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Friday, November 25, 2011

Paula A. Bell Selected As a “Top-Idea Maven” by The Woman’s Advantage

For Immediate Release                    Contact: Paula A. Bell/

Paula A. Bell Selected As a “Top-Idea Maven” by The Woman’s Advantage
Entrepreneur’s Advice Featured in 2012 Woman’s Advantage Calendar

Des Moines, IA – Paula A. Bell, CEO/President of Paula A. Bell Consulting, LLC (a subsidiary of WinningEdge 360) was selected from over 5,000 submissions to be featured in The 2012 Woman’s Advantage Shared Wisdom Calendar. The calendar provides advice for women business owners from influential women leaders across the US and Canada.

Mary Cantando, Growth Expert of The Woman’s Advantage, today announced that Paula’s advice has been included in the calendar which will be released on October 27.

“Paula’s quote was selected because it was powerful yet easy to understand. Her idea is relevant to almost every woman in business today.” says Cantando. “Women business owners and those who dream of starting a business will learn so much from the advice provided by Paula and the other successful women quoted in the calendar.”

The Woman’s Advantage 2012 Calendar provides sound bites of advice on key business issues including: organization, promotion, sales, and human resources.  The calendar can be purchase at: Woman's Advantage 2012 Calendar

About Paula A Bell:
Paula Bell is an experienced Business Analyst, mentor, coach and author, known for consistently producing exceptional work, providing guidance to aspiring business analysts (including those that just want to sharpen their skills), as well as, providing creative and strategic ways to build relationships for successful projects. With 15+ years in project roles to include business analyst, requirements manager, technical writer, project manager, developer, test lead and implementation lead), Paula has experience in a variety of industries to include media, courts, carpet manufacturing, banking and mortgage.

About Paula A Bell, Consulting, LLC:
Paula A Bell Consulting, LLC (a subsidiary of WinningEdge 360 owned by James E. Bell) provides services to business analysts to build a stronger business analysis community through speaking, mentoring, coaching and writing of business analysis topics to increase awareness about the value and importance of the business analysts and the discipline as a whole to produce exceptional solutions for all businesses.  For more information, email or visit

About Mary Cantando:
Mary Cantando is a nationally-recognized expert on women business owners. She is the developer of the successful Woman’s Advantage line of products, geared specifically to women entrepreneurs. A member of the National Speakers’ Association, Cantando provides keynotes and workshops for women who want to grow their businesses.

About The Woman’s Advantage:
The Woman’s Advantage is a line of information products, including books, workbooks, audio CDs, and calendars designed exclusively for successful women business owners. For more information, call 919-841-0401 or visit

News Facts:
• Paula Bell was selected as a “Top-Idea Maven” by The Woman’s Advantage. Her quote appears in the 2012 Woman’s Advantage Calendar.
• The Woman’s Advantage Calendar provides daily advice on key business issues including: organization, promotion, sales, and human resources.
Paula Bell, Paula A. Bell Consulting, LLC, Women Business Owners, Woman Business Owner, Women Entrepreneurs, The Woman’s Advantage, Entrepreneurs, Mary Cantando, The Woman’s Advantage Shared Wisdom Calendar

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Oh The Joys of Requirement Walk Throughs - Part 1

This week has been quite a busy week as I was part of facilitating walk throughs. What made these walk throughs a little more challenging for me is that I had to walk through requirements that I did not write nor had all the background on how these requirements came about. I am currently in a requirements manager role for this particular project where I provide leadership and direction to the business analysts on the project. Sometimes it's challenging enough to just put out fires and provide that direction, in addition to filling in gaps when needed. I have found though that if you have built great relationships with those on the project team, most people with help you in any way they can in the situation I was in. So here is how the week leading up to walk throughs went.

