Q&A: Marsha Hughes of PDC's Business Analyst Certificate Program

Q&A: Marsha Hughes of PDC’s Business Analysis Certificate Program


The Professional Development Center (PDC) is proud to count Marsha Hughes as one of its instructors for the Business Analysis Certificate Program (BACP).

For over 28 years, Marsha has built an impressive resume of experience working in software, technology, telecommunications and Internet business sectors at such companies as Texas Instruments, NYNEX (now Verizon), Teraquest and Vignette. She’s also the co-inventor on a 1993 patent for Computer-Aided Decision Making and a contributor to the upcoming version 3.0 of the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) Guide and a contributor to the Agile Extension to the BABOK. The BABOK is an industry standard published by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®).

**Learn more about the Business Analysis Certificate Program when you enroll in PDC’s free information session on June 19**

Last fall, Marsha and fellow instructor Mary Ann Crow began teaching the course in the Business Analysis Certificate Program (BACP) for local professionals seeking to gain skills in the emerging business analysis (BA) field. Individual workers can sign up or organizations can send their up-and-coming team members to learn business analysis fundamentals.

What is Business Analysis?

Marsha Hughes: Business Analysis, or BA, has gone through an evolution. When I first started doing it, it was called Requirements Analysis, and the approach was to look at the requirements of a product one component or tool at a time. I like the term ‘BA’, because it’s broader. You are looking at the context of how products or services are being used in the business. You have to have a holistic view of the business so the system or product can be put to best use. It’s more aligned to a business’ overall goals.

When did you begin teaching the Business Analysis Certificate Program? What got you interested in it as subject matter?

This is a program that’s been revamped with new curriculum in the past year, but I’ve been teaching BA classes at UT-PDC since 2007. I’ve been teaching and conducting business analysis for most of my career. When I started in the 1980s, those types of positions didn’t exist. But increasingly companies wanted a dedicated person to talk to their users to figure out what they needed. I enjoyed doing that, and I was interested and curious about how people worked and what they needed. That’s how I started as a Business Analyst.

Why is BA important in today’s economic and business landscape?

It’s important because there is a lot of money being spent on IT in most organizations, so if that money is being misspent and not helping a business do what it needs to do, it’s a waste of funds. There are a lot of instances where companies spent money on technology that ended up not helping them. Good analysis helps remedy that situation by defining how the technology is going to be used and what it’s going to be used for. Organizations want to know where their money is going and how it’s being spent to enhance the bottom line. Business Analysis keeps companies from wasting money on IT projects.

What types of employees or positions are best suited for business analysis?

I think you want someone who is naturally curious and likes people. Because a lot of it is talking with users and getting a good understanding of what they need and how they work. You have to understand the context of how people work, so you have to be a good communicator and be willing to dig deep into different work environments. And you have to be able to be a bridge from the users to the technical team. You have to stand up for the users and ensure their needs are met on the technical side. The challenge is to have a foot in both worlds. You need to be able to communicate effectively on both sides.

What is something you hope all of your students take away from the program?

I think the main thing is that business analysis is about communicating effectively. Traditionally, BAs have produced reams of documentation, which is not necessarily the best way to communicate. You have to understand your audiences and use the best models and most effective modes of communication. You have to know the best methods of communication for both of your audiences - the business and the technical side.

Can you provide a real life example of how Business Analysis transformed a company or even an individual career?

I was on a project at Nynex, now part of Verizon, and we were asked to build a system for their engineering group. I was working with a team of engineers to analyze the proposed approach and see if it would work for them. We discovered that the original approach wouldn’t have worked. If we had proceeded with the project, then it would have been almost useless. Working closely with those engineers kept us from wasting a lot of money. That’s the goal of BA: to avoid costly mistakes, or avoid building systems that don't meet the needs of users. We went back to the steering committee and told them it wouldn’t work and showed them an approach that would work, and developed that solution. I think a good BA can save the world from bad software!

What do you enjoy about teaching the Business Analysis Certificate Program?

I take a hands-on approach. I don’t think you can learn something unless you are doing it. I think it’s interesting seeing how different people think through a problem and do the analysis. I enjoy working with people and seeing how they approach the problem. In my class, people work in teams, and I enjoy the social aspect of it. BAs need to have tool box of different techniques because every project is different, so if I can expand their toolbox for them, then I’m happy about that. I also learn from them in the process of expanding their toolbox or skill set.

To learn more about the Business Analysis Certificate Program, enroll in PDC’s free information session on June 19 or contact Irene Cuevas at 512-232-5986 or irene.cuevas@austin.utexas.edu.


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