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Business Analysis Blueprint

James Dean

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the perspectives of IIBA.

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Business analyst James Dean is many things. Chapter president. Product owner. Hip hop dancer.

More than anything, though, James is a people person who thrives on working with different minds to solve problems. A passionate business analyst, he also enjoys spreading awareness of business analysis and mentoring other practitioners. 

As the current IIBA Ireland Chapter President and a business analysis professional with seven years’ experience, he has worked in various domains, including corporate and business registries, life sciences, and energy.

We recently spoke to James about how business analysis found him (not the other way around), the biggest challenge of his career so far, and what makes the IIBA Ireland Chapter stand out.

Tell us a little bit about your business analysis journey and how it all got started.

Like many, I stumbled into the business analyst role, often humorously referred to as "BA" for "by accident." After graduating college with a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in IT Management, I aspired to become an Oracle Database Administrator due to my fascination with databases and Structured Query Language (SQL) throughout college.

I started as a system analyst and developer, working in the corporate and business registry domain on site with a client in Ireland. This allowed me to learn various systems and processes and engage with diverse stakeholders. Six months later, I was unexpectedly assigned to a project as a business analyst, despite being unsure of the role's specifics. I was trained by two amazing business analysts, Susana Pires and Rob Ryan, who guided and supported me while working on different projects.

Over time, I acquired skills and techniques in business analysis, such as facilitation, elicitation, modelling, collaboration, problem-solving, and analytical thinking. I also developed a passion for helping people find solutions to their problems.

“President James Dean” has a nice ring to it. Describe your current role and what your day-to-day looks like.

Serving as IIBA Ireland Chapter President is both thrilling and demanding. I’m fortunate to work with an exceptional board of directors and dedicated volunteers who endorse my sometimes unconventional ideas, while helping plan and strategize chapter goals.

My responsibilities include guiding the team across various domains, such as events, corporate membership, sponsorship, professional development, and treasury. I also support each board member in formulating strategies for their respective areas while encouraging open dialogue and collaboration on idea sharing and planning.

I focus on three key aspects to ensure alignment and success with IIBA Ireland's vision and mission.

  1. Increasing awareness of business analysis so that the value and contributions of business analysis professionals can be recognized and appreciated
  2. Supporting aspiring, junior, and experienced business analysis professionals in their career journeys
  3. Increasing engagement within the business analysis community
What makes the Ireland Chapter of IIBA unique?

Great question! I've put together a visual to show how IIBA Ireland is different.

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We also strive to teach business analysis professionals the key skills and techniques they need to work in any industry or domain (rather than being limited to specialist roles).

What made you pursue the Agile Analysis Certificate (IIBA-AAC) and Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA)? How have they impacted your career?

In my first company, Enterprise Registry Solutions, I was "thrown" onto a project as a business analyst with little knowledge of the role. While working on the project, I learned about business analysis skills and techniques to elicit requirements.  

This sparked my curiosity. I eventually discovered the ECBA exam, A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK Guide), and the Business Analysis Core Concept Model (BACCM). I was intrigued by the exam and submitted a proposal to have my understanding and experience validated.

It was a personal goal, as I would be the first certified business analyst in my company. It would also show senior management that I was capable in the role, as there were concerns about transitioning from a system analyst/developer to a business analyst.

After I received my ECBA certification, I was appointed the lead business analyst on my project. Shortly after that, I was appointed a second role as a product owner, which is why I then pursued the IIBA-AAC.

The company wanted to transition to a more agile way of working. Previously, we had been using more of a predictive approach to analysis and development. I had little knowledge of agile or the different frameworks, so I began researching how to adapt my business analyst approach to an agile environment—which led me to the IIBA-AAC exam.

Gaining the IIBA-AAC exposed me to an entirely new way of working with stakeholders, one based on a collaborative and engaging environment. I embraced the reduced handover of requirements and appreciated the greater emphasis on testing assumptions and requirements, which resulted in notable reductions in rework and an increase in overall project efficiency.

What was the biggest challenge of your career and how did you overcome it?

During my first business analyst role, we faced difficulties in securing sign-off on requirements documentation because stakeholders from various business divisions struggled to envision the solution.

The client was a company registry looking to modernize their existing applications and processes, including online forms they provide to customers. I understood their frustration, as the requirements documentation was quite lengthy. I was following the templated process used in my company, but it wasn’t providing value. So I took a different approach.  

I created functional prototypes to demo the solution to each business division. But to create each prototype, I had to learn JSON programming language. To do this, I sat with different developers to understand the structure of an online form that I could use as a guide. I then analyzed the meaning of each element within the JSON code.

It took a few weeks to get my bearings and a lot of trial and error, but I'm glad I challenged myself. The skills I learned then have proven useful throughout my career.

What do you like to do outside of work to unwind?

I've been dancing since I was about six years old. I started by learning stage school styles and then progressed to hip hop when I was 13. I immediately fell in love and have been dancing in this style ever since.

Many opportunities have come my way. I was a dancer in two Irish films (Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie and Sing Street) and my hip hop dance crew placed first in the United Dance Organisation (UDO) Street Dance Championships. I was also cast as a dancer in various musicals and pantomimes.

What’s your must-read, desert island book?

I’ve purchased many books spontaneously, but I never get around to reading half of them. One book I read last year really resonated and opened my eyes and mind to think in different ways—Business Analyst: A Profession and a Mindset by Yulia Kosarenko. It encourages you to look at business analysis as a process rather than a role.

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Know someone who's making an impact as a business analysis professional? Reach out to to have them featured in our next Business Analysis Blueprint.

About the Author
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Robert McClements is the Communications and Media Relations Specialist at IIBA. With over six years of communications experience at non-governmental organizations, he contributes to IIBA’s marketing and communications efforts in support of the business analysis profession and community. Residing in his hometown of Montreal, Robert enjoys spending time with his family, listening to music, and reading.   

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