Would you like to develop your BA contracting business so that you become even more credible, with a network of supportive peers behind you all the way?
If so, you’re in the right place at the right time. The Outstanding Outsiders programme is starting again soon. Read on…
As a BA contractor or consultant, you’re really on your own. You know that it is impossible to be perfect all the time, but you feel you owe it to your clients to do a great job always, making a difference for the organisations you work with. This work is hard.
Which of these apply to you?
- Isolation and the lack of a team In the old days, as an employee, you had a team to bounce ideas off, to ask about their experiences and to share things with. Now as a contractor, you’re often an outsider and it can feel quiet alienating. Many crave ongoing relationships with colleagues that last longer than contracts.
- Lack of career development As a contractor, it’s easy to get stuck at the same level you entered the market at. With clients wanting people who have worked on precisely the same projects beforehand, it’s easy to become stuck in a ‘ground-hog day’ role, with no progression.
- Personal development? Many contractors focus any training that they do on their specialist areas, but realise that their in-house counterparts have access to all sorts of personal skills development, from personality types to dealing with conflict. They’re missing out on what can make the difference for the most challenging and senior work.
- Wanting to be perfect to deliver a superb service for their clients. Many of the best BA contractors would like to enhance their skills and knowledge to cover whatever their clients need and feel bad if they can’t do this well. Most contractors feel they have to prove themselves all the time, even though to survive in this field they have shown that they have superb skills.
- Need to hit the ground running There is no six month learning curve for a new contractor. The client expects you to hit the ground running.
- Training It’s hard to find good training that covers what you need when you need it. Much is just too basic for you. If you do find good training, you need to miss out a day’s pay for each day of training. You crave a way to get good technical input just when you need it.
- Paying full prices for courses and conferences If you’re a contractor, you need to pay the full, open prices for courses as you can’t bring training ‘in-house’ as companies can. Conferences such as BA2014 often extend discounts for multiple bookings from one company. Contractors miss out again.
- I have a Business? Contractors often move from contract to contract with no overarching plan or vision for their business. Yes, a contracting business is a business. Where would you like to be in five or ten years time? If you are clear now, you are more likely to put in place the steps to achieve your goals.
- Insecure While the rate for a contract might be good, it’s always only temporary. What will happen next?
- IR35 For many contractors, with just one client at a time, IR35 and other legislation can make them feel distinctly uncomfortable.
And last, but definitely not least, many of the best BA contractors feel:
- Lacking in Confidence Although your friends probably think that you’re really confident to be a contractor in a tough economy, there are times when you wonder just how good you are.
These challenges are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s tough as a BA contractor out there at the moment!
Contracting doesn’t have to be all challenges.
While it is tough, there are many compensations. Remember leaving the world of being a full time employee? I bet you don’t miss the office politics? It’s great to be able to be neutral in an office. As a contractor, you are your own boss, ultimately, and you can decide when to work and when not to.
With a network of supportive peers in place, there would always be someone who you can ask for up to the minute advice about any complex situation or technical topic and, of course, you’d be happy to reciprocate if they needed help with your own specialism.
If you had a clear vision of where your business as a BA contractor was heading, you could gradually specialise, increasing your rates over time and becoming quite selective about who you worked for. Becoming a thought leader in your area could really help this consultancy style work to develop. Perhaps you might only work a few days a month on site, charging a fee which left you enough time to write books, spend time with your family, working pro bono for charities you support or whatever suited you? Perhaps you’d choose to work virtually and get more done. It’s up to you where you’d like to go!
Companies now are looking for far more than BA contractors sitting on seats. They’re asking for more from their contractors and recruitment agencies. Many companies are looking for knowledge transfer from contractors to their own people. They’re looking for contractors who are true business professionals, willing to work not just on day rates. If you can demonstrate that you are an outstanding outsider, with the skills, knowledge and support to be able to transfer knowledge and develop their people on top of getting the job done, you’ll be at the front of the queue. This will help you with IR35 as well, which can’t be a bad thing!
Yes, as a contractor, you have a lot of freedom to choose your own course for the future. Are you going to use this to head where you want to go, or just wander from contract to contract?
