How to Advance Your Business Analyst Career

Essential Qualities of a Business Analyst

Business Analysts are the bridge between the business and the organisations that supply the technology to support business. They are are communicators, facilitators, negotiators, and agents of change.

Do you have these business analyst qualities? A successful business analyst should have the ability to:

  1. Understand the purpose and needs of the business before considering technology solutions.
  2. Work with business owners and project managers to understand the objectives of the project and develop a project approach.
  3. Select and use various tools, methodologies (e.g., Agile Methodology, Object Oriented Analysis) and techniques (e.g., UML) for a given approach.
  4. Communicate effectively and confidently with various stakeholders to elicit requirements through workshops, meetings and informal means.
  5. Analyse information from various sources (i.e., documentation, existing systems, and requirements gathering sessions).
  6. Solve problems, assess solutions, and present clear and relevant concepts to the business.
  7. Communicate your analysis verbally, and in writing, at the right level for the audience.
  8. Be adaptable and capable of developing trusting relationships with business and ICT stakeholders.
  9. Be adequately IT fluent to translate business requirements into specifications that can be understood by system developers.
  10. Communicate in a business natural way to elicit requirements that make technology sense.
  11. Leave the ego at the door and ask questions such as “what does this mean?”, “why do you need this?”, and “what happens next?” for better requirements elicitation.

These are some of the qualities that I have drawn from my experience.

How to be a Great Business Analyst

There are number of skills and qualities above that I believe you, the Business Analyst, must have to be competent in your role. This includes the ability to gather, analyse and model requirements using various techniques and tools, and produce documentation that clearly communicates change.

Additionally, you typically like to help solve problems, you have an inquiring mind and you are comfortable asking questions. Many questions. You strive to build relationships and create alignment with your stakeholders to ensure clarity and vision of requirements.

You are an effective communicator, you listen and respond to feedback and you relate to your stakeholders on their terms. You are a good listener. You’re also a good negotiator and you manage your time and stakeholder expectations on requirements and deliverables.

Preferably, you are passionate about what you do. Passion gives you the drive to learn more, energises and fuels your success, strengthens your confidence, inspires persistence and improves your working relationships. Of course, you can’t always feel the passion – I know I don’t. But if you can identify the things that drive you, then your work will benefit.

As an effective Business Analyst, you continuously extend your skills and capabilities. Even if it is just by a little bit. You endeavour to learn more and improve your capabilities with each new project. You don’t stagnate.

You understand that even though you may often work on technology implementations, they are not really technology projects. They are business projects. Projects that impact the way people do business – hopefully for the better.  Technology is a means to an end.

You know that business analysis is about facilitating change within an organisation. This change may be at the enterprise level, at the project level, or anywhere in between. Your role is important.

You create value.

How you deliver that value depends on the work you’re doing and your audience. It also depends on how well you communicate that value.

You continuously ask yourself these questions:

What is of real value here? and Why?

How can I demonstrate value in this context?

What do I need to do that?

You know it doesn’t matter how you do it as there is no right or wrong way. Ultimately, your work must demonstrate value to be of any benefit to your stakeholders, the objectives of the project, and the organisation as a whole. Understanding this keeps you focused and aligned on the work that matters the most.

You know that success is definitely about creating value – and this makes you a great Business Analyst.

How to Advance 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 several factors to consider.

They include:

  • 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, here are 6 tips for advancing your career as a business analyst.

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.

Research the Business Analyst skills and competencies

Learn the skills and competencies of an effective business analyst. Addressing the underlying competencies specific for a BA will help you become adequately qualified for a role. It will help you identify areas that you need to focus to progress your career.

Get certified!

Learn more about the main certifications here.

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.

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.

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?”

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.

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.

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