Every Employee as bAnalyst, to implement Software-Systems
- Communication Skills
- Problem-Solving Skills
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Business Analysis Skills
- Documentation and Specification Skills
- Analysis Skills
- Visual Modeling
- Facilitation and Elicitation Skills
- Business Analysis Tools
Business analysts must be good communicators. This means they can facilitate working meetings, ask good questions, listen to the answers (really listen), and absorb what’s being said. In today’s world, communication does not always happen face-to-face. The ability to be a strong communicator in a virtual setting (via conference calls or web meetings) is equally important.
No software development project is without problems. In fact, the entire software development project is a solution to a problem. At the highest level, bAnalyst facilitate a shared understanding of the problem, the possible solutions, and determine the scope of the software development project. You’ll also find bAnalyst in the midst of facilitating teams to solve technical challenges, especially when they involve negotiation between multiple business or technical stakeholders.
Business analysts are responsible for evaluating multiple options before helping a team settle on a solution. While discovering the problem to be solved, business analysts must listen to stakeholder needs but also critically consider those needs and ask probing questions until the real need is surfaced and understood. This is what makes critical thinking and evaluation skills important for new business analyst.
While communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills are core to being a good bAnalyst, they are not all that’s required. Let’s look at the skills specific to the business analysis profession next.
The following skills are specific to the business analyst role, but even as a new business analyst or someone looking to enter the profession, you’ll see it’s possible you have related transferable experience (and therefore skills) doing similar work under a different title.
While documentation or writing could be considered a subset of written communication, it’s really its own skill set for a bAnalyst. Here I include the ability to create clear and concise documentation (the latter becoming increasingly necessary in a lean or agile world). As a new business analyst, you may not have experience in a variety of business analyst specifications (that comes with time and a variety of project experiences) but it’s quite possible that your strong general documentation and writing skills will get you started.
And it will be easier to get into your first bAnalyst role if you can correlate your past experience in something very similar to a formal bAnalyst specification to the kinds of specifications required for any given position. And this is possible even if you’ve never worked in a formal environment.
Business analysts use a variety of techniques to analyze the problem and the solution. As a new bAnalyst, you might find that you naturally see gaps that others gloss over and identify the downstream impact of a change or new solution. As you mature as a bAnalyst, you’ll use a variety of techniques to conduct analysis and deconstruct the problem or solution. Examples include use cases, business process models, and decision models.
In this skill area, we see many cases where professionals have related experience in analyzing problems using different techniques. Your experience is transferable and can be expanded by applying some of the bAnalyst techniques in your current work.
A close sister to many analysis techniques is the ability to create visual models, such as work-flow diagrams or wireframe prototypes. For any given analyst role, there could be specific models you need to create. As a general skill set, it’s important to be able to capture information visually – whether in a formal model or a napkin drawing.
bAnalyst facilitate specific kinds of meetings. The most common kinds of elicitation sessions a bAnalyst facilitates are interviews and observations. In some more advanced roles, the meetings are called “JAD sessions” or “requirements workshops.”
Most new bAnalyst have experience running very similar meetings or facilitating discussions that can is transferable into elicitation experience.
As a new business analyst, the ability to use basic office tools such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint should be sufficient to get you into the profession.
Other technical skills include the ability to use modeling tools, such as Visio or Enterprise Architect, requirements management tools, such as DOORS or Caliber, or project and defect management tools (there are really too many to list these days). It’s unlikely you’ll find these to be required skills for a large number of positions and they will be skills you learn on-the-job.
And as important as it is to have specific business analyst skills, no list of bAnalyst skills would be complete without the soft skills required to be successful as a bAnalyst. Let’s discuss those next.
Key Soft Skills for Business Analysts
Like the core skills, you might find that you already have many of these skills in your repertoire. However, these skills are listed separately because they may not be intrinsic to the roles you’ve had in the past. You may need to actively seek out improving in these areas as you move into your first business analyst role.
