The Business Analyst Mindset

Understanding what a successful Business Analyst mindset looks like.

Know your value as a business analyst

There are number of skills and qualities that you must have to be competent in your role. This includes the ability to gather, analyse and model requirements using various techniques and tools, produce documentation that clearly communicates change and communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders.

Business Analysts typically help solve organisational problems, they have an inquiring mind and are comfortable – or at least effective at – asking questions.

They strive to build relationships and create alignment with your stakeholders to ensure clarity and vision of requirements.

Business Analysts are effective communicators who listen and respond to feedback and relate to stakeholders on their terms. There are good listeners.

They are also effective negotiators and manage their time and stakeholder expectations on requirements and deliverables.

Preferably, Business Analysts are passionate about what they 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, but if you can identify the things that drive you, then your work will benefit.

An effective Business Analyst continuously extends their skills and capabilities. Even if it is just by a little bit. They endeavour to learn more and improve their capabilities with each new project – and take on lessons learnt from prior initiatives.

Business Analysts understand that even though they 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.

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. The role is important.

It is about creating value.

How they deliver that value depends on the work they’re doing and the audience. It also depends on how well that value is communicated.

A good business analyst will continuously ask 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?

There is no right or wrong method to delivering true value. Ultimately, the Business Analyst’s work must demonstrate value to be of any benefit to their 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.

Success is definitely about creating value.

Great business analysis is more about mindset, and less about skills

I believe 100% that great business analysis is more about mindset, and less about skills.
It is about ‘how’ you go about doing things that makes the real difference in this profession.

Developing the right mindset can be developed through experience and awareness. This awareness gives you an understanding of how to direct yourself towards a success-oriented mindset.

‘Hard’ skills such as tools and techniques are easily taught and learned. But mindset is developed through ‘soft’ skills and tacit knowledge, which is difficult to teach in books and classroom settings.

But you can have a framework for developing a successful business analyst mindset. This will focus your approach to problem solving and communicating in a way that delivers excellent results for your organisation.

It will also help you create better career opportunities as you are communicating from a viewpoint of the things that create true value, and not just your hard skills and certifications.

A very good starting point for developing your business analyst mindset is to gain an awareness of the following in your daily work.

1. A ‘problem solving’ focus as opposed to an implementation focus (which does not necessarily solve the problem).

This means that you are striving towards delivering real results with measurable value. You are not just ticking a box so you can say that you got something delivered.

You are truly aligned to the organisational mission and your stakeholders’ vision.

Problem solving primarily requires problem identification, elicitation skills and stakeholder management.

Supported by good elicitation techniques, problem identification includes methods such as root cause analysis, mind mapping, five whys, and fishbone analysis.

Elicitation is important because the discovery of business requirements is almost never readily available at a business analyst’s fingertips.

  • Brainstorming
  • Document Analysis
  • Focus Groups
  • Interface Analysis
  • Interviews
  • Observation
  • Prototyping
  • Requirements Workshops
  • Survey/Questionnaire

Stakeholder engagement is essential to build relationships, foster ownership, influence outcomes, gather information and facilitate the resolution of problems.

2. Adopt an audience focused approach that clearly communicates solutions to complex business problems.

This means that you know your audience and you know how to present information to them for optimum clarity.

  • Who are your stakeholders?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What decisions do they need to make?
  • What information do they need from you?
  • What is the best way to present that information?

3. Develop a clear communication style that helps you manage expectations and maintain transparency.

  • Always be prepared and don’t waste stakeholder time.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Respond to feedback, don’t react.
  • Align yourself with your stakeholders’ vision.
  • Converse with them in a way that fully considers how they do their job and the issues that are impacting on them.
  • Use simple language and avoid jargon to ensure that people understand what you are saying.
  • Don’t make assumptions and always ask questions to clarify concepts and stay on course.
  • If you say you’re going to do something on a certain day, then do it. Otherwise communicate a new expectation before that time.
  • Use the OARS technique (open questions, affirmation, reflective listening, and summary reflections). This is a client centred interaction technique that invites others to “tell their story” in their own words without leading them in a specific direction. It is an excellent way to build rapport with stakeholders.

There are many other supporting qualities such as self-belief, curiosity, integrity, self-reflection, motivation, initiative, resourcefulness, connectedness, professionalism, trustworthiness, and courage.

This is your start towards a new awareness on how you can become a great business analyst.

Rules of thumb

  • Know your stakeholders and cultivate good relationships. Understand who you need to engage and how. Understand their drivers, communication preferences and information requirements so that they can make the right decisions about the work you are doing.
  • Focus on the business. Work with your stakeholders to align your understanding with their needs so you gain a clear overall vision of their requirements.
  • Be a part of the solution. Accurately identify and understand the problem. Question what you are told and get to the true cause of the issues. Work with your stakeholders to garner their buy-in and ownership of the solution.
  • Understand and analyse requirements. Just like problem identification and resolution, don’t just accept what you are told. You are not a glorified document writer. Gather the information, analyse the information and develop true requirements.
  • Identify gaps and risks and raise issues where they are found.
  • Ask the right questions and question everything.
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