President’s Message – Q4/2017
TOP 10 TRAITS OF A GREAT BUSINESS ANALYST
I recently spoke at the Vancouver chapter of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) about the demand for business analysts in British Columbia. Before the presentation, we surveyed BAs in BC and asked for their opinions on the top 10 traits of a great BA. The following top 10 list is based on results of that survey, my experience as a practicing BA for more than a decade, and Annex’s history of working on thousands of requests for BA contractors and employees from our customers since 1998. The list of traits is in no particular order.
The best BAs are strong verbal and written communicators – period. Not many would argue this. Communication is important for just about every job, but especially if you are a business analyst.
Critical thinking means taking the time to reflect on what to do through analysis and assessment in order to make well-informed decisions. BAs should be able to have logical debates about ideas, requirements and solutions including their impacts and priorities. Critical thinking requires taking an investigative approach.
I am a big believer in the importance of emotional intelligence, also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ). According to Travis Bradberry, emotional intelligence author, people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent of the time. Ninety percent of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. In comparison, only 20 percent of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. In other words, you can be a top performer without EQ, but don’t bet on it. Although IQ is static, the good news is that EQ can be learned and strengthened, which is why we ran the entire Annex team through EQ training earlier this year.
Facilitation and Elicitation
Interviews, workshops, requirements definition, and presentation of ideas – all of these activities fall into this category of work. I did full-time BA consulting while employed at a multinational systems integrator and for many years after I started Annex. I specialized in facilitating half and full day workshops with clients to elicit business and system requirements. I led more than 50 workshops with large clients in BC and Alberta. As I got stronger at facilitation and elicitation, I became a better BA.
The best BAs I know are subject matter experts in at least one industry. For example, Annex does a lot of work for provincial health authorities and this group of clients insists on hiring BAs who have health care experience. Over the years, they have learned that it makes a big difference. Unlike project management which tends to be more industry agnostic, a BA can better serve its customers if he or she is an industry SME.
How many times have your stakeholders disagreed about a requirement, a business process, or even an entire solution? It happens all the time. A successful BA is familiar with multiple conflict resolution strategies and can deploy the right one depending on the situation.
Yes, some BAs are strategic in nature. But in general, the best BAs I know are detailed, organized and don’t let requirements or workflow steps fall through the cracks.
Great BAs not only do the right things, they do things right. These happen to be two of Annex’s core values. The successful BAs I know take pride in their work and go the extra mile (another Annex core value!) to ensure their customer is happy. There is little satisfaction from just being OK.
Get Things Done
The work of a BA is often deadline-driven. BAs prescribe to the GSD mantra – they get “stuff” done. This is not always easy because sometimes the work is ambiguous and decisions must be made without all of the required information. Every project I have ever worked on has experienced roadblocks such as stakeholder scheduling challenges, bandwidth of the project delivery team, critical path dependencies, funding approval delays, conflict over solutions or features, etc. Since much of BA work happens at the start of a project or program, it is important to hit milestones in order to keep the entire initiative on track.
BA Techniques and Experience
Sorry to all of the junior people out there, but the best BAs are the ones who have learned from experience. This comes from working on diverse projects, participating in failed initiatives, and doing a deep dive in a particular industry.
2018 Professional Development
What do you notice about the top 10 traits? Seventy percent are soft skills. So when you sit down this holiday season to think about your 2018 training plan, don’t just contemplate CBAP certification or Agile or LEAN Six Sigma. I encourage you to also focus on soft skills training such as emotional intelligence, written communications, presentation skills (IIBA Vancouver is starting a Toastmasters club!) and conflict resolution. Building these skills will help you become a great BA.
Stacey is a long-time Advisor to UBC’s Certificate in Business Analysis program. It won the CAUCE award for best continuing education program in Canada. If you need to hire a BA or if you are a BA looking for work, get in touch with Stacey to get the conversation started.