“I was looking for a better way to bring value to the organization and a better way to make myself relevant. Uh, I’m 55 years old now, so I have to, I had to figure out a way to stay relevant as a, uh, older professional or, or aging professional so that you know, I can make a living and do what I need to do until retirement. And I felt that being able to broaden my skillset significantly, what would help that? And that’s, that’s when I started digging into to business architecture.”
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Hi everybody and welcome to the traceability podcast. I’m your host, Tracie Edwards. Today our guest is Doug Goldberg. Doug is a well known business analyst, trainer and consultant. Uh, he’s worked with Bridging the Gap and Laura Brandenburg and recently received his Business Architecture certificate. So welcome Doug, we’re excited to have you here and hear your story.
Doug Goldberg (00:35):
Thank you. I appreciate you having me on the session, Tracy.
So I know you’ve been a BA for a long time and you’ve gotten to a point in your career where you’ve got some influence in the BA community and I just wanted to kind of maybe start back at the very beginning. How did you get to be a BA? I know that at one point from your conversation with Yamo you had indicated that you were a chef, and so how did you go from being a chef to being a BA and et cetera?
Well, that was a, that was a long time ago. Yeah, I was a sous chef for awhile while I was in school. It’s really hard work and I gotta hand it to the people that do that for a lifetime. But I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t for me. And I started working in communications, corporate communications started, uh, working in over time. I worked for a small company in the Dallas area that needed some help running their software for healthcare. And I fell into that because I became a power user at a local hospital and they needed somebody to write their user manual and do everything. So that was early technical writing, configuration management, things like that. And that, that just kind of grew and I became their SME if you will, went out to customer sites and that. Then they asked me to write their online help for their software.
So a little more technical writing, a few gigs like that became more advanced work in those areas. And eventually I heard the term a business analyst and started looking into that a little bit more. And it was surprisingly just like what I was already doing. Uh, cause I was already kind of pushing the boundaries of what I could do with, with the writing aspect and realizing that there was a lot to be said from more of a technical lane. Like the technical team was, would call in the technical writer at the last minute, you know, right before they’re ready to roll out and deploy their software back when it was on floppy disks. But they really, they had a lot to say to be included in the technical writing for their customers. And so I started to do some of that for different firms and I realized that it wasn’t quite touch the software, figure out how to use it and write it up. There was a little bit more to it than that. That was the early days of I guess becoming a business analyst. I did several years of that and then I got really worked up one year and I thought, you know, I’m at the top of my career and I’m never going to get any further. This was 2007 or 2004 sorry, I decided I’m going to become a coder and boy was that a mistake.
I started learning it from the ground up with a mentor and I hated it. It was terrible. But I will tell you that it’s probably the best experience to take forward as a business analyst because I realize I could have some intelligent conversations with the technical team and keep them in check while they kept me in check, you know? So we were on level playing ground at that point and that really helped my career going forward because I became kind of a cross beat of functional and technical analyst and it just kind of grew from there over time. One company after another. And I’ve been really fortunate and I’ve had falling into some roles and I’ve gotten some roles that I didn’t think I could do that were really a stretch. I’ve been real fortunate to find some really good positions, get good promotions, earn a good living, and do something that I, I really truly love doing.
I want to go back to something that you mentioned where kind of a at one point, you sort of had enough with the business analysis, kind of segued your career a little bit. I think it’s interesting to kind of point out that I think a lot of us feel that way. Business Analysis is communication intensive and, and sometimes that communication can be a challenge and you can feel like you’re sort of bumping up against the closed door kind of thing. That you, you know, were kind of willing to pivot and try something else to see if you could sort of relieve some of that tension that you were feeling and, and such.
And even better that I could come back with a new insight into what I was in new appreciation for what I was doing before and just kind of lost sight of that.
And I think that that’s just, you know, sort of an ebb and flow of a career and yeah. Awesome that you were able to recognize that. So have you always been in the healthcare space?
Speaker 3 (05:52):
No, I did that for five years. Six years, six years. And then I moved into, um, a consulting company initially as a consultant and then I moved to the insurance side and, uh, became a global operations analyst, which is, which is what I’m doing now. And I built a really good core of, uh, business and technical colleagues in my organization that, uh, not only trust me, but they rely on me to give them the straight scoop on not only what they want to hear, but what they don’t want to hear. And they know that, um, through that relationship building that, uh, they’re going to get it. They appreciate it. They just don’t always want to appreciate it. They, they know that the information that they get from me is going to be something that they can utilize to mitigate risks foremost and plan a schedule. So being able to, uh, craft those and maintain those relationships to the degree and to the breadth of what I’ve experienced has been really fulfilling. Being in the training and mentoring realm of what I do to the relationship aspect and the people aspect is very important to me.
Absolutely. And I think it’s interesting as you talk about, um, you know how they do appreciate the, the honest communication because I think often that’s something we might get knocked for saying perhaps saying no too often or bringing up the risks and that kind of thing. But it’s also often the thing that in the long run ends up getting appreciated. What are some of the techniques that you use for some of that influencing without authority? I know it’s something Bob the BA talks a lot about, influencing without authority and, and that kind of thing. What are some of the techniques that you have found useful for that?
