The role of a business analyst, or BA for short, involves defining business requirements, understanding problems, and helping to manage change within an organisation. The challenge is identifying precisely what makes a business analyst good at their job? With this in mind, in this article, we take a look at 10 of the most important steps towards effective business analysis.
Develop Excellent Communication Skills
To be a truly effective as a business analyst, you must possess excellent communication skills. You should be able to get your point across and have it understood, regardless of whether you are communicating face-to-face, over the telephone, or in writing. This should also apply to both one-to-one and group communication.
“Great business analysts know effective communication isn’t an option; it’s a necessity,” says Kiesha Frue, in an article written for PESTLE Analysis. “Any hiccups in these discussions create more work for everyone involved.”
You may also like: What can I do to become a better business analyst?
Gain Clarity As Early As Possible
Next, a good business analyst will attempt to gain real clarity before deep diving into a project. As Laura Brandenburg points out in an article for Bridging the Gap, business analysts could be expected to contribute to a project that has already started, or a project that is still at the conception stage.
Clarity on scope of work, business analysis approach, context, stakeholders etc. are important as lack of clarity leads to gaps ad missed requirements and cost/schedule overruns.
Therefore, it is essential that you take the time to gain as much insight as possible. This means being clear on your own role, the project history, existing processes and systems, and the main business objectives.
Take Time to Learn About Stakeholders
Close collaboration is at the heart of all good projects. For this reason, it is important that project team members make the effort to learn about the different stakeholders and develop an effective stakeholder management plan.
As a business analyst, you should know which team members are responsible for which parts of the project, who the various leaders and sponsors are, and who has a stake in the project at executive level. Some business analysts take the time to create a document outlining different stakeholders, their role, their influence, etc.
Relevant Techniques: Onion diagram, stakeholder matrix and Impact-Influence map
Create Your Own Business Analysis Plan
Creating a plan for conducting business analysis activities aligned with the project management plan is critical. The business analysis plan is not a separate plan but part of the overall project management plan and is done in collaboration with project manager.
Such a plan should define the project’s requirements and set realistic expectations for what you will achieve.
Be Willing to Offer the Alternative Options
One of the major parts of the job is to be willing to speak up and point out potential problems or pitfalls with a project. Indeed, depending on the project, this can sometimes lead to situations where the business analyst is a lone voice urging caution or asking some of the more difficult questions.
However, as BusinessAnalystLearnings website states, it is important that you are not just delivering bad news. Your job is to offer solutions to those problems and even if they are not ultimately accepted, it is essential to voice them. Acceptance or rejection is based on parameters decided to evaluate the merits of the options.
Relevant techniques: Cost-benefit analysis, Decision analysis, Decision matrix
Understand the ‘Agile’ Approach
The role of business analyst in ‘Agile’ approach cannot be undermined and must be part of every business analyst training programme. There has been considerable debate about whether business analysts are required or defined for Agile projects? Scrum does not define a role as business analyst, rather it has a Product owner role. Nevertheless, BAs are increasingly playing a key role.
A growing number of Agile teams are realising that output often fails to meet requirements without input from a BA. You should, therefore, make sure you understand Agile and how you can contribute.
Get Used to Dealing with Virtual Teams
As a modern business analyst, you must deal with the reality that faces many industries, which is that technology has made remote work more feasible and more popular. As a result, you may need to deal with virtual teams.
“With companies keen to use the best, and the cheapest, labour available, outsourcing and offshoring has taken off,” explains Penny Pullan, writing for the Strategy Execution blog. This brings its own challenges, including the use of virtual working technology, plus grappling with differences in language, culture and time-zones.”
Play an Active Role in the Development
Once project development begins, it is crucial that a good business analyst continues to play an active role. This can be achieved by supporting key team members, ensuring that what they deliver is meeting the requirements that were defined earlier in the project life cycle, and guarding against scope creep.
“The BA must support the programmers by constantly reviewing their deliverables,” DVG states. “Management of scope changes, down to acceptance of the final product, is another business analysis best practice.”
Prioritise Solutions Over Attributing Blame
Throughout the course of your work on a project, a great way to improve the quality of your own performance and of the eventual outcome is to make a conscious effort to focus on solutions.
Put simply, this means that while you may uncover mistakes, you should not focus on blame. Instead, you should focus on helping to put things right. Not only is this a more productive and useful attitude to have, it will also help to create a better atmosphere on the project team, and to avoid unnecessary negativity.
Seek Feedback on Your Performance
Finally, the best business analysts seek feedback about the project itself, but also about their own performance. Part of effective business analysis is measuring success, so that your value can be clearly demonstrated. You must also be open to criticism, so that you can learn from it and improve your performance in future.
One possible method here is to carry out a survey of the various individuals involved in the project. Ask them to honestly appraise your performance, and assess whether or not you delivered on your objectives.
Author of this article: Nadine Rochester
Nadine is a technical marketing director at Strategy Execution, DevOps training providers with over 20 years’ experience in the global B2B sector, hands on, creative marketer, Nadine demonstrates a passion for cutting-edge technology and a proven ability to effectively translate client priorities. Nadine is passionate about Project Management, managing and contributing to the company PM blog servicing 40,000 monthly users.