A good business analyst is usually a business professional who analyses various businesses, markets, models, and operations in order to assist businesses grow. Business analysts understand that no matter what they observe in the business world, they will not be able to predict what will happen in a few months or even weeks. Instead, they recognize patterns that emerge over time and engage the necessary parties in the correct order. This means that good business analysts are excellent problem solvers as well. They know how to get everyone on the same page, so to speak.
As a business analyst develops more business requirements, he/she must analyze those needs against organizational goals. Then, he/she must investigate the organizational culture and motivation to determine if the business needs are aligned with the desired goals. If they are, business analysts can make adjustments to the systems if necessary to achieve the desired results. In this way, business analysts avoid making unhelpful changes that will have a negative impact on the stakeholders.
Some of the typical activities that business analysts engage in include the following: identifying business requirements, analyzing business situations, developing plans, communicating plans to stakeholders, analyzing product designs/implementations, communicating product sales or service contract awards to stakeholders, estimating costs or benefits of new system developments and/or modifications, communicating plans to key people, analyzing and documenting changes, implementing changes, documenting exit strategy, forecasting future trends and circumstances, communicating future trends and circumstances, etc. The list is almost endless. It is important for business analysts to remember that it is not about performing every activity listed above. It is merely the starting point.
However, in order to be effective, a business analyst must be very good at eliciting/obtaining data. If the analyst can’t elicit/obtain data, then he or she won’t be very good at interpreting the data they do receive. And because we all know what data looks like, how does a business analyst learn to effectively elicit/obtain data?
Fortunately, there are some business analysts who are good at eliciting/obtaining information and good at interpreting/understanding that information. These business analysts are called “soft skills” analysts. In fact, most large corporations to hire more than one soft skills analyst per department. Their job titles are Business Analyst I (or BIS), Business Analyst II (or BBS), and Systems Analytic Analyst III (or BSAs).
A business analyst with strong soft skills is important because he or she has to understand what motivates customers to buy and why they might not be able to accomplish their buying requirements. For example, a business analyst may be asked to look at product design and build a prototype from scratch to help a customer to figure out what kind of hardware they want. During the process, the business analyst needs to understand that the customer may not have the ability to build the system from scratch or that they need an outside provider to build it. So the business analyst must be able to interject and influence the decision maker to work with them rather than against them. This is why many companies use consultants to handle requirements engineering, especially in software development.
However, just as good business analysts have to understand and analyze business requirements to effectively elicit the information needed, bad business analysts have to be able to explain to stakeholders why the requirements are being requested. The tips below were given by Jim Griffiths, VP of Technology and Lean at GE Healthcare, to some of his customers. One of the most important tips was to remember that you don’t “just ask” for it, but that you “demand it”. And a good lead business analyst needs to be able to facilitate this request, make sure it is properly documented and that it drives business value.
So how do you know if you have the necessary skills, experience and certifications to become a successful lead business analyst? One of the best ways to find out is to take a course or two related to these highly relevant topics. Not only will you gain the necessary certifications, you will also learn how to better communicate with your stakeholders and how to get the results you want. Most courses will last between one and four weeks and include learning about people, objectives, ethics, risk management, cost management, software and systems, and more. Some of the more advanced certifications include CMMI, CMA, CIO, CCMA, and SEOI, which are all available through online training.