One thing that seems to be consistent in just about every organization is a sense of busy-ness. Rarely do people sit around idle, waiting for the next piece of work to arrive, most organizations are hives of activity with many people trying to balance operational responsibilities against project work. This is particularly problematic for people who are juggling multiple process improvement initiatives, particularly when other projects or responsibilities are looming too.
When life is as hectic as this, it is very easy to neglect professional development. Justifying time to spend on learning seems frivolous when project deadlines are closing in. Yet this ‘important but not urgent’ activity really is vital – if we keep ourselves sharp we can often undertake our work more efficiently and effectively – meaning we actually free up time in the long-term. As business and process analysts this is crucial – if we can get even better at our work, this will have a positive impact for us and for our business stakeholders. It really can be a virtuous cycle.
Yet the phrase “professional development” often conjures up images of costly classroom based learning and days out of the office. Of course, classroom based learning can be extremely effective – but this is only one possible avenue for professional development. There are many excellent resources available for business and process analysts that can be accessed without even leaving your desk. The fact that you are reading this blog now shows that you are already undertaking informal professional development, which is fantastic. It is well worth browsing around this site for articles and eBooks that are of interest. And be sure to bookmark it, as we release new content very regularly! Of course, there are other blogs out there too – and a quick search will reveal a treasure trove of useful articles. The question is which articles are most credible/useful? If there are hundreds of thousands (or millions) of search results, which do we take time to read?
Tapping Into a Global Community of Practice
This is where it is extremely useful to tap into one of the many global practitioner communities that exist. Social media is an excellent way of finding practitioners who have similar professional interests as you, and exchanging ideas, problems and looking for relevant articles, conferences and papers. I am sure this happens on just about every social network, but personally, I find LinkedIn excellent (both in terms of keeping in touch with other professionals, and also joining and following discussion groups) and Twitter. On Twitter, the particular hashtags I find useful include “#BAOT” (Business Analysis On Twitter), #BPM (Business Process Management) and #Bizarch (Business Architecture). However, I have found the key with Twitter is to use hashtags to find other practitioners to follow. This can be a useful way of exchanging links and ideas.
As well as online social networking, there are of course many e-learning options available – many of which have ‘modular’ offerings that can be easily fitted in amongst other work. However, not all professional development has to happen in the virtual world. It is, of course still extremely beneficial to meet people in the real world too.
There are a whole range of professional associations that cover topics related to business process analysis, management and improvement. To name just a few: the Association of Business Process Management Professionals, Business Architecture Guild, International Institute of Business Analysis, The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), and many, many more. Many of these associations arrange events and conferences, and these can be useful places to get a short, sharp immersion in a range of topics. They are also excellent places to meet other practitioners and expand a professional network.
After all, we talk about communities of practice within an organization. We also benefit from a global community of practice beyond our own organizations too. By opting in, we gain the ability to contribute to and learn from a vibrant, self-organizing community.