Today, I want to talk about note taking. Note taking is a vital tool for the business analyst. We’ve all been taking notes since we were in school and some of us do it more effectively than others. For me, the biggest challenge is running a meeting while taking notes at the same time. Trying to keep the flow of the meeting going while trying to write something down can be tough. So how do I do it? I do the following:
- Whenever possible I record the meeting. Most conference call numbers will allow you to do this and they let everyone know that the call is being recorded before they come on the line. Recording takes the pressure off of trying to get everything right, right then. I can focus on asking questions on the fly. I can still take notes and then compare them to what I had. It also can save your butt when people will say “that’s not what I said” because you can just call it up and play it back.
- I ALWAYS have an agenda. My agenda is always in an outline form and I always have it open on my computer. I keep it open because, quite frankly, I can type faster than I can write and it’s much easier to read. Over time, I’ve learned how to use keyboard strokes to do my indents and so forth, so typing is much easier.
Having the agenda allows me to stay organized and put the notes in the right place. That way I can help ensure I keep things in the right context and perspective. It also allows me to note where I need to go in the recording if I need to clarify something and save some time. It is also important to keep your notes clear and concise. It’s better to have short simple sentences than long drawn out paragraphs.
- When possible I do a screen share. Most IM applications allow you to share screens. Typically, I have two computer screens and keep my notes on the screen that is NOT shared. When I need to, I can always move the notes over to the shared screen so people can see what I’m typing. This saves time, keeps people involved, and ensures everything is right.
- Finally, I ALWAYS send out my notes after the meeting. I want to do that as soon as reasonably possible because I want people to review it while the meeting is still fresh in their heads. That way, everyone can agree on what was said and changes can be made easily. It also gives people a chance to send you a private message if they were confused about something. People don’t like feeling stupid and sometimes, especially when they aren’t familiar with the group, they want to get some clarification privately.
Hope this helps as you work toward being a great business analyst.
Neal is available for private consultation and coaching sessions. Please contact me for more information.