Saturday, October 3, 2015

What skills do you need as a Business Analyst?

You are just starting to embark upon a career in business analysis. Where do you start? What do you need to learn?
Let’s uncover some of that information for you, and point you to some resources that will help with your research. First off, let’s look at a definition of what a business analyst is. This comes from the IIBA:
“Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.”
One of the first questions I often hear is something like “do I need domain knowledge (that is, knowledge of the business area in which I will be a BA) to be a business analyst?” The answer is no. I suppose a little knowledge may help, but your job as a BA is to elicit the domain knowledge from subject matter experts (those who know the domain because they work in it, and are experts). Almost by definition, you cannot be a subject matter expert and should not be a subject matter expert in anything other than business analysis. For some reason this is a controversial statement; reasoned arguments welcome in the comments for this blog!

So what qualities do you need demonstrate to be a successful business analysts?

At the most important level it all comes down that which it is difficult to quantify:
  1. Excellent interpersonal skills.
  2. Clear thinking.
  3. Confidence.
  4. Determination.
  5. Critical thinking.
  6. Objectivity.
  7. The power to inspire and win confidence.
  8. The resolve to see the big picture and deal with ambiguity.
  9. A love of simplicity.
Getting more specific; an ability to know how to:
  1. Facilitate change
  2. Interview
  3. Lead
  4. Communicate verbally, in writing, and in pictures, with clarity and authority
  5. Organize
  6. Plan
  7. Measure
  8. Present
I am sure this sounds like a lot! And it probably sounds intimidating. But don’t be put off. Because business analysis can be a lifetime career in to which you gradually grow from beginner to expert, from dealing with well defined, simple issues to the most complex business problems imaginable. A continual challenge, gradually building on past experience, the experience of others, and always learning.

 So where to start?

A course in Business Analysis is a great place, especially those offered with an IIBA endorsement. I know this is a good one (disclosure: I am one of the three lecturers!) Take a look at Purchasing Therapy for advice on the right way to go about finding what you really need before acquiring any of the materials recommended here.

What else can you do? And what if the expense of a course is beyond your financial budget right now?

Read. Look at these great resources, both books and web sites, free and paid
Join a local BA User Group. Seek out a mentor if you are currently employed, who can help you learn and apply analysis skills.
Carefully consider the qualities of a BA listed above, and if you feel you are a good fit for the role, persevere!
Also, look at finding training courses based on the “abilities” listed above. Classes are easy to find in any of these categories, and are generic, and easier to justify with your current employer.
And by the way, we also so have some information on starting your BA job hunt.