A Conversation with Peter Gerstbach of IIBA

In April 2015, Version 3 of the Guide to Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) was released; a rich source of knowledge and another good reason for talking to Peter Gerstbach from the IIBA Managing Board, Austria Chapter.

Tanja Weiß: Mr. Gerstbach, you are founder and head of the managing board at IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) Austria Chapter; you are also a consultant, trainer and coach at your own company Gerstbach Business Analyse GmbH, as well as the author of  „Basiswissen Business-Analyse“, released in 2015. In other words you are a true authority in the field of Business Analysis in German speaking countries. Is there a growing demand in companies for Business Analysis knowledge and consulting services?

Peter Gerstbach: I do notice two trends in the area of Business Analysis. One is to look at Business Analysis not as just another way to change IT systems but to take a more holistic approach to it; Business Analysis is a means of finding solutions for all kinds of problems in companies. This requires, of course, employess with the necessary skills, employees with extensive knowledge on the subject matter and expertise in IT, business processes, change management and a variety of soft skills enabling them to effect changes in organizations. 

The other trend is to regard Business Analysis as a core competency, as part of a company and not as something external. Business Analysis knowledge is not to be outsourced to external consultants but put in the hands of company-intern consultants that need no training, that stay with the company after the job has been completed. However, this requires special Business Analysis trainings. 

A Conversation with Peter Gerstbach

Tanja Weiß: In April the new BABOK Guide has been released; 500 pages of advice for business analysts. Six domains, each including four to six tasks each of which are described in detail and enriched with various techniques. My impression while reading the BABOK was that business analysts must be very busy if they want to include all aspects of BABOK in their work! Must business analysts be universal geniuses?

Peter Gerstbach: The times of the renaissance man are over; companies and organizations are increasingly complex and the tasks of individual roles are much more specific. Specialists are in high demand.

Tanja Weiß: In other words…

Peter Gerstbach: Business Analysts do not need to be experts for each domain; one of their strenghts is tobe able to burrow themselves in to new areas anyway. What they do need is the knowledge about where to get the information they need, enabling them to elicit requirements and support companies effectively.

Tanja Weiß: So what is the purpose of BABOK?

Peter Gerstbach: A lot of people misunderstand the BABOK. The BABOK does not recommend a specific business process but differenciates between various points of view (or perspectives) and contexts, such as Agile, Business Intelligence, IT, Business Architecture and Process Management. All these are examples for fields that can be improved with the help of Business Analysis.

Tanja Weiß: Dissatisfied stakeholders result in a growing demand for effective requirements management, which in turn might be a reason for the growing number of requirements engineering and business analysis certificates and trainings. What is the difference between, for example, the CBAP as offered by the IIBA and the CPRE as offered by the IREB?

Peter Gerstbach: Certificates help companies to compete and to earn their customers’ trust. We recognize a growing demand for our international certificates as well as for the respective trainings. Also, certain certificates are demanded in job advertisings. I regard requirements engineering as an important part of business analysis, but I would never put them on the same level. 

Business Analysis digs deeper; while requirements engineering is mainly about technical systems, business analysis examines the entire company structure. This is also why it is difficult to compare the two certificates. The CBAP® certificate is based on extensive knowledge, skills and experience. It requires 7500 hours of work experience that have to be accounted for – which is the main difference. Holders of the CBAP certificate have not only completed courses or workshops, they are experienced in their field before the trainings even begin. 

Tanja Weiß: On August 20, 2015 an alliance between IIBA and IREB was formed.

Peter Gerstbach: Yes. Both disciplines complement each other perfectly. The aim of this alliance is to create a uniform terminology and to synchronize training and workshop agendas. A very sensible step towards a uniform career path; very often business analysts are former requirements engineers and concern themselves with technical systems. With time they gain economic experience and finally become business analysts, solving problems of companies. 

Tanja Weiß: According to the BABOK Guide, a business analyst’s goal is to increase company value. In other words, they are a change agents. They must be able to motivate people to change. How important are soft skills in this?

Peter Gerstbach: In my opinion the main task for business analysts is stakeholder communication. Empathy, the ability to actively listen and a people-oriented approach are even more important than technical or business-related skills. Still, business analysts do need economic skills helping them to understand the company as well as the specific field they are in. Economic skills can easily be obtained through specialist literature; soft skills are the result of continuous training and experience. This is why we make sure our trainings are a mixture of theoretical and practical knowledge.         

Tanja Weiß: The motto displayed on your website is Knowledge that counts. Sounds good. How do you know what counts?

Peter Gerstbach: By listening to your heart, at least that is what I do. You see, my business card reads Business Analysis Evangelist, not Managing Director. Why? Because it is my vocation. I recommend looking out for the so-called Heureka moment. Very often the stakeholders must be coaxed out of their shell, because things appear to be very complex. Loose ends everywhere. This is why it is important to explain interdependencies to stakeholders, helping them understand why change is necessary and what they can contribute to it. 

The task of business analysts is to turn a ball of wool into a long, straight thread, releasing a lot of energy and getting stakeholders hooked on the undertaking. 

 

Tanja Weiß: Thank you for this interesting conversation.

Peter Gerstbach: Thanks for the invitation! 

 

Tanja Weiß is in charge of all microTOOL news, product information and events, on paper and online, as well as for trade fairs and workshops. She studied dramatics, English and German. After working as an event coordinator as well as in PR, she earned a degree in Public Relations moved on to IT.

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