you feel this subject is relevant and important for the business analysis profession?
I really believe that a successful requirements workshop is a crucial step towards an on-time and on-budget project.
Being able to ensure a true “meeting of the minds” has taken place between the right stakeholders is a crucial skill for every business analyst,
but one that many practitioners are still learning.
Having shared your ideas with the business analysis community. What key points would you like people to take-away, reflect and act upon?
When interacting with stakeholders, it is important to make a specific effort to consider culture – slow down your responses and be very intentional in both how you interpret what others are saying, and how you respond. We enter every situation with the filter of our own culture and experiences in place, and when working cross-culturally you need to be aware of this. Another point that resonated with the audience is to remember that the list of stakeholders you would invite in your own organisation, may be very different within a different culture or company – so don’t focus stakeholder analysis on title, but rather on tasks being fulfilled.
Business analysis summit spoiled in terms of the learning and networking opportunities. What was your greatest personal insight taken from the business analysis conference?
The conference was very encouraging – it reinforced my view that business analysts have a crucial role to play in upcoming trends – big data, multi-sided markets, agile, devops, machine learning, etc. As a community, we need to understand better what this means for business analysis – all of these trends will need the skills of business analysts and the tools of business analysis, but they may not involve a team member with the title “Business Analyst”.
This was your debut talk sharing with the business analyst community. What words of encouragement do you have for people who may be considering presenting in future?
Go for it! I have found that the process of preparing for a conference presentation forces you to evaluate how you are approaching your business analysis tasks – What works? What doesn’t? What needs to change? In answering these questions, you will distill your own techniques into their essential steps, and improve your own skill set while sharing with the business analysis community.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would encourage all South African business analysts to get involved in the community –
… join the IIBA-SA, visit chapter events, attend a conference, attend a webinar, post on a business analysis LinkedIn Group.
The more connected we are as a business analysis community, the more effective we can be.
Download Paul Johnston‘s slide-deck from Business Analysis Summit SA 2016 to learn tips for how to perform Business Analysis Across Africa, and share your stories about business analysis across Africa with @PaulJohnston and @Newbert on Twitter.