The biggest thing I pay attention to is not playing one against the other, cause that in, in the internal organization that I work in, there’s a number of geographies. There’s a number of regions in those geographies, their COO leadership, and they all have different agendas. Even along the same initiative, they have different agendas and different needs. What I’ve tried to do is be as impartial as I can when it comes to one against the other. I try to actively listen and I’m, I’m recognized, you know, based on annual review comments and things like that. I’m, I’m recognized for bringing consensus and being the level headed in, uh, intense situations to draw out common understanding and, and highlight issues that, um, one business unit might not recognize from the other business unit because you know, there’s silos that go up, people can only see what they can see sometimes. So I think they have an appreciation for a broader view of the organization that they work in simply by working on these overarching projects that I happen to be part of.
Well it sounds like from that perspective that you were sort of uniquely positioned or at another pivot point moving into the Business Architecture space.
Yes. And that was a direct result of the product owner piece. So the short version is as the product owner on these integrated projects, I began to see things that weren’t going correctly and it was very difficult at the time to really articulate what was wrong. Like I knew, I knew in my gut something was wrong. Like things weren’t lining up, people weren’t talking to people. People didn’t know about initiatives that they should have known about because we were bringing them in on the same thing. There were, there were a lot of gaps in system coverage in data overlaps or gaps in data coverage that just didn’t match up. And as a business analyst, I was really struggling to articulate the, the scope and the depth of what the problems were because, uh, for instance, one of the projects was an enterprise integration across two companies with 22 systems.
So there were, there were a lot of pieces and parts that were difficult to really point your finger at. You know, that’s where the problems start. And doing root cause analysis on a moving target was almost impossible. So that difficulty and being able to raise the flag and, which I consider communicating risks to leadership and obligation to the business analyst. And so I could go to them and say there’s a risk. And as soon as they said, well, what is it? You know, I kind of floundered. So I began to look into why I was struggling to be able to tell that story of what was going on and I, I kind of stumbled across business architecture. I realized that the nature of the business architecture constructs and the framework and the ability to use that as a communication vehicle because it’s, it brings transparencies to the, to the parts of an organization that are often hidden from view, from a strategic planners or from a tactical project work.
Being able to tie all that stuff together would allow me to put the pieces together to fill in the holes in my own story. And the more I got into it, the more I realized that this was the piece that was really missing for me. And you know, the other side to it is that I was already, um, at the point in my career I’d been doing it at that point, probably 22, 23 years. Sometimes the work can be redundant. Sometimes the work can be at both ends of the spectrum. In my case, it was kind of the same thing day after day. And it was a lot of, as we talked about with the product owner, a role, it was a lot of, um, attention and political balancing and things like that. And I was looking for a better way to bring value to the organization and a better way to make myself relevant. Uh, I’m 55 years old now, so I have to, I had to figure out a way to stay relevant as a, uh, older professional or, or aging professional so that you know, I can make a living and do what I need to do until retirement. And I felt that being able to broaden my skillset significantly, what would help that? And that’s, that’s when I started digging into to business architecture. And that was about two years ago.
I went through a lot of that same thing a couple of years ago in the organization I was in. It could get so siloed and you would work on so many small tactical things that, uh, I often wondered how was I providing value and how did the things that I was working on help the company and help the company in their goals. And, and I actually, uh, got my masters in Enterprise Architecture because of that looking more like you at the Business Architecture and how can we align the organization, that kind of thing. So I’m 50, so I’m going through a lot of the same, uh, you know, preparation for retirement and preparation for, you know, sustaining the career even longer term and that kind of thing. So I, I very much um, relate to that. So where do you think you’re going to end up going with the Business Architecture? Is there a, is there a role that you foresee in your current organization or…
actually I’m building it. I think when I was, when I started the business architecture, uh, journey, if you will, the first thing I did was reach out and get a mentor. As she started taking me through things, what I realized was I was struggling to put concepts to, you know, where the rubber meets the road, make sense of what the concepts in real life. And so what I did was I would listen to what she was saying. I would go and kind of regurgitate it and digest it. And then I started building out a rudimentary business architecture framework for the company I work in just to have something to say, okay, this is what I see every day. This is how it lines up to what she’s teaching me. And it became something that I could as, as I grew. And that’s not, it’s not real big by any means, but the, some of the key pieces are in there like capabilities and what I thought were value streams for my organization.
And it changed the way I thought because I was building it in and having to think through a how things are supposed to be built and uh, describe. So as a group, pieces started to come together as I crossed map them. And then I realized that I was at the point where I could start telling this story to, uh, some of my, uh, local, um, internal management teams to help solve small problems. And last year our small conversations like that little 30 minute conversations here and there and they happen and then nothing happens. They happen and then nothing happens. But I learned that people started to talk and share that, you know, there was a different perspective being shared by me and you know, my boss got me, uh, some exposure at the time, uh, with some of the leaders, other managers and leaders. Take a listen to this.