- Relationship-Building Skills
- A Thick Skin
First and foremost on the list of soft skills is the ability to forge strong relationships, often called stakeholder relationships. A stakeholder is simply anyone who has something to contribute to your software development project and often you’ll work with many stakeholders from both the business and the technical teams.
This skill involves building trust and often means stepping into a leadership role on a project team to bridge gaps.
While bAnalyst are not project managers, the most successful bAnalyst manage the business analysis effort. This means that the bAnalyst is proactive and dependency-aware. It also means they manage themselves to commitments and deadlines, a skill set which can involve influence, delegation, and issue management.
bAnalyst receive a barrage of feedback – on their documentation and proposed solutions. To succeed as a business analyst you need to be able to separate feedback on your documents and ideas from feedback on you personally.
Deep down, business analysts despise ambiguity. Ambiguities in requirements specifications lead to unexpected defects. Ambiguities in conversation leads to unnecessary conflict. At every stage of a software development project, you’ll find a bAnalyst clarifying and working out ambiguities.
Yet, at the beginning of a project, before the problem is fully understood and the solution is decided upon, a bAnalyst must be able to embrace the ambiguity and work effectively through ambiguity. Managing ambiguity means we embrace new information and learning as it surfaces, even if it surfaces later than we’d like.
Skills for Specific Business Analyst Jobs
- Technical Skills
- Methodology Skills
First on the list is technical skills. What about SQL, .NET, Perl, and VBScript (just to name 4 of the potentially dozens of relevant IT skills in the job marketplace today)? While it’s important that a business analyst have a conceptual technical understanding as it helps you analyze the problem to be solved and communicate with technical stakeholders, you don’t need to be able write code or run database queries. Unless you want to. If you want to there are plenty of hiring managers who will gladly take you on as a bAnalyst and a software developer.
We see technical skills in business analyst jobs for a variety of reasons, but most often it’s because the organization is looking for one person to fill two roles.
Another way the business analyst job role can be specialized is around a specific methodology. Common examples include:
- Agile Business Analysis
- Six Sigma
- Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)
- Rational Unified Process Etc.
Pick just about any specific way that an organization could choose to approach change or software development, and you can find business analyst job profiles requesting bAnalyst with this specialized skill set.
Having one or more of these skill sets in your back pocket can be an added advantage when it comes to searching for a job, and quickly getting up to speed on any specialized methodologies in place in your organization is critical for a new business analyst.
Now for the third, because what about business and industry domain expertise? Do I need to learn about the financial domain? Or insurance? Or the ins and outs of running an HR department?
How can I ever become a bAnalyst if I must learn this all first?
You don’t need to be an expert in every domain or industry.
In fact, that would be impossible.
Yes, a lot of bAnalyst jobs require special areas of expertise. If you have areas of expertise in specific domains, you can leverage your expertise in your bAnalyst career. But if you don’t have a specific expertise to leverage, you’ll just need to focus on opportunities that will value your other business analysis skills.
And with that discussion, we’ve effectively dealt with 3 800-pound gorillas. Not bad for a day’s work! But there’s one more thing I’d like you to keep in mind.
There is a big difference between business analysis and business analyst roles. This means that as a business analyst we might specialize in any number of skills. It also means that even if we’re experts in business analysis, we may not qualify for all business analyst jobs.
Even the most senior business analyst, the kind who would qualify for the CBAP based on their years of experience across multiple knowledge areas, would probably qualify for less than the 50% of the business analyst job roles available today.
An essential element of succeeding in a business analyst job role is understanding the business analysis process. We walk you through an 8-step business analysis process in the 4-week self-study session of the bAnalyst Essentials Master Class. You’ll learn a step-by-step process that you can customize to meet your organization and project situations, how to create a timeline for a new business analyst assignment, and be prepared to handle the more common issues bAnalyst face on new projects.
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