There was a time when people were moved into a business analysis role because they were good at talking with others.  Outstanding communication is critical, but there is more. In our book, Business Analysis for Dummies, we highlighted seven essential skills a person needs to be successful.  Take a look…

[bookpage]Outstanding Communication
Communication is integral to everything in business analysis, so you need to be great at it. BAs operate at the intersection of business problems and business solutions, which means you have to be able to communicate with two groups of folks that sometimes seem to be speaking different languages. We cover more on communication in Chapter 3.

Detailed Research, Analysis, and Recording
BAs need to have the curiosity for understanding processes, procedures, and systems. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re consistently the person in the room with your hand up when a presenter asks for question, you just may be cut out for work as a BA. Even if you know the subject matter well, you can still ask questions to understand it in more depth and detail.

That curiosity helps you understand what each person needs from the project. The key isn’t just asking questions of other people; it’s wanting to understand all aspects about how something works or what the underlying problem is. Such curiosity could lead to conducting research on your own to figure out where the problem exists and then analyzing the issues and barriers that would create an effective solution.

Time Management and Information Organization
If you ask a true BA when analysis is done, his answer will be “Never!” However, the reality is that you have a limited time to complete your project, so to be successful, you have to be able to effectively manage your work and be good for setting priorities. Because you’ll be dealing with a lot of people and a lot of information, you need to be good at organizing all the information in a way that lets you recall it when needed to be support your communication. You need to understand which pieces of your elicited information are relevant to which stakeholders and how you are going to use what you found to communication your results.

The Ability to See the Big Picture
If you get close enough to an impressionist painting, all you see are brush strokes. Only as you move away from the painting can you start to see the image of a cathedral or a picnic. Being able to step away from the project at hand and see the big picture is crucial for any business analysis practitioner. You must be able to work on a project while understanding how that project fits in with other projects in the organization and continues to meet the business’s overall objectives. This macro view is a particularly important skill because the BA is typically the only person with this vital perspective. You’re the one how can keep efforts relevant, synergistic, and efficient.

Once, a project Paul was a part of was being worked on by several smaller areas (or silos, in BA lingo) within one organization. He studied the entire end-to-end process – including the different silos – and discovered that multiple silos were creating the same date stores when having just one for everyone to access made more sense. Focusing on the big picture allowed Paul to catch the issue in time to get things back on track.

Customer-focused and Value-driven Perspective
To be a good BA, you must always keep in mind what your customer needs from you. That probably seems like a no-brainer, but keep in mind that we’re not just talking about external customers who purchase your organization’s products and services; we’re also referring to internal customers from other departments and even to those on your project team. With any of these customers, you have to make sure that whatever you produce provides value to the customer and to the project you’re working on.

A Large BA Toolkit
Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist, once said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” This concept led to the law of the instrument, or overreliance on one familiar tool.

As a business analysis professional, you need to avoid falling victim to this law. By having a large toolkit, you can apply the right tool to the situation at hand. You have to know which tools work best based on the context and the situation. For instance, if you’re trying to model data, the best tool is to use an entity relationship diagram, not a workflow (more data modeling in Chapter 13). If you need to show your stakeholders what your solution would look like in real life, you use a prototype (Chapter 4). On the other hand, if stakeholders just need the nuts and bolts and bottom line of the project, you want to make sure you can write a strong business case (Chapter 9). If you’re trying to make sure your project always stays on track and doesn’t go out of bounds, you use your scoping diagram (Chapter 10).

In addition to the business analysis techniques covered in the book, you need to have a good grasp on the types of solutions specific to your business or field. For example, if you work in an area that develops web applications, you want to be familiar with and stay current on the features and functions that technology can deliver.

Don’t worry; nothing about business analysis requires you to take yoga classes. The flexibility we’re talking about here is the way you respond to changes on a project. Flexibility is important because the question isn’t whether changes will occur on a project; it’s when changes will occur. You need to be able to roll with the punches calmly and change gears swiftly.

Scope can be expanded, new features discussed, and possibilities tossed around, all of which may lead to change. Refusing to change along the project doesn’t bode very well for you as the BA or for the project team as a whole and may cause project defects. In fact, you probably have to be the most flexible because you’re at the center of the communication. You have to be able to adapt to the changes on a project and adjust accordingly. The more quickly you accept the change, the more time you have to steer the project in the new direction.

Flexibility isn’t just about being adaptable to change to project requirements. You often have to be flexible when the human aspect of your project (such as team members) changes.[/bookpage]

So are you proficient in all seven areas?  If not, work on your craft and try to get better every day.  Find a training class, webinar, phone a friend, find a mentor, even buy our book!

All the best,

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