A Day In My Life

This blog post originally appeared on August 4, 2010 on BetterProjects.net.

I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post for a while now that chronicles my day as a BA. Below you’ll see my timeline from when I got to work until the time I left. For obvious reasons in protecting confidential information for my employer, I won’t be giving specific details about projects, but I think its an interesting overview of what I do every day.

7:45am = Arrive at work. Wake up the computers and realize that of my two, neither applied overnight all the Microsoft patches for this month. Promptly reboot. The desktop booted and was back up in under 5 minutes. The laptop, which also serves as my email machine, was usable 20 minutes later. You have to love old hardware with lots of boot processes running. While I’m waiting for the laptop to boot, I use the desktop to check up on what technology news hit in the overnight hours. My news reader cleared, its time to get down to work.

8:00am = Check my work spam filter. Looks like I’ve only got one support issue stuck in it. I release it and 5 minutes later, once the laptop is up and going, check out what happened. Looks like a misconfiguration in a system, so I update the setting, email the person back and let them know the problem is resolved.

8:10am = Begin the gauntlet of vendor emails. None of them are exceedingly difficult, just numerous. I respond to each, giving out information as needed and making decisions as required.

8:50am = Walk down to the helpdesk in search of one of my stakeholders. Turns out he’s at team standup, which happens every day at 8:45am, but I forgot to look at the clock before walking down the hallway. My mistake, I’ll come back later. Spend a few minutes with a technician gathering some data to take back to my desk and email to another vendor.

9:00am = Vendor emails complete. Open up the new requirements simulation tool I’ve been tinkering with for a few months and spend a little time learning a few new things. The tool seems to be very thorough in its capabilities and functions, but the documentation is sorely lacking. The company website is no help, either, as the tool is a freebie meant to entice organizations into purchasing the more robust products they sell. They have no incentive to provide documentation on how to use their free product as they want you to buy something that has lots of documentation. Sad. Despite this, I do manage to uncover a few items I had not yet realized were there and my respect for the designers of the tool increased. I’m thinking that after years of looking for a requirements tool that meets my needs, I am closer than I have ever been to finding one.

9:30am = Try my walk to the helpdesk again. My stakeholder happens to be in a deep conversation with one of his team members about an upcoming project that will impact that team member’s team. I watch someone who is quite skilled at allaying fears work his magic. He eloquently points out that those in a support role such as theirs can raise red flags when they see problems and escalate to their management, but they will be unable to effect change on their own. Its a frustrating position to be in and he expresses his understanding of the feelings of the team member and helps them to understand it isn’t their fault nor will they be held accountable if the project does have issues at the time of go-live. Its always good for me to be reminded that, even if it isn’t about a project I’m currently working on, my work has a real and lasting impact, hopefully for good, on many people. It is at my own peril that I take the fears of those people lightly.

Once that conversation is complete, my stakeholder and I move into his office to discuss a voicemail that landed on me at quitting time the prior day. I didn’t understand why he was involved but wanted to ensure we were not working at cross purposes nor were we duplicating efforts. We rehash his involvement and determine a course to take from there.

Our conversation then turned to some changes occurring in some of my own projects. Because his teams are responsible for all the work my team produces, I wanted his thoughts on how those changes might impact his team. He has been a fixture in the company for many years and is an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding political and policy decisions made over the last decade and a half. Besides the historical underpinnings for decisions, he also provides an immense knowledge base for operational issues and can make recommendations that almost always pan out correctly.

10:15am = Return to my desk. Check the area code of that vmail from the previous day and realize I will have to wait until after lunch to return that phone call. Notice that in my absence, I have another vmail. This time it is a PM with a question about some research I’ve been doing on the side. Turns out his boss’ boss wants additional information. We kick around ideas for a while and come up with a strategy. I fire up the SQL editor, modify a query and pull back another revision of this custom report.

10:30am = Look through my open item backlog and begin to sift the pages of completed items and find any thing that might still be open. I notice one I wrote down last Friday that was waiting until a developer returned from vacation. I walk a couple isles over, spend 15 minutes discussing an enhancement request with the developer. He’s receptive and will put it on the list. He asks me if I would ask a couple of stakeholders about another idea he had to see if they like it and what tweaks they might want. I add another item to my to-do list in place of the one I just checked off. I review his most recent work, make a couple suggestions on the size of some controls (I’m a UX expert on the side, not really) and congratulate him on an otherwise very nice job.

10:50am = Back at my desk. IM the QA team to see if we’re going out on our usual Thursday lunch. We are. I then begin the creation of a pro/con and potential enhancement list for an existing product that my team develops. Work on this until going to lunch at a little after noon.

1:10pm = Arrive back from lunch, much refreshed from good conversation with good people. I make that call to the west coast and spend a while talking with that client. The call turns into an impromptu conference between a couple different customers. We talk requirements and process, I hang up and wait for them to email me more information.

2:00pm = Start back on the pro/con list, only to be interrupted by a ringing phone 5 minutes into it. Its the PM again, wanting additional revisions to the data. SQL editor, some changes, a new file emailed and 15 minutes gone.

2:20pm = Start back on the pro/con list. Interrupted by a stakeholder at my cubicle who is looking for the manager that sits across from me who is nowhere to be found. He hangs out, talking through other questions he just happened to have for me until the missing manager returns 15 minutes later.

2:35pm = Start back on the pro/con list. 5 minutes later the phone rings again. Its my PM and guess what? Round 3 of changes today. SQL editor, some changes, a new file emailed and another 15 minutes gone.

2:50pm = Start back on the pro/con list. 10 minutes later the phone rings yet again. My boss this time. Time for my mid-year review. I spend the next 15 minutes talking about my work the first half of the year. Things are all good and we then spend the remaining part of the hour discussing upcoming projects and the status of current projects. Good thing I brought my trusty notebook because I pick up 2 more action items.

4:00pm = Cross off one of my action items by catching a colleague on his way out the door. Monopolize 2 minutes of his time answering some questions, delaying his departure for the day. Hey, I’m not leaving yet, so why should he? (Kidding.)

4:10pm = Back at my desk. Yes, you guessed it, there is a vmail from my PM. Round 4 of changes to the data. Same process as last time. While I’m making the changes, the email I asked for during my 1pm conference call finally arrives, but there is nothing I can do about it until tomorrow anyway. Do a quick review of the email with the boss.

4:20pm = Back at my desk, once again starting on that pro/con list. Five minutes later, another vendor email pops up, this time with a dozen questions that need to be answered right now, most of which I had answered multiple times in the past. Spend 20 minutes replying, get an immediate request for clarification, send a response and the phone rings immediately. Spend another 10 minutes talking on the phone with the vendor trying to resolve a process issue. Add another two items to my task list.

4:50pm = Play phone tag with a finance stakeholder trying to answer one of my action items. Eventually catch her as 5pm is reached and hang out until 5:15pm working through a couple of my action items. I write notes to myself on the whiteboard for tomorrow morning and call it a day.

So that was my day. It was a fairly regular one, even if I did get interrupted probably more often than normal. What do your days look like? Let us know in the comments