This post was originally published on April 19, 2019, and updated most recently on March 31, 2021.
Nadine Rochester is a technical marketing director at Strategy Execution, a project manager courses provider. With over 20 years’ experience in the global B2B sector, Nadine has demonstrated a passion for cutting-edge technology and an ability to effectively translate client priorities. Nadine regularly shares her insights on Project Management, managing, and contributing to the company’s PM blog, which services 40,000 monthly users.
The role of a Business Analyst, or BA, is complex and includes a range of different responsibilities. Mainly, the job involves gathering and analyzing business requirements within an organization to assess their business model, identify the need for changes in processes, and articulate how those suggested changes can help them achieve their goals.
It is a highly specialized role. It requires industry knowledge and the ability to meet tight project schedules, reduce budgets, and deliver on customer expectations. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the top skills modern business analysts need to succeed.
Advantages of having a business analyst
A business analyst is an incredibly useful person to have on your team. Firstly, they act as a go-between for your IT and dev specialists and the side of your company that makes business decisions, using data to help make and justify decisions to help your business move forward in the right direction. Continuing, Robert Half defines a business analyst’s job usually includes things like:
- Creating a detailed business analysis, outlining problems, opportunities, and solutions for a business
- Budgeting and forecasting
- Planning and monitoring
- Variance analysis
- Defining business requirements and reporting them back to stakeholders
1. Understanding clients
Arguably the single most essential skill for a successful Business Analyst to have is the ability to understanding needs and expectations, regardless of whether they are from internal or external clients. It is crucial for a BA to have an accurate picture of how an organization functions, as well as the nuances of the industry or sector it operates within so that needs and expectations can be fully contextualized.
Achieving this requires a range of skills, including communication and fact-finding. Business Analysts will need to rely on in-person interfacing, as well as independent research. Understanding a client may, for instance, require viewing and analyzing financial reports, website content, customer feedback, social media, and more.
2. Managing communications
Communication skills are a staple in the business analysis training and online project management training courses that BAs undertake. This includes everything from developing solid time management skills to gaining an understanding of database and spreadsheet software.
A Business Analyst may have to meet with hundreds of different people over the course of a project. When asked to recall information from specific meetings, they will need well-organized documentation, likely in a spreadsheet or dedicated project management software. They will also need to manage email and telephone communication.
3. Prioritizing business strategy
A common problem that many BAs run into is a lack of knowledge about corporate strategy and the ways it impacts project requirements. BAs need to be able to clearly and concisely map out how each element of the corporate strategy connects to the project to accurately anticipate how changes will affect outcomes. This, in turn, empowers them to more confidently support the strategy — or challenge the strategy — depending on what is necessary.
4. Getting personal
It is also essential that business analysts develop positive personal relationships with stakeholders and others associated with the project. To achieve this, BAs need to work on their interpersonal skills and develop approaches that keep relationships as positive and productive as possible.
This might mean, for example, socializing with people outside of the workplace, developing a friendly rapport with people in the workplace, and learning the best channels to communicate with the different internal and external stakeholders. Learning the relevant interpersonal skills to keep people onside is especially important when a BA needs to tell people something they might not want to hear or challenge someone else’s approach or strategy.
5. Learning to negotiate
Finally, it is imperative that BAs learn a few negotiation skills. There are plenty of online courses that cover these skills. Learning to negotiate is an invaluable skill when looking for a compromise between disagreeing parties.
Business Analysts often find themselves involved in discussions with multiple stakeholders who have conflicting interests. A little negotiating can go a long way to help to resolve these disputes. That being said, it is equally beneficial to learn when to negotiate and when not to. Negotiating is worthwhile if there is a satisfactory position to fall back on, but not when addressing a necessary outcome.
These are a few of the top skills that a Business Analyst will need to achieve success in the role. It is essential for a BA to understand client needs and expectations while managing healthy lines of communication.
Additionally, there are some skills that are more general but still hugely influential in the profession. Therefore, interpersonal skills can determine if others listen to a BA’s recommendations or provide resistance. Furthermore, negotiation skills can help to bring stakeholders together, to find common ground solutions.