I answered this question on Quora a few days back – How do you differentiate yourself in a business analyst role?
I also realised that this is an important question and needed a more elaborate answer. So, I am writing this post. In this post, I am going to try and suggest the top five differentiating factors for a Business Analyst.
Top 5 differentiating factors for a Business Analyst
Business Analyst is primarily a customer-facing role. Your employer would like to value Business Analysts with strong customer management skills. Why? Because it brings in more business (new and repeat businesses).
An employer would always like to reward professionals who bring in revenue.
Let’s be more specific and talk about the top five skills, which would help you prove your prowess.
Ability to build good relationships with customers
What is a good customer relationship? And how do we develop it?
Let’s first understand what do we mean by good customer relationships? What are the signs that you have a good relationship with your customer:
- When customer tells you about a new opportunity in his/her organisation (not shared officially with your company)?
- When he/she tells you to do something about issues brewing within his/her organisation on a project you are working on?
- When he/she gives you some contact for new projects?
- When he/she does not escalate some production issues?
These are signs of a good relationship and almost often result in new opportunities and more revenue. Which employer would not like it?
But how do you build it? Which of the following do you think can help build a good relationship:
- Customer manager joins you a for drink or dinner at a restaurant
- Both of you share personal stories over a cup of coffee
- You know about each other
All of the above are important in building a good relationship, but the most important factor is to deliver quality software repeatedly. This builds trust. There is no alternative to this. Everything else would be useful only if delivery is good.
Ability to handle customer pressure
Most of the customers are demanding and want everything without paying anything. Or the customer representatives are under pressure or want to prove themselves in their organisation.
Whatever be the reason, it’s a difficult situation for a Business Analyst. Should you agree for everything or be firm and say ‘NO’? What if that angers the customer and spoils the relationship? You may be reprimanded by your bosses as well.
What do you do in such situations? As a Business Analyst, handling these situations without significant adverse impact is a real differentiating factor.
First of all, what should you not do? – Don’t be a ‘YES’ man as it would make it worse. It would lead to more such requests with enhanced expectations. Also, don’t be a ‘NO’ man.
In my career, I have used a GAR approach. Let me share it with you? GAR stands for Get back to you – Analyze – Response.
Get Back to you: Never say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the customer when you receive a request. Ask for time to get back to them. How does it help? The customer takes it positively.
Analyze: Analyze the impact of the request. Is it within the scope? If yes, it is simple. If not, how do you say ‘No’:
- One of the approaches is to ask the customer to prioritise all the requests, if there are more than one.
- Suggest an alternative approach to achieve the same goal, if possible.
- If it is a big change, ask for additional budget approval.
Respond: Talk to the customer representative before sending an email. Let him/her think and respond. If he/she agrees, it is excellent. Else don’t hesitate to tell him/her that you need to convey it to your senior management for discussions with your senior management. Sometimes, this works like a charm.
Responding to customer pressure in a rational manner goes a long way in giving confidence to your bosses.
Minimising requirements elicitation defects
This one is straight-forward.
If you can demonstrate the ability to capture requirements with minimal missing requirements or gaps, you would be valuable to any team. One of the top reasons for project failure has been missing or incomplete requirements.
Ability to understand the business domain quickly
A business analyst helps a customer solve a problem by getting the right software developed. One of the key ingredients to solve a problem is having a good understanding of the business.
Domain knowledge also helps in gaining the confidence of the customer since you talk in the same lingo.
Ability to get certified
Last but not least, getting certified as a Business Analyst is also a differentiating factor. It proves your ability to work hard and learn new skills.
Please note it only holds good if the certification is reputed. IIBA CBAP Certification, CCBA Certification , and Agile Analysis certification are a case in point. The PMI-PBA from Project Management Institute is another such certification.
These certifications are not easy to crack. You need to earn them by putting in a good amount of effort, and that’s what makes them valuable.
As a career professional, you need to be on a path of continuous improvement. Learning and improving never stops. It is the best way to differentiate yourself always.
You would also like to check out another interesting article – Top 4 mistakes IT professionals make which spoils their careers