1. Since there was another large project doing walk throughs the same week of my project that utilized some of the same resources, there was some coordination that needed to be done between myself and the other requirements manager, as well as the impacted parties. Agenda's had to be created to outline where the overlap was. Once everyone agreed on how to accommodate the overlap, I worked on my agenda to where each business analyst would present all of their topics at one time, meaning in the same session or sessions, taking into account timezones. We are quite a virtual team with business analysts in other timezones as well as our business partners in other timezones.
2. I then worked with the business analysts to define the plan on how we conduct our virtual walk throughs. Each person would essentially bring up their own business requirements template and present their requirements. Once each business analyst completed their sections I would incorporate into the final document as approved requirements. We use SharePoint for project documentation but i wanted to be constantly updating the online version during the walk throughs so i did not want to do the checking in and out. Yes I did multi-task while walk throughs occurred.
3. The PM sent out the agenda to the broader project team so everyone knew our plan and what sessions they would want to attend.

So at this point we are prepared for walk throughs to begin...but are we?

Look for another blog post that discusses some of the things that can occur during a walk through and how you can handle those situations to reach your outcome. These will be real life experiences i encountered.

Paula Bell

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Top 10 BA Trends for 2011

I love checking out YouTube videos and I stumbled across a video that was posted by ESI.  This video talks about the top 10 BA trends.  You can find the actual video here. However, I wanted to outline the trends here.
  1. Business Architecture
  2. BA & Cloud Computing
  3. RMD (Requirements Management & Development): Delivering Smart Business Perspective
  4. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)
  5. Agile success means breaking tradition
  6. Business analysis is recognized as critical to change management
  7. Resurgence of centers of excellence
  8. Business analysis is essential to regaining market share
  9. Business analysis continues to struggle to define itself
  10. Business analysis requires better balance competencies (soft skills and technical skills)
I find this these trends are dead on and a lot of what organizations are dealing with. I felt this was definitely worthy of sharing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Less is Sometimes More

Sorry for the late post as I have been sick but what I have been reminded this week is less is more. It is sometimes very hard as a business analyst to get out of the details sometimes to speak at a higher level. For example, have you found it hard to tailor your documentation to fit the audience in which you are talking or presenting to? If you are presenting to a senior leader in your organization you probably don't want to show up with a 50 page document when you can get the same information across in a 4 page PowerPoint presentation. Typically senior leaders or executives only want the high level bullet points but expect you to speak to the details if they should have questions. However, your technology team may need the 50 page document to understand what you want them to do. Now I know my agilists just crinched but I'm just trying to make a point. Another area of topic is business process modeling. A common question is, "How much detail should I flow?". What I have found is business analysts need to be really skilled on reading your audience, understanding the team dynamics and understanding the level of content your targeted audiences need. Getting out of the detail can be challenging because we are in the detail daily but we seriously need to understand how to get out of th detail and be concise. This is the point of twitter, concise messages. If I ask a question, I don't need you to go to Brazil, Argentina and then back to the United States. I need you to stay in the United States and in the city.

Some of the tips I have learned to become better at this are as follows:
1. Understand your audience - understand what your audience likes to see as far of level of detail. This means getting to know the people you work with. This doesn't mean get on a personal level but get to know pet peeves and what style of communication each individual on your team prefers. Yes, this is the power of interpersonal skills.
2. Be concise when appropriate - sometimes you need detail but be concise where you can. Remember, tweet!
3. Have a peer review your work that is mot engaged in your project - if the peer can't understand then your message is not clear. If it doesn't flow logically or make sense to your peer then there is a good chance it won't be clear to your audience.
4. Prepare - prepare for your presentations in advance, if you can. Don't wait to the last minute.
5. Be prepared - ensure you do understand the details IF asked for detail so you can speak to it. Otherwise stay concise and to the point. That will eliminate confusion and unnecessary swirling.

I have seen business analysts struggle because it's hard to get out of the detail but as business analysts we have to be flexible and meet the needs of all parties involved. We have a hard job and huge responsibilities but we are HUGE assets to the organizations in which we work.

Go forth and conquer!

