Meet the Team: Robbie Homer-Plews, Business Development Analyst

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byHayfa Bukhari

We’re heads down in creating the future of Aveni, but we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to some of our awesome colleagues who are working hard at turning Aveni’s vision into reality. 


This week, we welcome Robbie, our newest Business Development Analyst. Robbie has a ton of experience working in the FS industry. His interest in continuously learning led him to take on a new role of working at a startup. 


Hi Robbie, tell us a bit about your background and previous roles before joining Aveni? 


Though I was born in Edinburgh, I spent a few years studying and working abroad before eventually moving back here in mid-2014 after completing a Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Amsterdam. I joined a fintech company called Nucleus later that year where I spent the best part of 6 years progressing through the BA ranks. My role there definitely stretched the definition of what a BA role is, but it was certainly a hugely beneficial period in that it really allowed me to hone the skills required to be a successful business analyst and learn the specific aspects of the role I was truly passionate about.


What attracted you to Aveni, and what does your role involve? 


I’d always been attracted by the idea of working for a startup. I was really motivated by the prospect of being around whilst the foundations of the company were being built, from both a product and company culture perspective.  I love the idea of being able to look back and say I played a part in some of the early decisions which helped the company eventually grow from a simple startup to an industry leader. 


Opportunities in startups don’t come up often, let alone for companies that truly look attractive. However, when I stumbled across the BA role at Aveni, it felt like a really good fit for me. As I met some of the team during the recruitment process, it was clear they had a real passion for what they were trying to achieve and their enthusiasm was infectious. The application of natural language processing in the context of the financial service is full of opportunities and Aveni’s prospects in this space are genuinely exciting.


The BA role within the company, like most roles, is still being shaped and it will likely evolve over time. For now, my primary role is acting as the voice of our customers. We need to ensure we deliver a product that will solve real business problems and that drives value for their business. 


What does a typical day look like for you? 


With a one-year-old at home, my days tend to start pretty early! I log on after my first coffee of the day, usually between 8 am and 8.30 am most days. I will start my day by reviewing all the tasks I have and put a focus on the “Top 3” that I want to try and achieve that day. 


The only standing meeting I have is our daily stand up with the development team at 10 am which keeps everyone up to date on what the team is working on from a product perspective. The rest of the day’s activities will vary but will likely include a degree UAT testing. We develop and release changes to our product constantly so there is always testing to be done. Otherwise, I’ll be working in close collaboration with our customers to understand their problems and how our software could be used to solve them. As we’re small, there’s still lots of processes to flesh out so some of my time is also spent working with the rest of the team on improvements.



What is the most important aspect when working with a client to resolve an issue?


Great communication is the key. Only through communication can I better understand the issue from the perspective of the client. If it’s a problem on our platform, I like to get on a video call so that the client can screen share exactly what’s happening and elicit what impact that the issue is having on their day to day activities. By doing this, I get the information I need to be able to relay the issue to our development team and get a fix as soon as possible. 


How has working from home changed the way you interact with the customer?


BAs thrive on building relationships with customers, therefore losing face-to-face interaction over the past 12 months has been a challenge. But like most companies have found in the move to remote working driven by the pandemic, it’s been a smoother transition than we thought. 


Previously, the norm would have been visiting customers onsite to facilitate workshops. I’d be able to set up sessions usings lots of post-its, having lots of wall space for sketching ideas. That has all been taken away but luckily we have a wealth of technology to be able to run the same sort of workshops remotely. I’ve found that video conferencing plus an online whiteboard tool can give you everything you need. There’s definitely advantages in that we’re no longer bound by the constraints of space! That being said, sessions do need to be more focused and shorter though as it’s very draining to sit in front of a screen for a prolonged length of time. Done well though, remote workshops can still be engaging and insightful, all from the comfort of your own living room!


How do you manage to best capture client requirements and as well as their expectations?


The best requirements are both simple and capture the essence of the problem we are trying to solve. In Aveni, like most companies that follow an Agile methodology, we like to write requirements in user story format. Written in this way, we understand who the user is, what they would like to be able to do why it matters to them. This puts us in the user’s shoes and gives us space to come up with innovative solutions that not only solve the problem but can also provide a brilliant user experience.


it’s equally important to work together with clients to make sure you have a shared understanding of the priorities of different requirements and more importantly, how each aligns to business goals that you’ve set out to achieve together. With all the will in the world, sometimes things don’t go to plan and requirements that look simple on paper become more complex as you scratch below the surface. In these scenarios, open and honest communication is needed. If more time is needed, you can work together with the client to decide whether the extra time is worth it relative to the importance of the requirement itself.


What piece of advice would you give you someone interested in a career as a business analyst?


Business analysis is not simply a role, it’s part of the skill set of almost every role out there. So if you are really interested in becoming a business analyst but don’t have the specific experience of a BA role, then build up the skills required within your current role. Soft skills are probably the most important skills required for the role of BA. You need to be a good listener and communicate effectively so if it is a career path you’re interested in then working on these skills are a good place to start. I would bet that half of the problems that come to you as a BA are solved if you have hold of these two skills. 


What motivates you and what are your core values?


I’m motivated by learning in both my personal and professional life. There’s so much out there to learn so I like to make a habit of setting out on an annual basis the new skills I want to develop. Like for so many others, 2020 was the year for gardening. I’m still not enamoured by it, but I know more about lawn care and maintenance than I ever thought possible. 2021 is the year of DIY and I would give myself a C- so far!

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