I would like to talk about the skills a business analyst needs because we at Aotea Studios believe that business analysis is a more complex job than is commonly acknowledged.

Let’s look at some of the tasks a BA performs:

  • get a clear picture of current pain points
  • identify business needs
  • evaluate pressure of competitors
  • understand requirements for compliance with legislation
  • outline high-level view of the required capabilities in the “to be” solution
  • effectively re-use the existing components within business and IT environments
  • get business buy-in to move the project forward
  • interview stakeholders to determine the current procedures and required improvements
  • communicate effectively with different people
  • understand various business functions, processes and services
  • gather requirements, idenfity assumptions and constraints
  • organise and manage requirements
  • present information in an accessible way
  • analyse feasibility of solution alternatives
  • maintain stakeholder engagement

These tasks can be organised into three broad categories:

  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Organisation

Now, what are the skills that are necessary to perform these tasks? If we look at the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge, it lists these underlying competencies for a BA:

  • Analytical thinking and problem solving
  • Behavioural characteristics (such as personal organisation)
  • Business knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Interaction skills
  • Knowledge of software tools

Let’s talk about communication skills in particular, because a large part of a BA’s job consists of interacting with people in different roles. The BA deals with business process owners, business partners, business users, solution architects, project managers, change managers, software developers, testers and vendors to get the solution in place, validate it and ensure that the solution delivers value to the business.

The BABOK lists skills such as written communication, facilitation and negotiation and teamwork in this category of competencies which are of course important. However, this isn’t the whole story. In order to achieve results, a BA needs an additional range of specific knowledge and skills.

Why is that? The answer is simple – you as the business analyst need to be ready to use different “languages” and concepts to collaborate and effectively communicate business needs to all the parties involved in the project.

To collaborate effectively with a solution architect, you need to know the core principles of enterprise architecture (TOGAF®) as it will help complete enterprise analysis at the start-up phase of the project.

To build an effective working relationship with a project manager, you need to see the project from the project manager’s perspective and use certain techniques from PRINCE2® (issue, risk and change management) which are applicable to business analysis.

As modern enterprises rely heavily on IT services and infrastructure, you need be comfortable with key ITIL® concepts, especially Service Operation, Service Design and Continuous Improvement. It’s beneficial to know best practices of Business Process Management while performing analysis of business processes.

When working on software components of a solution, an understanding of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) helps communicate with software developers and testers. Any change in the existing business environment requires an understanding of Organisational Change Management, approaches to communication of changes and overcoming resistance to change.

It is also important to understand how to engage business stakeholders throughout the course of the project.

What we see is that business analysts need to pluck knowledge from a lot of different domains:

We believe a business analyst would be seriously hampered without this knowledge, and this is why our guide (Business Analysis Kickstart) includes sections on all these topics with information that is relevant to business analysts:

  • project management
  • stakeholder engagement
  • change management
  • risk management
  • issue management
  • business process modelling
  • ITIL
  • software development lifecycle
  • enterprise architecture

We also cover the core areas of business analysis (e.g. requirements elicitation, solution assessment and validation) and general skills such as listening. Our aim is to show a pragmatic and complete approach to business analysis. Judging by the feedback we receive, we are on the right path. For example:

It captures the essence of business analysis from a practical, real world viewpoint. It will be of tremendous value for both my team of Business Analysts at work and my Business Analysis students at the University of Winnipeg. - Michael Antonio, IT Director, Government of Manitoba, and Lecturer, University of Winnipeg, Canada

We also aim to provide information across all these areas in our blog posts here.