Paula Bell

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Communication is Key

One of the most important skills a BA should possess is communication. I put this skill higher than writing the requirements because if you cannot effectively communicate you will not capture or understand the business needs. Another skill is to understand how to communicate with the many different audiences you will work with daily. I have found that if you find how the other person likes to be communicated to you will be more successful. I have also found that no matter how you communicate some people will never get it. No matter how specific you are, whether it be task assignments or getting your point across it's as though you are speaking another language. I write this post to ask you to think of the following when you conduct your business analysis as these tips have proven successful to me:

1. Understand how each individual likes to be communicated with
2. Adjust your communication style to fit your audience
3. If you find that written communication doesn't work then try verbal communication
4. Watch the tone in which you communicate, it's mot what you say but how yo say it
5. Less is more - be concise but get your point across
6. Avoid phrases such as "You need to do..." this puts individuals on the defensive
7. Paraphrase what you understood the person to say to ensure you understand
8. Proof read written communication
9. Do not respond based on emotion
10. If an individual gets loud then you get soft. Don't add fuel to the fire.

These ten concepts have proven successful in my business analysis career. Hopefully, these can help others.

Paula Bell

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Bat

Last Wednesday we had quite a drama filled night.  We had a bat in our house.  It first started Wednesday morning when my daughter was getting ready for school.  She walked out of the bathroom to her room and ran back to my husband in the bathroom advising there was a big bug in her room and she was scared.  My husband went in her room and had the children go downstairs.  My son came down stairs as I was fixing my lunch and asked me, "What was that?"  My response was that I was getting milk out of the refrigerator.  My husband then came downstairs and advised that they saw a bat.  As I completed fixing my lunch I had to head out to work.  So my husband stayed with the kids and contacted Animal Control.  When Animal Control got to our house, of course the bat couldn't be found, so my husband and Animal Control figured the bat left the way the little critter came in.  So we continued on with life.  Later that night around 9:15 pm I was on my laptop in my bedroom and I saw this thing fly from the bathroom to my daughter's bedroom.  I got up and started to walk out my bedroom and I saw it fly again.  I started screaming frantically, jumping up and down.  I got the kids up out of bed, nearly dragging my son mind you, and ran down the stairs like a mad woman losing one of my slippers in the process and totally forgetting how I was dressed.  I ran out the door with my kids and we got in our car.  I then frantically called my husband who was wrapping up work and pretty much told him that I was not going back in that house until that thing was gone.  He hung up from me and called Animal Control.  As he called Animal Control my son proceeded to throw up in my car because when he gets scared, his stomach gets nervous.  So I had to hurry get him out of the car.  Mind you none of us are appropriately dressed at this time either.  I get my son under control and my husband calls me back.  As we are talking Animal Control is pulling up to the house.  Thank goodness it was a woman because again, I was nowhere appropriately dressed.  She laughed at me and asked me, "Why are you in the car?" I proceeded to tell her that I am petrified of bats and so are my kids and I had no intention of going back in that house until that little critter was caught. She went upstairs and two minutes later she came downstairs with the bat captured.  I breathed a sigh of relief as she left and my husband pulled up. Then my mind started playing tricks on me.  I started thinking, "What if there are more in the house?"  So the next day I called a Bat Exterminator and on Saturday he came and did a thorough examination of our house and advised we do not have a colony but there are some areas that should be sealed so they don't come back.  Of course, I got right on that and hopefully we will get someone out here this weekend to seal up those entry points.

As you can see this was quite a drama filled day.  I'm sure the bat didn't want to be confined to my house any more than I wanted him here but this little critter didn't know where to go as you could tell it was scared.  How many of us in the business analysis world are the bat and how many of us are frantic Paula.  

