business analyst eworkexperience career insights
Be a great critical thinker

Ordinary human thinking is not always rational. Business decision makers are as predictably irrational as anyone else. A wide variety of cognitive biases distort our perceptions and judgement every day. We see patterns in random events and ignore evidence that contradicts our beliefs. This can lead to serious and expensive mistakes in understanding requirements and identifying solutions. A Business Analyst must be an excellent critical thinker. They must be able to look at a problem from multiple perspectives, challenge assumptions and guard against flaws in the reasoning of their stakeholders and themselves.

Have a great imagination

The future state is an exciting place for a BA with a great imagination. It is a world of possibilities and discoveries. It is the opportunity to innovate, transform and revolutionise. The imaginative Business Analyst has the privilage of creating a vision and leading an organisation towards its realisation. They can see many possible futures and identify which of them is most worth pursuing.

Tell a great story

Story telling is one of the most ancient and effective modes of communication. Business Analysts are great story tellers and they have a variety of story telling techniques at their disposal. Whether they employ user stories, use cases or story boards they are helping stakeholders understand their part in a larger narrative. The Business Analysts stories become a foundation for shared understanding. Concepts and terms woven into the story often form the new language of the business.

Excellent business acumen skills

this means you need to be able to understand the cultural and business context, the reason why that particular project is being done, who the power players are and how you can influence them. You need to recognise that quite often the problem(s) that is being put on the table is not the “real” problem. This is often hard to do as rarely will senior people or business managers come out and say what the real problem is. (Sometimes you will hear this referred to as the “elephant in the room”) Eg. Business issue – “we need time with the business in order to build a customer strategy” Real Issue – “we don\’t need to involve customer service yet – they are going to be a problem”. Undertaking good root-cause analysis will enable you to unearth this, though this still leaves you with the issue of how do you present this back to the stakeholders who really don\’t want to talk about it in public. The underlying problem will often be political – about power, control, leaving a legacy, hiding incompetency, defending a position or enforcing controls. There are techniques you can learn to influence, earn respect and be a trusted adviser. Great BA’s become trusted advisers.

Be commercially savvy and pragmatic

At the end of the day, usually a compromise between real wants/needs and the available funds / business position will be negotiated to. You need to know when to just “live” with a business decision, even though it’s horribly flawed and you can see the risks and issues that will inevitably come to fruition, probably making your job just that much harder to do. In my experience, accept and embrace it and that gives you leeway to recommend and put in place some mitigation / minor improvements for the worst of the downside of the decision. You get credibility with the decision makers and earn the right to then make some changes or try and minimise the impacts. Railing or fighting the decision or white-anting, complaining or escalating are valid techniques. They should be used rarely and cautiously – most of the time they will un-do you and demonstrate that you a) can’t be trusted or b) are intransigent and hard to work with.

User of Visual Artifacts to Display Requirements and Design

I think requirements have changed over the last few years in response to the digital world we live in, there is much more focus on the customer and the need to employ anthropological techniques to elicit and define requirements. Techniques like ethnographic research go well beyond the old focus groups, other techniques, like customer feedback mechanisms eg. polls, forums and crowd sourcing are changing the way we collaborate and iterate design. We are also using more variety of media to capture and define requirements, video, audio, images are much more powerful than text and used in conjunction with text enable a us to work with customers and users to facilitate communication and collaboration.

Passionate About Business Analysis

We all perform better when we are passionate about what we do, so one of the first traits that I look for in business analysts is their passion for business analysis. When we\’re passionate about a topic whether it be cars, football or birds of prey, we naturally spend time getting to know all the intricate details about the subject – not because we have to, but because we want to. Excellent knowledge of the IIBA BABoK, current issues and trends in business analysis are three major areas that I ask questions about to gauge some of this passion. In the long term, passionate business analysts will be more effective BA leaders and more able to represent the organisation in terms of our business analysis service offering to clients.

Go Getter

We live in a generation where a lot of things come quickly and easily, which is why people born in this time, yes I\’m calling out Generation Y, expect much from others and get frustrated when it\’s not handed to them. I look for the opposite of this type of attitude: a “go get \’em” mentality where the business analyst is proactive in all aspects of the role and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. For example, I like to ask for evidence that shows responding to client or stakeholder calls or emails with lightning speed, sending out meeting minutes and following up on action items, setting up workshops and meetings to clarify requirements and always asking “Why?” to ensure that the stakeholder goals align with the business needs and strategy. Basically, the Go-Getter BA does everything to ensure that accurate and complete requirements are captured and that these requirements are delivered with the highest quality possible.

People Person

The IT business analyst is mostly a middle man (woman) or liaison point between the business and IT, therefore requires excellent communication skills and of course is able to relate to a whole range of people from different walks of life. Engaging with people and understanding what their needs and requirements are key to successful requirements analysis and management. Some specific characteristics I look for are friendliness, presentation and how well they are able to articulate requirements and complex problems.