Why are some business analysts better than others? Is it only experience that sets the best apart from the rest or there are some other qualities that separate the “men from the boys”? How do the most successful analysts implement the necessary changes in an organization and make it a habit to recommend solutions that deliver incremental value to all stakeholders of the business?
The answer to all these question lies in some of the core skillsets these analysts bring to table. Let’s take a closer look at 5 competencies that drive the ability of these business analysts to provide results driven answers to organizational problems.
1. THE ABILITY ASK QUESTIONS AND GETTING THE RIGHT ANSWERS
Questions are all about eliciting requirements from the users.
These requirements include functionalities, knowledge of products and/or services, market conditions or any other business activity that has the potential to propel growth. These requirements are tied in to the needs of the business, primarily the need of the business to grow and prosper. The job of a business analyst is to identify what the business wants to achieve; and for that to happen they must be able to gather the necessary requirements to get a deeper understanding of a problem/s holding back the business from achieving its goals or a growth opportunity that the business wants to explore. This allows them to get hands on all the data required to thoroughly make sense of a particular problem and suggest the right solution for it.
This is where the core competency of an analyst kicks into play a role – it is called ‘elicitation’. The best analysts don’t just elicit information using a variety of techniques but they also anticipate, quantify and resolve problems with these requirements. They blend risk management with their penetrative elicitation techniques ensuring they have a clear idea of the fallacies, if any, regarding the requirements on hand.
So, at the end of the day, what they’ve in their hands is the right information that is at the very top of the priority matrix and which has been vetted for accuracy.
2. They are Active Listeners
The process of elicitation involves business analysts asking relevant questions. You might be saying to yourselves, “but I also ask questions”; good, but do you listen to answers, that is really listen to answers? You will have to be an active listener if you want to be a good business analyst. These are the kind of listeners who pay attention and also ensure people know they are listening. They avoid being distracted and take in everything a person is saying without missing a beat; at the same time they provide the necessary encouragement to a person to speak his/her mind. Active listening skills are right up there in the armory of the best business analysts. This allows them to get a truckload of information out of project/business stakeholders.
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Doing the Hard Yards – Documentation
Once you get a truckload of data that covers all the requirements of a business, you need to set about preparing a business requirements document (BRD). Here’s a secret – Even the most experienced business analysts shy away from this task. But they got to do it and many do it in a halfhearted manner. That is not to say that they don’t produce a comprehensive BRD but there is marked difference in output if you have a degree of interest in the job you are doing.
The really successful business analysts consider BRD an integral document in the process of business analysis and make every effort to prepare it to the best of their ability. Each and every aspect of the requirements whether it is functional, non-functional, regulatory or user driven is covered in its deepest detail in this document. Think of this doc as the ready reckoner of a business’s intrinsic requirements and something that offers you clearer insights on what the business wants to achieve and how to go about achieving these goals.
A comprehensive BRD brings the following benefits to the table:
- It tells the organization that the business analysts have a very clear idea of the requirements.
- It acts as a guide for systems professionals to create the necessary solution that satisfying these requirements.
- It identifies the customer/business needs that will be satisfied with a solution for the same.
- It allows the different stakeholders of the business to get a detailed overview of the requirements cutting across the organization, allowing them to get their bearing rights about where they want the business to go.
4. Technically Astute
There is a raging debate whether business analysts need technical fluency. The fact is no knowledge technical or otherwise can ever be enough for a business analyst. They need to keep adding new skillsets to their armory which can help them become better at their jobs. The top business analysts are where they are because for them learning never stops and it’s a continuous process. This allows them to learn new tools of the trade; this includes the necessary IT knowledge that allows them to better analyze organizational requirements. This is necessary because most organizations today cannot survive without a robust IT infrastructure in place and many of its requirements can only be satisfied by facilitating specific IT upgrades.
But what if a business analyst has very little technical proficiency? Interesting question and it can’t be answered with a “don’t worry” or “that’s not an option”. The degree of technical proficiency, whether IT or any other, required from business analysts is dependent on the industry vertical that they are working within. If it’s an IT organization, a business analyst’s lack of knowledge about the industry in general and inability to understand the workings of the organization’s products and services will be laid bared during his analysis. In such cases, a degree of fluency in IT is a must.
But this is not really an absolute necessity. If you are able to define the various resources that will help you not only identify but also authenticate requirements and specifications related to a particular project, you’ve done your job. Understanding the technical aspects that are driving the business is a huge bonus. But hey, if you want to be really good at what you do, no harm in getting a bit of technical knowledge under your belt is there?
Seasoned business analysts don’t do anything different; they just do what they must with sufficient passion and enthusiasm. They are detail oriented and are committed towards offering the best possible services to an organization. This, at the end of the day, is what makes them so effective.
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