The Bat
  •  The bat knew he was not in the normal environment he would like to be.  How many times as business analysts do we feel we don't fit in the environment that is thrown at us?  Sometimes the projects we are handed down do not put is in the most comfortable positions, especially those that are politically charged.  Like the bat we want an escape and we want to move as fast as we can to get to that escape, hoping for someone to rescue us like Animal Control.  Sometimes, unfortunately we don't get rescued and we need to deal with it.  Then we are like the bat that can blend in so well in the environment that it makes it hard to find the little critter.  Sometimes we have to blend in, without sacrificing our integrity, to get the job done opposed to resisting.  Something’s you just can't change so instead of taking the approach of fighting it, find a way to get around that challenge to get the job done.
  • For the BA's that are trying to get into the field you may feel as though you don't fit.  You're flying around like the bat trying to find a department to land in so you can start your career but it appears that no one give you a chance because you don't have the experience.  So you need someone to rescue you as well.  Your rescue is the network you create for people to speak on your behalf as well as any mentors you can find to help open up opportunities for you so you can land.  It's so critical to network and find individuals who can help you understand the discipline.
 Frantic Paula
  • How many times as BA's do we feel things are out of our control that we want to pull our hair like I did when I went on a screaming and jumping rampage?  That was not the best reaction to the situation and I know I didn't help my children in staying calm at all as my son's stomach didn't hold.  As BA's we have to watch our reactions to situations as our reaction will funnel down to the rest of the team.  Sometimes we start fires we have no reason to start because of how we react to a challenge.  Before reacting, think.  Sometimes the situation is not as bad as you think.
  • Relax, relate and release
Though this bat situation was dramatic and I'm still not totally comfortable until I get everything sealed up in my house it taught me a few things about myself.  My reaction to the situation was not that great though it turned out fine.  Be encouraged my fellow BA's because just like the bat there is someone out there to rescue you and things are not always as bad as they seem.

Paula Bell

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


One thing I like to be is consistent as consistency is extremely critical as that helps to shape a person's credibility. With that being said, I have not been as consistent as I would like to be on my blog. So my goal is to update my blog every Wednesday with something that I have learned each week.

Thank you for following me as I want this blog to be a forum where we can all come together and share experiences and best practices not just around business analysis but around life in general.

Paula Bell

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where Has the Respect Gone?

I remember when I joined the job force y mother and grandmother had to get use to me calling my boss by their first name.  They grew up either calling their boss "Mr." or "Mrs." then their last name.  This was a sign of respect.  Something that is lacking today.  Today, it's okay to curse on phone calls, be condescending or even cut people off that are talking on the phone.  As BA's we deal with this sort of thing daily.  Unfortunately sometimes these sort of behaviors are coming from the project champions, business leads or even executive sponsors which makes it very hard to know how to respond when these sort of things happen.  So as BA's can we handle these situations?

  1. Do not react to the person with the behavior the same way.  Instead do the exact opposite, if they are get loud on the phone then you get softer, if they are condescending then kill them with kindness.  If you react in the same way, especially if they more credibility than you do on the project, then you will look as being confrontational.  This will produce a negative perception on you which is not what we want.
  2. Do not confront the person with the behavior in front of a group.  Pull the person to the side or have a one to one conversation at a later time. Ensure to take emotions out of it when you need to have that crucial conversation.
  3. Leverage that network.  If you find you are in a situation when you need re-enforcement and you happen to know someone who is close to this individual then you may want to leverage that person to help mitigate this situation.  Ensure this individual you reach out to is someone you can trust because that is critical to this.
  4. Know what battles to fight and when to fight them.  Not everything needs to be fought.  Some things you let go past and then other you don't.  Understand your organization's culture to understand what battles to fight as the culture may drive some of the behaviors you are seeing.
  5. In all things remain true to you.  Don't lose yourself trying to deal with difficult people.  Maintain your integrity, work hard and continue to build your credibility.
The interpersonal skills are just as important as the hard skills.  You need both to be a successful BA.  I have seen a lot of BA's struggle because they have one but not the other, but essentially the majority of our job is building those relationships and maintaining them so we can help to build solutions for our business partners that are efficient and successful.