In 2007, just before the credit crunch hit, I left a great job at a multinational company that I really enjoyed working for, and set up as an independent. Since then, I’ve worked for companies all around the world in the fields of business analysis and project management, usually developing skills with others.
I was crazy when I set up on my own: rather than using my network and working as a contractor, I decided only to work with new companies. Instead of using agencies, I learnt how to do my own marketing, using systems and processes to raise my profile. It could have gone horribly wrong and, if so, the end result would have been me looking for another job and considerably poorer!
But it didn’t. It worked. My profile was raised in my chosen area: supporting people working on tricky projects. (By tricky projects, I mean risky projects with ambiguous requirements and virtual teams and stakeholders who aren’t convinced.) My multinational clients often approach me directly when they have a need I can meet. I’ve been honoured to mentor some exceptional business analysts and project managers individually. My virtual summits in business analysis and virtual working are attended by thousands of people. Recently, my second book came out: ‘Business Analysis and Leadership: Influencing change’, co-edited with James Archer. I also contributed a chapter for the ‘Gower Handbook on People in Project Management’ and my first book was ‘A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management’, co-authored with Ruth Murray-Webster. In December 2013, I toured the Middle East, working with clients and giving a keynote, with time to enjoy the winter sunshine! And all of this has happened during the worse economic downturn for decades.
I really enjoy helping other people succeed and flourish, and, if I don’t know something about business analysis, I can usually put you in touch with someone else who would be able to help you.
For me, two things have made a huge difference:
- the ability to tap into networks of people all over the world, both as peers and potential clients,
- the support of systems, processes and technology, which allow me to do so much more from my attic in a Midlands market town than a tiny business could ever have done in the past.
In 2012, I launched a new, supportive network/hub of contractors in the business analysis space so that they could together overcome the challenges and fulfill their potential to make a huge difference to their clients, their families and the world. This is the Outstanding Outsider programme. I’m ready now to launch Outstanding Outsider groups for 2014 for BA contractors and consultants. You’re invited to read on and see if this would work for you.
The programme builds a network of contractors and consultants working in business analysis.
The programme will provide the space for deep, trusting relationships to build across the network of Outstanding Outsiders. Unlike other networks, yours will have a professional facilitator focusing on this group each week. Penny will support you and your colleagues to co-create what you need as a group.
The areas covered by the programme will be dictated by the needs of the members, based on lessons learned from last year’s successful programme. These could include:
- Introduction: You’ll explore what your strengths are as an individual and as a group, building a shared understanding of the goals and dreams of each person. This is where mutual benefit will begin to arise, as you identify what you have to offer each other throughout the programme. You will build up a picture of the interests and challenges facing each individual and decide what are the highest priorities for your group to tackle.
- Perfect? No! Networked, Yes! Using the identified strengths of the group and a group forum, you’ll work out the best way that you can support each other to deliver the best for your clients. While Penny is able to train many aspects of project management and business analysis just-in-time, you can expect that the network will provide access to a huge range of support in technical and other areas.
- Your Business… Many BA contractors lurch from contract to contract, taking whatever is offered. This is not an attractive proposition for Outstanding Outsiders and, as part of the programme, we’ll support you to develop a vision for you and your business. Where would you like to be in five or ten years time? How much will you be working? What areas will you specialise in? Will you still be contracting?
- Starting a New Contract We’re expected to hit the ground running, so in this session, we’ll draw together the best advice and guidance from the network on how to start a new contract, with tips and tools that can help you get going quickly.
- Business Proposals That Sell Penny doesn’t usually work on day rates but has fixed fees for her projects. You’ll run through the options for pricing your work and how these can work for you and your clients.
- Developing Confidence How can you build confidence as an Outstanding Outsider? This session will look at things you can do that will develop your confidence, usually from the legs up, through practice. Developing confidence is the biggest benefit reported by Penny’s mentees.
- Building Thought Leadership To become a truly Outstanding Outsider, you’re likely to develop thought leadership in your area. This attracts people and potential clients to your work, raising your profile and probably your rates too. We’ll look at how you can use social media, blogs, articles/books and speaking to raise your profile. We’ll look too at other ways you can market your skills without becoming salesy or spending too much time in this area.
