3 Business Analyst skills to help you succeed

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Many of my students without an IT background are often afraid when they show up in my first class, because they think that their lack of technical knowledge will prevent them from succeeding in my course, and from becoming a Business Analyst.  This is understandable, as for most people, IT jobs are technical in nature, and we all know that IT people are always stuck in front of their computers all day long.

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is not the case!  It is true that most business analyst positions are in IT teams, but as I often tell these students, the job of a business analyst is about 75% communication. A good business analyst needs to discuss with business stakeholders to elicit and validate requirements; he needs to explain requirements to technical teams so that they can implement it; he needs to demonstrate the solution to testing and training teams, so that they can support the solution and fulfill the business needs.

While it’s true that technical skills can support the BA in all these activities, here are 3 Business Analyst skills that will help you succeed.

1. It’s almost all about communication

As I explained above, a Business Analyst needs to be able to communicate his ideas. Communication goes both ways: a BA needs to express his questions, ideas and solutions clearly, but will also needs to actively listen to their counterparts and decode what they say (and what they really mean); he needs to facilitate worksessions to make them productive, and needs to negociate on some requirements in order to meet business needs. Communication can take various formats: it can be oral, it can be written, it can be on the phone or face to face. Dealing with all those variations and adapting to every situation is essential to be a good Business Analyst.

Even though it might be easy to say that Business Analysts must be extroverted to succeed, introverted people can also be good Business Analysts (otherwise, I would not host a blog on Business Analysis).

2. Be prepared to explain things clearly

A good Business Analyst is someone who is able to brigde Business and IT worlds. In order to do so, it is essential to be able to make complex ideas simple. Complex ideas are everywhere: you might need to explain to your technical team why a specific requirement is essential to a solution because of various operational and strategic issues. On the other hand, you also might have to explain why some requirements cannot be fulfilled by the IT solution because of technical limitations.

Different strategies can help you explain such complex ideas:

  1. Ask your stakeholders if they want to learn: some people don’t care about the details and trust you to take the best decision. For others, details are essential to their decision process, and they need you to teach them first.
  2. Find ways to make it matter to them: context is important when you explain a concept to someone. The learning curve is steeper when you don’t take time to explain things in relation to what people already know, since they start from scratch.
  3. Explain concepts using details they already know: you need to know people very well to apply this strategy, but it will allow you to focus on difficult concepts based on people’s knowledge.
  4. Know what details to leave out: this is the hardest strategy to apply, but the best one to get people to understand since it allows you to leave the noise out of your explanations.

3. You can’t work on your own

Stakeholders in a project are not only there to provide information, they work with the project team to implement a solution that will fit their requirements. As a Business Analyst, you are in the middle of Business and IT; thinking about working alone on your own is the key to failure. Team work is a critical Business Analyst skill; during all your career, you will work in collaboration with other people whether you want it or not.

There are more Business Analyst skills

In my opinion, these Business Analyst skills are among the most important to be a good BA. Obviously, more skills are required to be a complete Business Analyst, and the BABoK does an excellent job at describing them.  If you don’t want to miss upcoming posts about this subject (and more!), just subscribe to Eric the BA newsletter below!

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Eric Provost

Making sense out of chaos as a BA & UX specialist

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