So I encourage you, as fellow BA's please don't lose who you are in the midst of what may be some of the most disrespectful situations.  I know this is EXTREMELY hard not to do but if you don't your job as a BA could be so much harder.  I am by no means saying be a doormat but I am saying be strategic in all you do and understand your organization's culture.  More to come on how to understand your organization's culture.

Paula Bell

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tae Kwon Do

One activity I currently do with my family is Tae Kwon Do, specifically focusing on life protection and not competitions.  I had to do Tae Kwon Do Testing this Tuesday to test for my orange belt which is the 3rd belt for my class.  During the test Renshi Dickey had us repeat the 5 tenents which are: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit.  These are the tenents we should live our life with. It's not just saying the word but rather practicing these tenents throughout our life.  These tenets are vital to becoming a successful business analyst as well.  Let's take the definition (all taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) of each tenent and relate it back to why it is important to business analysis:
  1. Courtesy
a.    Meaning: Behavior marked by polished manners or respect for other
b.    Application: As business analysts there is a level of respect we are given and a level of respect we must give to all project partners we work with.  It’s important that we respect our stakeholder’s opinions and ensure they feel that they are heard.  This kind act will make your job as a business analyst easier.  It’s easy to get so caught up in the work and forget some of the fundamental things that are needed to ensure people feel respected and valued.
2.  Integrity
a.    Meaning: Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values
b.    Application: Integrity is the moral fabric of who you are.  Without integrity what do you have.  Without integrity your credibility and character are questioned.  It’s EXTREMELY important as business analysts we are integrous.  No matter the situation, it’s important we don’t lose this because once this is lost it’s very hard to get it back.
3.    Perseverance
a.    Meaning: Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering
b.    Application:  I do believe every business analyst, whether you are new to business analysis or have in business analysis for a while, you know you have to persevere through all the challenges and difficulties that come toward you daily.  A lot of the business analyst I know are passionate about business analysis and that can help to drive your perseverance because when you do something you are passionate about it helps you to make it through the difficulties, failures and/or opposition.
4. Self Control
a.    Meaning: Restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires
b.    Application:  There are many a days have to restrain myself from saying what I really want to say on projects I am on because it could result in career suicide.  As business analyst we have to ensure we have self control.  We need to know which battles to fight and which ones not to fight.  This can be very difficult but we have to be very strategic in what we do as business analyst, considering there are many organizations out there that do not know how to effectively use business analysts.
5.    Indomitable Spirit
a.    Meaning: Incapable of being subdued : unconquerable, indomitable courage
b.    Application: In Tae Kwon Do this allows you to overcome your fears.  When you do testing it can be overwhelming and you may have fear because you don’t know what to expect but you know you have the courage to do because you are out there doing it.  The same thing with business analysis.  There have been times when I have went into meetings not knowing what to expect or not really feeling that I’m totally prepared due to the audience I will be in front of.  However, when I get into the element it always comes out better than I thought. That indomitable spirit (the courage) outweighs the fear.  As business analysts we need to have this trait.

So you make ask, how do you gain these things if you don’t already possess them? More blog posts to come on this. ;-)

Paula Bell

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

History Repeats Itself, But It Doesn't Have To

New article published on BA Times

Friday, July 22, 2011


I read a very disturbing article that I decided to share with my blog followers.  I am attaching a link on an article that I read in the Des Moines Register, but I want to focus on one paragraph directly.  I want to attach the link so you can read the article in it's entire context but I am very disturbed.

Here is the actual link:  New education report highlights weaknesses in Iowa schools

Here is the actual paragraph I am disturbed by:
"Schools are teaching an increasingly diverse student population that is at greater risk for failure. The number of low-income, African American, Hispanic and English-language learners has increased in recent years. Unlike other states, Iowa has failed to make progress in closing the achievement gap between those students and their peers, the report says."

