6 tips for advancing your business analyst career

Factors to Consider in Your Business Analyst Career

Business analysts need to develop a range of skills to be effective in communication and analysis for the purpose of defining and developing business solutions and resolving problems. If you would like to enter a business analyst career, or have already started, there are many factors to consider including:

  • Understanding the business context of an initiative and defining the required outcome,
  • Implementing techniques and communication strategies for gathering information,
  • Developing techniques for documenting requirements (e.g., unified modelling language), and
  • Working within the various software development and project management frameworks.

Drawing from what is important to me, this post describes 6 tips for advancing your career as a business analyst.

1. Find a Mentor

A mentor is somebody who has significant business analysis experience and can serve as a trusted confidante.  A mentor can provide a good reliable sounding board, second opinion, emotional support, and expand your social network. I have had the great fortune of having two mentors in my career. Both taught and encouraged me, and promoted opportunities in the fields of spatial sciences and business analysis. I gained valuable insights in these respective fields.

2. Engage with Colleagues and Associates Wherever You Can

In the absence of mentors, engage with people in the business, such as other business analysts and subject matter experts. They may not provide a mentoring relationship, however they can answer some of your questions and point you toward other people and resources. I always use the opportunity to learn as much can from those around me, whether it is by asking them direct questions, or listening to them very carefully. My philosophy is that you can learn from everyone at all levels of an organisation just by understanding their perspectives and needs. Just be careful in taking up too much of their time.

3. Listen, Learn, Read, and Do As Much As You Can.

There is a lot of free information out there without having to purchase books or study a diploma. Ask other business analysts what resources they use and recommend, and search on the web for forums and blogs. Remember it is important to leave the ego behind. I believe a business analyst does not need to know the domain from the outset of a job, but must be curious and willing to ask a lot of questions.

4. Develop the Art of Reflective Listening

Listening is the most important part of communication. Reflective listening is a technique whereby you seek to understand a person’s perspective and then offer it back to them to confirm your understanding is correct. Two benefits of reflective listening are:

  • You remain active in the conversation especially when a lot of information is being conveyed.
  • You demonstrate to the speaker that you are taking on board their viewpoint, which in turn builds a trusting relationship.

Note that you may not always understand what the speaker is trying to explain to you. In these situations I am not afraid to say “I don’t understand, what do you mean by this?” or “Can you explain this concept a little more?”

5. Have a Sense of Humour

Whether a business analyst is experienced or just starting out it is important to have a sense of humour. Humour is one of the greatest assets a business analyst can have especially when it is important to ask all sorts of questions that at times may seem silly. It also helps in developing a human factor in relating to all kinds of people in business. Having a sense of humour will defuse difficult situations and in reduce your stress levels in overwhelming circumstances.

6. Learn the Relevant Methodologies

  • Software development methodologies (e.g., Agile, Spiral, or Waterfall) and how these software development life cycles work. Business analysts need to know the various tasks and activities that occur within these methodologies to align their work accordingly.
  • Project management methodologies (e.g., Prince2 or PMBOK) and the importance of time, scope and resources within the project management framework. Business analysts can potentially impact on scope, and hence time and resources, if they are not aware of the impact that the requirements definition process can have.

From my experience, these are some of the useful tips for advancing your business analyst career.

Start Your Business Analyst Career

How to Start Your Business Analyst CareerAre you looking for your first business analyst job? The guidebook, How to Start Your Business Analyst Career, will help you find an entry way into a business analyst career. It will help you discover and build transferable business analysis skills and develop an actionable work plan to help you achieve your goals. Learn more about How to Start Your Business Analyst Career here.

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