You should think about it. And even if it doesn’t make sense, you’re getting that message out there a little bit at a time. And then we had some movement just in November. By April this coming April, I should be in a position to be the organization’s voice, a Business Architecture. Now I don’t know what that means yet, but I don’t, I don’t really care. You know, it’s going to give me an opportunity to, to practice and to add value to my organization. And you know, one thing we didn’t touch on before is we were talking about problems, right? And difficulties in organizations. And I think it needs to be said that even well run organizations like mine and probably like yours, they’re still problems. Nothing’s ever perfect. Right? And the people that are tasked to manage and plan and run the organizations I found, at least in my organization, they didn’t, they didn’t have half the chance they needed to be as successful as they are because they don’t have the information that they need, whether it’s systemic or you know, functional capability or data we have, we have the ability to make them more successful by giving them better information about different things.
And the architecture lays all that out for us to be able to do that. And it’s been quite an enlightening journey, I must say. And I also want to say it was very, it’s very different than business analysis.
It’s definitely a different Headspace.
Yeah, I did not know that when I started. I thought I was a shoe in, but boy
and I’m still trying to get there. Sometimes it’s um, sometimes hard to sort of pull the head up and be able to verbalize what it is that you’re saying and, and give it the, you know, the big picture of it that needs to be given and, and that kind of thing. But it sounds like you’re well on your way and that’s awesome that your organization is giving you some recognition for that.
They’ve been very supportive. They don’t know what it is they’re supporting, but there’ve been very supportive.
That’s terrific. That’s sort of a, a lesson I think for organizations and in general sometimes. Um, they uh, would like to sort of keep us in a BA box kind of thing and, and have us doing sort of a, the one thing that’s in the job description and uh, having, uh, the mentors that are willing to listen to you and willing to champion you and the mindset that’s open to that is really so important.
I would agree. And being able to have the opportunity to have those conversations, even if they got, they go nowhere, I always went in with the thought that I’m having the conversation. I’m being able to try to sell the value of business architecture and business analysis at the same time. And if they don’t do anything with it, at the very minimum, I’m getting practice in that elevator pitch. Right. I’m getting better every time. I do it. It’s been really rewarding. Nothing’s really come of it yet. It’s just little wins along the way that hopefully will add up to something good.
I think that’s another important thing to call out as there is, there is movement. There is um, it can often feel like there’s not movement, but there is progress. It may seem slow, but the progress is progress. As far as lessons learned, uh, maybe as we wrap up, um, as you’ve seen in your career and experienced and have some feelings about it, what are some of the sort of lessons learned for you that you would maybe share with the other Business Analysts as they run into some of these same philosophical questions?
I think there’s probably two I can quickly call out. One is don’t ever get complacent and that’s much easier to do in a corporate environment than it is if you’re a contractor or a freelancer because you’re, you’re in that box by default, right? And you’re with the same people every day. And it’s just human nature to sit back on your laurels and run the course that is changing is continuous learning becomes more prevalent, but it’s still very easy to do. And I realized some time ago that I needed to make some changes, you know, to, to keep up with what was going on. And it’s still extremely difficult and I study something every day. The other one is that the, the effort they put into being accountable to yourself for your career path is proportional to what you’ll get out of it. And if you don’t really put a lot of effort in and you, you’re on the boards or you don’t network or you’re not really staying abreast of current activities here, your value declines for what you can produce for yourself to keep yourself relevant.
And it also declines for what you can produce for your customers and stakeholders. So it makes it a double hard on you to do the best that you can and be the best that you can for yourself. And when I, um, manage or mentor people, you know, my point of view is, is push yourself hard cause they’re always concerned about their goals, you know, their annual goals and everything. I said, push yourself hard to train yourself in something new and something interesting and something relevant and the organization will, uh, by default reap the benefits from you and you’ll be a much happier individual cause you’d be doing something for yourself. That’s, that’s been kind of a guiding principle for me and I’m glad it has because where I work, there is no business architecture training. There’s not even the term business architecture. Really everything I’ve done for me has been eye on my initiative, right? They’ve paid for some of the training. I’ve eaten some of the training myself, but the, the satisfaction of having gotten to where I am now is fantastic in the satisfaction. Knowing that I can get back to the business and help them relate, succeed is a really exciting,
that is so exciting and such a great feedback for those who are listening and contemplating their next moves and hopefully, uh, they will, uh, embrace that message. Thank you so much for being with us today for, for time to share your journey with us. How can folks find you on LinkedIn?
Doug: I am at firstname.lastname@example.org
great. We will make sure that the, that message gets out there and if you have liked what you’ve heard from Doug today or there’s some message that resonated with you, send me an email at Tracie, T R a C I email@example.com or follow us on Facebook at traceability podcast. So thanks Doug, so much for your time. Good luck with your business architecture journey.
Thank you for having me as a guest.