I am disturbed because if you are of a diverse student population you are already labeled to have a greater risk of failure????  Where did these facts come from?  When I first read this sentence I went in with the thought that diversity is not just about race but it's about the things that make us different; however, the second sentence is the sentence that made me change my interpretation of diversity based on the author calling out specific races.  Just because you come from a low income family, African American, Hispanic or learning English as your second language doesn't automatically mean you are going to be a failure.  I can't even deduce logic in that.  I met some students who are going for scholarships and some are from low income homes and they have 3.8 or high grade point averages in high school.  I didn't grow up rich by any means but have done well for myself because of my motivation, discipline and ambition.  I studied hard and worked hard and no matter what when you put your mind to something you can achieve it.  What type of message is this sending to our children?  This is sending a message that if you fit any of these categories you are already stereotyped and put in a box.  African Americans and Hispanics are not the only ones from low income homes either.  People of all races and walks of life can be low income.

I speak at conferences and events on diversity and this article has really ticked me off because:
  1. Diversity is not just about race - diversity is inclusion and embracing differences because when you put different people together the ideas generated are powerful
  2. No matter where you come from if you set your mind to something you can achieve it.  No matter the adversity
  3. If you fit into any of the above categories you are already labeled before you can even start. That is not even fair.
I am very disturbed by this article.  This article also points out individuals with disabilities.  It's 2011 and we need to get past this way of thinking.  Instead of putting people in boxes and labeling them before they have a change, let's encourage each other to be the best person we can be, even if that doesn't fit into your definition.  People are different for a reason and some have challenges in areas that others don't.  Instead of stereotyping and literally saying they are a failure, take the time to take your knowledge and help them out.

One of the reasons I moved to Iowa is because of their education system.  My children have had challenges in this system but my husband and I are advocates for them.  Parent's DO NOT let people, like the person who wrote this article, label your kids.  Everyone learns different but we must be advocates and examples for our children.  They break through this barrier and encourage our kids to be their best, after all they are our future.

I know this post doesn't relate to business analysis directly but how many times have we been judged as BA's before we even walk into the room or conduct our first meeting?  How did that make you feel?  Now imagine how that would make a child a feel.

Paula Bell

Saturday, July 16, 2011


One of the hardest things on projects is not actually implementing the project but rather dealing with the project dynamics to get the project implemented.  If the project is complex the dynamics are even worse. Personalities, styles and approaches are some of the hardest things to manage on projects.  This is exceptionally true if you have multiple business analysts, project managers, test leads, etc... So how do you manage through the dynamics to get the job done?

  1. If a new person comes on the project team (i.e. business analyst, project manager, etc...) ensure there is a conversation with that individual to find out how this individual works as well as communicate to them how others on the team work.  This may also require the individual to talk directly to the project manager or business, really understand the style.  This will eliminate unnecessary angst later on.
  2. Understand that you may need to tweak your style to fit the project.  This does not mean that you change who you are, but you may have to tailor your approach due to the audience.  This is EXTREMELY important.  As you deal with different stakeholders, different approaches may be required.
  3. It's not about you but rather about successful completion of the project.  If you always remember the end goal it's easier to remember that flexibility will be needed.

People may chalk this up to politics but this is not a political situation this is a situation where the project team needs to figure out how to work with each other.

Project dynamics is something that occurs on every project therefore everyone has to figure out how to navigate through it opposed to fighting through it along the way.

Paula Bell

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Published Article in BA Times

BA times is a business analysis trade magazine that is read all over the nation. I'm very honored to have an article I wrote published.

Check it out:

Friday, July 1, 2011


So why does politics make "Paula Tick"?  Because it can make my job so much harder than it needs to be. The hidden agendas and personal motives are sometimes less to be desired. It would be nice if everyone could get along and truly work towards the same end goal, but that is more a fantasy than a reality in this industry of business analysis and project management. I have found that this sort of thing is heightened if you are involved on projects where what is being developed is replacing jobs, which leads to positions being eliminated. This is when individuals get real creative on how to play the hidden agendas card as they are in self preservation mode, that is providing they are even told which is political in itself in some cases. However, this self preservation mode is what brings pain to those working these projects because it's like walking on egg shells to get what you want because there are certain things you can't say or trouble will come upon your head and it's even worse in cases where people don't know because you can't let anything slip. So how do you navigate through all of this to get your job done? There is really no easy answer to this because you can't control people but you can control how you react to this and you can control yourself.

