How do BAs and POs figure out WHAT SKILLS to learn and develop?

Business Analysis and Product Ownership is a new role for many, and for those that have been doing it a long time, it has changed!  All of the changes in […]
Business Analysis and Product Ownership is a new role for many, and for those that have been doing it a long time, it has changed!  All of the changes in our industry, including technologies, agile, and digital approaches, in addition, to customer-centricity, leaves many wondering:
  • What skills do I have that are still valid?
  • What skills do I need to develop?
  • How do I keep current and relevant in my career?
Staying relevant is a key cornerstone of being a great BA and Product Owner. It shows you own your career and care about how your skills contribute to modern-day organizations! Staying relevant is not just about how projects and work are done today in your organization, it is about being ready for how it will be done in the near future. Without the latest skills, you might get
stuck on a project with killer deadlines (never happens) and no time to learn the new skills and techniques needed to get the work done right and on time with the latest techniques and skills matched to help you with trending projects organizations are taking on today.
I know you want to be prepared and you want your leadership to know you are ready for the cutting edge projects! You want to be assigned to the coolest, innovative, strategic, and cutting edge work your organization produces. These are the projects that advance careers and build skills that take you to your aspirations – where the excitement is!

How do you prepare yourself and/or your team to get there?

Self Assess & Use a Scale

One of the first steps is to assess where you are. You will need a list of relevant skills and techniques and a scale to help you truly assess where your skills and experience lie. I like to think of skill levels on a scale of one through five. Number one defined as No Experience, and five being that you could mentor others in the skill or technique. Just like weighing ourselves to keep tabs on our health, we need to weigh in on our skills. You need a reliable scale that informs and helps you make informed decisions about your career and development.
  1. No Experience: I have no experience in this, I may have heard about it, but really no practical experience.
  2. Limited Experience: I have some training and/or some limited experience in this. I am not sure I am doing it correctly and complex situations throw me off.
  3. Comfortable: I am pretty comfortable with this skill, and could use a good training refresher to learn a few more things and ensure I am on the right track.
  4. Proficient: I am very proficient in this skill, have lots of experience using it in different contexts/environments, and complexity levels.
  5. Mentor: I am very experienced in this skill and feel I could mentor others on this skill in various project sizes and types.
This scale will help you truly assess your experience level, helping you evaluate the difference between “I have had training” and “I have practiced the skill on multiple projects”, or somewhere between, less or more. Practicing and knowing you are doing the skill or technique according to best practices, where the best practices work in different contexts and complexity levels is where you are really getting good at a technique. If you are altering the best practice, you might be missing key aspects of the skill or technique and then when it doesn’t work well, you may stop using it, forgetting that you have altered the intent of the technique or skill, to begin with.
When you have learned and practiced a skill or technique and had success in multiple context and complexity levels while understanding the best practices you are close to mastery and mentoring others.

Discuss with a Manager, Leader, Mentor

Self-assessment is only part of the equation. Discussing your results with someone you look up to, and ideally knows your work is the next critical element. Your own bias might get in the way. Your bias might be in either a “self-assessment weaker than actual” or “self-assessment stronger than others perceive”, or perhaps right on with what others see. Discussing with someone else close to your work can help you identify where your own bias might get in the way. It can also help you figure out what skills to focus on starting to learn more, mastering further, or mentoring others on. What I love most about discussing the results with others is the relationship it builds. A great dialog, that is curious, open, vulnerable, and honest can be a make or break moment for your career, no matter where you are, it can give you confidence and help build self-awareness of your strengths!

Self-Assessment Resources To Get Started

There are several ways to get started on self-assessing your skills so that you can follow the steps listed above.

The Agile BA Quiz – a quick, 10 question quiz with instant results. Click here.