- Working with Power and Politics While many BA contractors enjoy escaping from day-to-day office politics when they become independent, the reality is that understanding how power and politics work within the organisation you’re contracting is key to making an even bigger contribution. We’ll explore the theory and plan how to put it into practice in your projects.
- Influencing and Negotiating Again, both influencing and negotiating are key skills for those who want to become outstanding outsiders. We will look at theory and research, which is often quite counter intuitive, and how to apply these in practice in a project setting.
- Developing a Support Team While the Outstanding Outsider group will become a peer network for you, we’ll look at additional ways that you can move from being a lone ranger doing everything to having a support team as you grow your business. This could mean people to answer your telephone through to virtual assistance.
- Technical Sessions Penny is also a Senior Instructor for ESI and has training thousands of business analysts and project managers in the UK, the Middle East and mainland Europe on most aspects of project working. Along with the skills of the group, we will be able to run technical sessions on topics as varied as planning, requirements workshops, risk management, business process, finance, enterprise analysis, elicitation and much, much more.
- Soft Skills Sessions Penny is particularly interested in leadership for business analysis and developing soft skills in facilitation, conflict management, negotiation, influencing and has colleagues who specialise in other soft skills areas. Many BA contractors have missed out on training and development in these areas compared with their permanent employee counterparts. Have you? In addition to the monthly content session as listed above, you will receive monthly Q&A sessions covering questions that people need to sort out right now, tapping into the knowledge and wisdom of the group.
- Discounted Rates As a group of contractors, Outstanding Outsiders will be able to gain access to training providers’ ‘in-house’ rates where a group want to cover a particular training course together. You’ll also be able to access group discounts for conferences and other events.
This group programme is for people who are working as BA contractors (and consultants). It’s for those who want to become outstanding, with a clear vision for how they plan to develop their work.
This programme is not for those who are just about to start out on a contracting career, but for people who are already doing this work. In the future, we may run groups for those considering contracting.
To make the programme work well for all, we are looking for participants who are:
- keen to learn and willing to put what they learn into action;
- open to feedback;
- willing to contribute to the success of others;
- able to commit to attend at least 75% of the scheduled sessions;
- able to share their own experiences (adapted if required for confidentiality);
- willing to maintain confidentiality about what is shared in the group.
We’ve designed this programme so that there are additional benefits to you:
You’ll be part of a group
As part of a group of people all committed to becoming outstanding, you’ll find that the group will help you to take action and to keep your commitments. How does this work? We find that participants who commit to doing something to all of the others, tend to take action rather than show up with excuses next time. This group camaraderie and trust will build over time, forming a strong network and removing some of the isolation that comes with being a contractor.
The chance to work closely with another person with similarly challenges
For those who would find this helpful, we’ll be encouraging participants to find a partner that they can work with one to one during the programme, holding each other to account for the actions that they commit to. Taking part in this ‘accountability partnership’ is entirely up to you.
Tap into the knowledge and experience of the group as well as the leaders
There will be a wealth of knowledge and experience in the group. You’ll be able to get feedback and advice from others who have ‘been there’ or are in a similar situation in their own contracts, facing many of the same challenges as you.
Grow your network
Participating in this programme is a great way to expand your network with others in the contracting world. You’re likely to develop relationships that will last long after you leave the programme as well as tapping into other people’s networks, skills and perspectives.
Share and contribute
By taking part in this group, you’ll be able to share your own experiences of what works for you and make a difference to others in the group.
Something to look forward to…
This programme has been designed to be really effective, but also to be enjoyable and inspiring too, so we trust that you’ll look forward to it! Not least amongst these are the social events. The first group of Outstanding Outsiders met up in London for dinner a few times and were invited to Penny’s book launch as her special guests.
And last, but not least…
You’ll have Dr Penny Pullan as a supporter and adviser. Penny really enjoys seeing the results as other people develop and grow new possibilities for their future. You’ll be able to bounce ideas off her, share your stories and tap into her extensive international network in the BA world.
