Preparation is key

Preparation is a key asset for a business analyst.  It doesn’t matter if you are running the meeting or just participating, if you aren’t prepared you run the risk of looking like a fool.  So do you prepare?

  • Read:  You read the project documentation.
  • Make Notes:  Normally, I am making notes, or at least highlighting, different items that stand out during my first read.  I highlight things like the goals of the projects, any processes that are mentioned, and anything else that stands out.  I then write down what my initial thoughts.  (Your first impressions are very important, so it’s important to have those written down so you don’t forget them.)
  • Communicate with others and listen to their comments:  Remember communication is not one way, it goes in multiple directions.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a project charter or a requirements document and thought “this doesn’t make sense”.  That isn’t necessarily because the documentation was written poorly.  If you are having a rough day or are stressed or are new to a project then you may read things differently than they were intended.  By asking someone else for their perspective, you may clarify any confusion that you may have.   Additionally, they may have the same questions or concerns that you have.  If they do, then it will help you build the confidence to bring it up in a meeting.  If they don’t, then they can explain things to you on a one on one basis.
  • Re-read the documentation:  This may seem like a waste of time, but, trust me, it isn’t.  After reading, talking to others, and looking at your notes, you can look at the documentation from a new, usually quite different, perspective.
  • Create your agenda/organize your notes:  If you are running the meeting, you need to get ready for your meeting.  That means creating an agenda so you can keep the meeting on point.
    If possible, you should get the agenda out to the attendees 24 hours before the meeting.  I don’t like to get it out any earlier because it can get lost in emails.  If you get it out less than that, then the attendees may not have time to review it.
    If you don’t have to run the meeting, then try to organize all of your thoughts and questions in a cohesive order.  Hopefully, the person running the meeting has sent you the agenda, so you can put your notes together to coincide with the meeting.

    Valuable trick:  Create two agendas.  One for you and one for the group.   Give the group a high level agenda and use the other agenda to bullet your thoughts, points you want to get across, and questions.

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