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Five Key Skills for Business Analysis in Any Industry

During an interview, a candidate asked me “What’s a typical day for a Business Analyst?” My first response was there is no typical day. Every day is different – and for that I’m thankful. One reason why I enjoy working on projects and being a consultant is because every day and every year I work […]

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October 13, 2017

During an interview, a candidate asked me “What’s a typical day for a Business Analyst?” My first response was there is no typical day. Every day is different – and for that I’m thankful. One reason why I enjoy working on projects and being a consultant is because every day and every year I work on something different. If the candidate had asked me what skills does a successful Business Analyst possess – well, for that I have an answer.

The following are important skills to have when performing an analysis in any industry, for any purpose.

Key Skill 1: Communication

In person, on the phone, email, instant messaging and within software applications for documenting things like stories and bug tracking and requirements. All modes are important to exchange information, get questions answered, and arrive at understandings. This includes communicating with stakeholders, users, clients, and project team members. Only with excellent communication skills may an Analyst excel in their role.

How I do this at Excella: Internally we use Slack, Outlook, phone and in-person conversations and meetings. Throughout our work we use the tools that our customers prefer.

Key Skill 2: Facilitation

There are many ways to gather requirements and information from our stakeholders. Understanding which facilitation method to use at each moment for the type of project being done is key. The most common techniques are brainstorming, story-boarding/story-telling, interviewing and prototyping.

How I do this at Excella: Much of the facilitation I practice is asking questions and having conversations with stakeholders, and team members to understand possibilities and complexities.

Key Skill 3: Requirements

A requirement in the context of Business Analysis is a statement provided by a stakeholder about what they believe is needed to solve a specific business problem or respond to a specific business need. Different types of requirements are needed to define the scope’s depth. Some of these include: Business (high level), Stakeholder (specific wants and needs), and Solution (the ‘how’) – split between functional and non-functional types.

How I do this at Excella: Think of the happy paths, alternate paths, and exception paths in the process flows, and edge cases while writing requirements. Current and future system technical complexities are important. Also, organizations have legal, user experience, communication, and other considerations to take into account.

Key Skill 4: Prioritization

Requirements must be prioritized because a stakeholder never has enough money or time to get everything they want. Prioritizing ensures we focus on the most important and rewarding functionality. More common techniques include: Ranking, Priority grouping (critical, moderate, optional), MoScoW technique, Bubble sort, Hundred dollar method, and my favorite – Five Whys strategy to ask why a requirement is necessary.

How I do this at Excella: Ask the stakeholders what is the minimum viable product? What is the minimum marketable product? These are the features to prioritize highest.

Key Skill 5: Stakeholder Management

It’s absolutely vital to understand the people that are working on your project, and no matter how good your analytical skills are – if you aren’t able to understand, connect and engage with stakeholders, you will have a difficult time. Understanding our stakeholders allows us to foresee issues and understand problems early. Additionally, we’ll know who the real players are on a project and who to engage with during the project,  which reduces the risk of late changes or missed requirements. Finally, engaging stakeholders ensures they feel heard, that their opinion counts, expectations will be met, and the solution works for everyone invested in the project’s outcome.

How I do this at Excella: Understand the stakeholders using RACI for each task and activity– Who is responsible for the goal? Who is accountable? Who do we consult with for guidance? Who needs to be informed?

These definitions and examples only skim the surface of each of the key areas where an analyst may excel. For more information, check out resources like TheBACoach.com, Business-Analysis-Excellence.com, IIBA.org, and the BATimes.com.

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