1. Don't heighten the political game by having your own personal agenda and joining in the politics.
2. Stay focused on your end goal which is project success and partnering with you business partners to obtain that.
3. Try not to get emotional (as you can tell I struggle with this sometimes so I'm preaching to myself right now)

I will admit that politics ticks me off. I'm not the one to really season my words and I'm pretty direct and honest. I'm not the one to hide things from the stakeholders and sponsors, which might be the reason I'm in business analysis and not project management where a lot of this conversations occur. I do believe that despite how good or bad you MUST be honest with your project sponsors to allow them to make good decisions. Don't get caught up in the hype of politics to the point you lose yourself, integrity, ethicsa nd credibility. Do what you know is right though others may not agree. They may get mad but eventually they will be glad you did it. Poltics to me equals personal agendas and hidden motives. No one wants to look bad or fail so the politics card comes in. Whether that means finger pointing to take the focus of you or manipulation to get what you want. Remember the boomerang effect, what you do to others will come back to you in some shape or form.

So let's stop the madness and work with each other to meet the end goal. Let's be strategic, critical thinkers, visionaries and problem solverss. It will make everyone happier and stop ticking people off, like me. 


Paula Bell

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Each Day Is An Interview

Over my career I have learned that how people perceive you is critical to your success. There has been a lot of conversations in the industry about building your personal brand. It's important to understand how others perceive you. Some of things that perceptions stem from are:

1. Your appearance - how do you present yourself to others? Do you take time to dress in a fashion that promotes your professionalism or is your appearance sloppy? People will judge you on the way you look whether it's right or wrong.
2. How you present yourself to others - Are you confident? Do you portray low self esteem? Are you conceited or arrogant? Some of these things can be a turn off to others. Again whether right or wrong.
3. How do you handle situations? - Do you break under pressure? Do you fly off the handle?

These are just a couple of examples. From a professional perspective consider each day an interview. You never know who is watching you and formulating opinions about you. You don't want great opportunities to pass you by because someone has a negative perception of you.

Don't get me wrong, everyone has "off days" but it's very important, especially in this job market to ensure that no matter where you are and no matter who are surrounded by the " best" you is being portrayed.


Paula Bell

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


There is no better feeling than to help someone who doesn't understand a subject matter understand it. Sometimes we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. I had the opportunity to help someone that I'm coaching in the BA space to understand some key concepts of business analysis. This individual is mot new to using the skills of a BA but she is new to the actual concepts and terminology of business analysis. What may come easy to me or someone else that has been in this discipline for awhile is not easy to someone who is new to the discipline. This reminded me of a few things that we sometimes forget, speaking mainly to those who have been in business analysis for while, when working with junior BA's

1. Understand what the person's knowledge area is and help them devise a plan on where they want to go.
2. Be patient as their is tendency to get frustrated if they are not learning as fast as you think they should.
3. Take time to explain things in a way where the individual can understand. Meet the individual where they are at. Give real life examples they can relate to.
4. Give recognition along the way for a job well done
5. Motivate the individual but provide constructive feedback in a communication style it will be accepted.

I know that depending on the environment you are in you may not have time to do all of the above; however, if you can ensure you do because you are helping a fellow business analyst strengthen the business analysis community.

If you are not a BA you can still relate the above to your personal life. Find how you can add value to someone else's life with you own life experiences and work environment.


