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How Does A Business Analyst Get Started?

So, you’re a Business Analyst and you have just been thrust onto a new project. If you are really lucky, someone has given you a clear directive of what you’ll be doing. Maybe it’s automating a business process. Maybe it’s defining the key data for a business system. But Business Analysts, as experts in soft […]

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June 07, 2013

So, you’re a Business Analyst and you have just been thrust onto a new project. If you are really lucky, someone has given you a clear directive of what you’ll be doing. Maybe it’s automating a business process. Maybe it’s defining the key data for a business system. But Business Analysts, as experts in soft skills, often get dropped into situations where a project is underway and the team needs somebody to do something. What that something is isn’t exactly clear. So what do you do?

To be sure, there is definitely no prescriptive way to tackle these monumental tasks and problems, but let’s try to do the best we can to figure it out. Here are three important steps to get started.

Step One: Get the Lay of the Land.

You first need to figure out who the key stakeholders are. Sometimes this is straightforward. You just know. But other times, it’s not so obvious. The worst possible thing is when you find out six or nine months later that someone forgot (or “forgot”) to mention another department to you that reviews the reports. Oh, and that department cares about the following 15 things. Great…

To get to this valuable information sooner:

Step Two: Trust No One. Interview Everyone. And Listen to Them, Too.

A common mistake I have seen is taking the word of one stakeholder group as the voice of another group. Even if Stakeholder A is paying you to design a system, Stakeholder B may be the recipient of it. So even though Stakeholder A wants you to make the system a certain way, maybe their bonus is tied to how well Stakeholder B adopts it. Even if you do go with how Stakeholder A told you she wanted it, simply by getting Stakeholder B into the conversation, you have just increased stakeholder buy-in by virtue of listening to what they think is important. Voila!

Even though business analysis requires that we reconcile conflict and make deliberate choices that affect the business, that doesn’t mean that we have to shut out groups. By listening to all voices—I mean real, active listening, not just “uh-huh uh-huh”—you engage your audiences and get them involved in problem-solving.

Here are some specific tips:

Step Three: Restate, Revisit, Recap.

Ever heard the old writing method, “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em?” Yeah? Well, do that. Always and in all situations. The purpose of this kind of communication is to be consistent, develop trust, and continue the “getting buy-in” cycle.

You should always and in all situations:

Got it? Three easy steps to help you get started on your next business analysis assignment. What problems have you run into when starting on a new business analysis engagement?

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