The programme consists of a series of live, virtual sessions facilitated by Penny. Each month, there will be a live, online meeting with shared screens focusing on a topic of interest. These generally run on Thursday evenings for around an hour. We meet up for a conference call for half an hour one Friday lunchtime each month, so that we can share situations, ask questions and support one another. We use robust technology with web cams, shared screens and conference lines. Each of the virtual sessions will be audio recorded and can be played back should people like to listen again. To get to know each other better, there will be additional opportunities to meet up for dinner or at training events, some specifically for this group, however this programme itself is delivered virtually to allow people to join without having to travel long distances. This means that you can join in wherever you live in the world.
Online Modules and Discussion Forum
The live sessions will be supported by online modules on each topic covered, with more information and examples, and a group discussion forum. The online part of this programme is delivered through a web-based virtual learning environment that can be accessed through any computer or tablet with a good internet connection.
Ongoing access to Penny one-to-one
Through the virtual learning environment, each member can interact with Penny one-to-one, asking and answering questions in a secure and confidential way. You’ll be able to see your interactions over time, showing you how you have developed your understanding since joining the group.
The programmes will start in March 2014 and we would expect that most people would like to join for a minimum of six months. The live calls will be held each month on Friday lunchtimes at a time to suit the members, with focused online sessions on Thursday evenings.
There is nothing else like this programme on the market; it is specific to business analysis contractors and consultants. While many contractors crave a deep network like this, the only networks available right now are professional networks: much larger and without the level of connection and support of Outstanding Outsiders. In addition, you’ll be supported directly by a mentor and well-known business analysis author and leader, Dr Penny Pullan.
So how much should it cost? Penny’s individual VIP mentoring costs £1000 per month plus VAT, and delivers. However, this level of commitment is not practical for many contractors at the moment, so she’s designed a way to deliver many of the benefits in a group programme, where you can also build up your network.
When you join Outstanding Outsiders this session, you’ll pay £147 (plus VAT if you’re in the EU) per month. Should you prefer to pay in a lump sum, you can purchase six months membership for a fee of £782, a saving of £100 on the monthly fee over six months. This fee is a valid business expense and can be offset against your company’s corporation tax.
Penny is the host of the BA summit each November and the Virtual Working Summit each June. All the Outstanding Outsiders who are members at that time will gain an upgrade to VIP attendance, receiving all the recordings so that they don’t have to listen in on the day.
In addition, when you attend a training course put on by Making Projects Work during your membership, you’ll gain an extra month of Outstanding Outsiders for free, effectively giving you an extra discount!
Understanding your strengths will be key as you build up a plan for your business over the next five to ten years, so when you join the programme, you’ll receive a book and online assessment to do just that.
Penny is well known for her free BA summit and teleseminars, which have been described as engaging, inspiring and helpful. You may have joined in yourself? We’ll build on this to ensure that the sessions to support you are engaging, inspiring and helpful too, and that the modules are useful and really help you as you put what you learn into practice. This programme has run for a whole year already, proving that it works.
Here’s what one of Penny’s BA one-to-one VIP mentee’s said about working with Penny:
Here’s what another mentee said, this time, this time an accountant:
What happens if I have to miss a session?
The programme will be available for you to use at a time to suit you. Your only commitment is a half-hour call at lunchtime and an hour’s session one evening each month. While those who are able to attend all of these calls will get the most from the programme, we know that life doesn’t always work as expected, so we will make sure that there are recordings available within 48 hours of each call or webinar.
It’s tough working as a contractor in the world of business analysis. But there is no need to be alone. This programme will support you to develop a deep network with others who are interested in becoming outstanding outsiders, just as you are.
You’ll be working with others who are just as committed to developing their skills. You’ll be supported throughout by Penny and the group who you’ll meet with every couple of weeks. You’ll have access to modules online and video plus audio recordings, so you can learn in the ways that suit you best. More importantly, you’ll share the journey with others who will hold you to account to make sure you put what you learn into practice.
To sign up for the Outstanding Outsider Programme, please register your interest here and Penny will be in touch with you, by e-mail initially to schedule a half-hour session by phone. During this conversation, you will be able to work out whether Outstanding Outsiders is right for you now and Penny will be able to consider whether you would be good fit for the programme and the group as a whole. If, at the end of the conversation, both of you are convinced, then you will be sent your introduction to the programme and initial assessment.