Paula Bell

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peer Reviews

As a business analyst I tend to take pride of my work. I own what I write. However, there is a lot of benefit of conducting and receiving feedback from peer reviews. If your peer can't understand what you are communicating then there is a good chance others won't as well but it's hard to take that feedback because of the fact you own that work. I know the first time I conducted a peer review I thought I had arisen as a BA. I finally had the senior BA title and I felt like I was better than others. Oh but I had to swallow a piece of humble pie because depending on how you communicate the feedback you can hurt someone's feelings or offend them and that was my first experience. The first peer review I conducted offended the other person. Also, the first peer review feedback I received hurt my feelings because again I thought I had arisen as a business analyst.

I'm by no means saying do not conduct a valid peer review where you provide honest feedback that will provide value to enhance what ever material you are reviewing. Be humble and kind in all you do because it goes a long way.

I have learned that the hard way over the years but once I got it I was more effective as a BA and in my personal life.


Paula Bell

Monday, June 27, 2011


Monday, June 27, 2011
Today was an interesting day.  I have been recovering from a lovely BBQ over the weekend and I must admit have been tired today.  Why does it always seem when you are tired or not feeling well everything hits you at once?  It was slow going for me in the morning but when I got to work I had no time to feel tired.  I had some many requests from so many different people.  I have requests in email, IM, phone calls, conference calls, outstanding items, follow-up items, deliverables assigned to me and others I'm overseeing.  I'm HUGE on prioritization but it got to the point that I didn't even know what to prioritize because everything was URGENT.  

I'm sure we've all felt this way before whether at work or in our personal life but it's hard to prioritize the unknown.  It's also hard sometimes to not show that you are overwhelmed.  So you might ask, "What did you do?"  I did what most people would do, PANIC.  However, I came to the realization, and very quickly I might add, that the things that are coming at you are out of your control.  There are so many hours in the day and the more anxiety or frustration you have the less energy you have to dispense on what you should be truly focusing on.

I can sit here and tell you that though I have been doing this type of work for 15 years that I am use to handling any situation that comes my way but I would be lying to you if I said because I don't know what situation will present itself to me every day.  What I can say though is that I am human and as a human we have emotions and make mistakes and sometimes my emotions overtake logical thinking.  There are a lot of things that can account for you handling situations differently.  Depending on your environment and what is going on in that environment at that time can cause you to handle a situation, that you would be normally rational about, irrationally.  How you feel physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually can affect how you handle those situations.  I see this daily.  Even if you do act irrationally you can still make it right because face it we all have these days.  

What I have learned over the years is that when you feel overwhelmed do the following:

1.     Take a deep breath - it's amazing what this can do for you.
2.     Walk away from what you are working on. 
3.     Consult with a peer and get another perspective on how you are feeling; because I can guarantee you, we have all felt this way at one point or another.
4.     Sit down and list out everything you need to get done and prioritize it.  Ask for help if you find that the list is more than you can accomplish.
5.     Realize that your priority list can change on a whim. Anything can happen at any given time that you are not expecting, so be flexible.

What I have learned if you act irrationally before you can do the above 5 steps:

1.     Calm down and figure out what made you act irrationally and how you won't let it happen in the future.  Learn from your mistake so don't your repeat it. Self-introspection is key because you may not have control over others but you do have control over yourself.
2.     If you have offended anyone, APOLOGIZE.  Make sure to get it right because having good relationships is what makes you successful as a BA.  Be humble and admit you are wrong.
3.     Ask for help.  If you have more on you than you can handle ask for help.  Talk to your manager/supervisor and see if some of your work can be delegated.  Don’t take the whole world on your shoulders.
4.     Prioritize what you have to do and ensure you have a game plan to achieve it.

Trust me; I'm taking my own advice right now.  It's hard when you are overwhelmed and stressed but there are things you can do to alleviate those feelings.  I'm here to tell this is not the last time you will feel this way.  Don’t let the situation define your reaction but your reaction define the situation.  The better you act the better you can handle the situation.
To my fellow business analysts who are feeling this way stay encouraged and to those who are not business analysts but are following this blog in support of me I say, thank you, and take from this what you can to apply to your personal life.

Talk to you soon!

Paula Bell