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Entrepreneurial Business Analysis Interview with Richard Larson

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During PMI’s 2015 Global Congress, Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA was asked to do an interview to discuss his paper and presentation “Entrepreneurial Business Analysis Practitioner” (co-written with Elizabeth Larson).

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Cornelius Fichtner of PM Podcast and Richard Larson of Watermark Learning

The paper explores several aspects of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs and what it means for business analysis. Our firm belief is that by adopting a more entrepreneurial way of working, practitioners will be more effective and organizations will benefit.

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Cornelius Fichtner: Hello everyone and welcome back to the Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com.We are coming to you live from the Exhibit Hall here at the 2015 PMI Global Congress in Orlando, Florida at Disneyworld. And sitting next to me is Richard Larson from Watermark Learning. Hello, Richard.

Richard Larson: Hello Cornelius, glad to be here.

Cornelius Fichtner: Good morning. Good morning.

Richard Larson: Good morning.

Cornelius Fichtner: My first question to everybody at the congress is, what’s coming our way next year? What do you see as a project management trend for 2016? What do our listeners have to be aware of?

Richard Larson: Well, I think the trend has been brewing for awhile in terms of project managers being more business leaders rather than project implementers per se. And that you can see that happening with the new CCR changes from PMI in terms of real big emphasis on leadership. And so that, the presentation that I’m doing, we’ll get into this question a bit later, I understand, but applies to project managers as much as business analysts in terms of being more entrepreneurial. And that’s just one manifestation that the leadership trend. There are many others. There’s speakers like my wife Elizabeth who’s going to be talking about innovation that’s certainly key and that’s hot and how can we help the business succeed. Over and above, we’re just doing our job as project implementers.

Cornelius Fichtner: All right. Your talk is about Entrepreneurial Business Analysis Practitioners. Why did you choose this topic? What’s your interest in this?

Richard Larson: Well, it came together when I was asked to do a key note at a business analysis conference last fall in New Zealand. And we’re talking about different topics like innovation, and they said, no, no, we’re already been there, done that, which proves kind of interesting. They needed something beyond that, and they thought that an entrepreneurial element to it, knowing that I was an entrepreneur, having been running a company for 23 years, would know something about the topic, which is true. But then how can a business analyst or how can people practicing business analysis be more entrepreneurial in what they do? And so the talk kind of grew from that and I really got interested in it. And I have been writing a series of articles in BA Times and Project Times over the last year on this topic. And I hope to have an e-book with my wife Elizabeth being published at some point around the first of the year or so. And it does really grown a lot in my mind in terms of more than just being entrepreneurial after you leave your job as a BA or a PM. But applying it to entrepreneurs on the job, which I really taken it to a new level in terms of focusing on entrepreneurship where people who are project professionals let’s say, it doesn’t matter if you’re highly a business analyst or project manager. But if you do any kind of project related work which this congress is probably focused on, of course, can be entrepreneurs within your organization as intrapreneur.

Cornelius Fichtner: So the presentation you’re doing and our discussion here is also interesting for project managers because after all, we are the Project Management Podcast and not the Business Analysis Podcast

Richard Larson: Right, yeah. And to some extent, the name Business Analysis in the title, I hope it doesn’t dissuade project managers from attending. And we picture it that way in part because we’ve been working with Dave Big whose in-charge of the business analysis portfolio here at PMI. And wanted to help him with the business analysis track but it really is applicable in anybody in a project role.

Business Analysis Resources

Cornelius Fichtner: All right. Let’s get in to your presentation. What do business analysis and entrepreneurship have in common?  

Richard Larson: Well, the basic course, that both are involved in product development. And whether it’s from product inception to the requirements to product testing and product performance, there’s a lot in common. Plus, entrepreneurs have a number of traits and skills and techniques that map very closely to business analysis. I published a book along with my wife Elizabeth done on her website, there are 15 or 16 very similar traits. And as I was studying the topic and getting ready for that key note in New Zealand, the list kept growing and growing and I was just astounded by how much in common. And not only business analysis but project management as well, there are many parallel traits. And so in the presentation here at congress, I boil it down to six core ones.

Cornelius Fichtner: All right. That’s perfect segue because that’s my next question. What are those traits?  

Richard Larson: Well, a number of things, one is they both help foster innovation. Now the paper has, you know, a bigger list. But again, innovation is an important one where people who work on product development in companies help understand problems. come up with solutions, recommend them for, you know, project proposals, I say, or business cases and so forth. Observation and experience, they’re very important for entrepreneurs to be able to look around, take our experience and use it to a new situation. But people in organizations have that experience as well and so I think it’s an important trait in both realms.

Cornelius Fichtner: And even if I think of myself as a project manager in this environment, these are the things that I have to do – observation and innovation. I have to think about these things. as I’m running my projects.

Richard Larson: I’m sure. And in benchmarking, I would throw in to that as well.

Cornelius Fichtner: And so often, we project managers, we were both has, we’re project managers and business analyst at the same time.

Richard Larson: Right. And so, now you’re making me regret the title. Because it’s really broader than just business analyst. You know, there’s a whole lot of planning and research and as I mentioned earlier, product testing is similar. Influencing skills, you have to be able to influence your stakeholders on projects whether you’re a project manager or a business analyst and certainly, as an entrepreneur. And lastly, communication skills, I think, in some of the research I’ve done, that’s listed as the number one trait amongst entrepreneurs. And I think, that’s essential for BAs and PMs. Somebody once said that 90% of the project manager’s job is communication. And of the communication skills, one book cited listening skills is the most important skill for entrepreneur which I have to say it’s true. And certainly for project professionals, well, there’s a tremendous overlap between entrepreneurship and project work especially business analysis and project management.

Cornelius Fichtner: What I like about the skills that you have in the paper is you divided them up into three categories: ability to analyze and conceptualize, business skills and then also, interpersonal skills. Did that just grow naturally out of the ones you found or…?  

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