How to Eat an Elephant, Junior Business Analyst Style

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How do you eat an elephant? Assuming an elephant would be as delicious to eat as a slice of cheese pizza, you’d have probably have to eat it one bite at a time. As a junior business analyst, we face certain situations that seem to be challenging and somewhat daunting at times, just like eating an elephant would be. 

The ability to understand an idea and how it fits into the big picture is vital to being successful on a project. That being said, learning about a new project is a key point to getting on that path to success. At first, there seems to be a lot of information to consume. Parts of a project seem to make perfect sense alone, but how do these parts fit together? How do they interact with each other? How does this tie back to the overarching problem we need to solve? All these are questions that I constantly ask myself when learning about a new project.

Most of the time, the pieces of information you receive are segmented, and it can be difficult to put it together. As I ramp up on new projects, I found myself following a general pattern that you may find helpful:

  1. Gather as much information as you can. I don’t worry about understanding it completely right there and then. I just want to make sure that it’s available to me.
  2. Read, review, then re-read the information that you collected. I try to understand what I can about the business objectives, the goal of the project, and the deliverables my team is working towards.
  3. Ask your team members questions. This is the point where I try to identify and fill in gaps of information by bouncing ideas and questions back and forth with my team. More often than not, I have missed something and through discussion I am able to discover it.
  4. Read and review…again. I try to go back one more time with my team’s feedback and see if I can make sense of everything. I once made a slide deck of the project information to pull everything I learned together, and then presented it to my team. This helped get the information straight and accurate.
  5. Make a slide deck. I tried this and it proved to be helpful. I put together a short presentation to encapsulate what I understand about the project and presented it to the rest of my team. This helped me ensure that my information was polished and accurate.

If there are still questions that remain unanswered amongst you and your team, just ask. Ask a project stakeholder to provide some additional context so that you can move forward. Now to get rid of that elephant breath…

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