Competencies for Business Analysts

Business Analysts play a pivotal role in digital transformation projects carried out by organizations. BAs are thus expected to have knowledge about key concepts of business analysis and be skilled in using different tools and techniques for eliciting, analyzing and managing requirements. In order to facilitate the five core responsibilities of business analyst and communicating requirements and in evaluating solutions, the BA is expected to have a set of competencies. 

Analytical Thinking & Problem Solving
The BA must be able to understand and decipher requirements elicited and be able to devise solutions to overcome problems faced by customers. These are fundamental thinking skills where the individual works on breaking down the large problem into smaller, more manageable parts. The BA must logically reason and make judgments based on evidence and assumptions. This competency group consists of the following competencies.

Creative Thinking
A BA is expected to look at needs of stakeholders thinking from different perspectives and suggest unorthodox solutions. Creative thinking may be facilitated through brainstorming, mind mapping and lateral thinking. It is important for the BA to be a creative thinker as he is expected to be a change agent who facilitates innovation in an organizational context.

Decision Making
Decision-making ability in the context of business analysis refers to the analyst’s ability to make selection of a course of action or to be able to facilitate such a thinking process. It is a cognitive process where the BA must guide key stakeholders in making decisions by providing adequate and accurate amount of information in a format suitable for making necessary comparison of options. The BA may need to make decisions on which tools or techniques to use, which stakeholders to consult, which solution options to take and so on.

The BA is not expected to be ‘A master of all trades’. The BA must instead be able to listen, observe, learn and understand whatever is required to facilitate the process of providing solutions for problems and opportunities.

Problem Solving
Often BAs are expected to face many a problem during the lifetime of a project. A BAs role is to understand customer problems and be able to recommend suitable solutions. Problems solving requires mental skills that must be analytical as well as creative. 

Systems Thinking
Systems do not refer only to software systems. In system thinking, the BA is expected to consider every element in the context within scope as an interacting system when determining solution options. Hence, the software system being developed or the process being studies, stakeholders interested or impacted, interfacing systems, elements in the environment all form the context. The BA is expected to look at this bigger picture when performing his or her tasks.

Behavioral Characteristics

A BA becomes a powerful individual within a project context, as he or she gains access to processes and information that may even be highly sensitive to a particular organization or stakeholders. The BA is thus expected to hold highest regard to the security and safety of accessing or using such information thus working with the highest level of integrity.

Personal Organization
BAs are often deployed to work in high-pressure environments. They are expected to liaise with multiple stakeholders, facilitating high value workshops to elicit requirements and then produce documents listing down the findings. In order to produce the requisite deliverables on time and to the expected level of quality it is imperative that a BA is self-organized and meticulous in his or her way of work.

Organizations and stakeholders provide access to information, systems and other high value assets sometimes even placing their entire business at risk. The BA is thus expected to uphold the trust placed on him by the stakeholders and ensure that due diligence is given in defining and devising solutions to satisfy customer needs.

Business Knowledge 

Business Principles & Practices
Business principles and practices are characteristics that are common across all organizations with a similar purpose and structure. Functions and capabilities such as HR, Finance, IT, Marketing & Sales that are needed by any organization are examples of such practices. Although not mandatory, it is good for a BA to be familiar with such practices so that they can consult and advise customers with relevant requirements.

Industry Knowledge
Many a competitive force shapes industries. BAs are required to understand these forces such as competitors, suppliers, buyers, substitutes etc. so that they can identify commonalities and differences that may influence business requirements.

Organizational Knowledge
Organizational knowledge refers to an understanding of the business architecture of the organization being analyzed. This includes understanding the business model adapted by the organization, the structure and relationships in place, people, data, technology and other aspects of the organization in place. Enterprise analysis frameworks such as ZACHMAN and POLDAT help in this case.

Solution Knowledge
Business analysts must attempt to relate and apply learning from other projects or programs to solve current business problems at hand without re-inventing the wheel. Hence, an understanding and familiarity of existing solutions (custom made or commercially available) gives BAs an added advantage.

Communication Skills

Oral Communication
It is important for a BA to be able to verbally express ideas, information or other matters. In addition to be able to express thoughts in a clear manner, the BA must also be able to actively listen to ensure that ideas generated by stakeholders are clearly understood.

Business analysts are expected to communicate requirements to team members and provide guidance on scope. Thus they must train to be good teachers who are capable of understanding different learning capabilities of individuals and be able to adapt and customize learning material and experience accordingly. The BA must be able to cater to auditory or visual learners with appropriate use of training material.

Written Communication
Proper command over language in terms of vocabulary, grammar and style and use of other terms is essential to ensure that written text is correctly and adequately understood.

Interaction Skills

Facilitation & Negotiation
A key element of a BA job role is to be able to moderate group discussions and be able to enable participants to effectively articulate their thoughts and ideas. The BA must be able to define a proper process based on the audience and be able to guide the participants along the process so that the session leads to attainment of expected outcomes.

Leadership & Influencing
The BA’s role in defining and communicating requirements places a key leadership role in any project or group. Hence, the BA is expected to work together with the team in guiding them in terms of project scope, motivating them to reach shared goals and objectives for the team as well as the client stakeholders. The BA would be in the best position to be able to discuss sensitive and pertinent matters with the sponsor, client stakeholders, users as well as the implementation team and be able to guide them in the decision making process.

Business analysts are most often than not part of a team. It may be a project team, a team of SMEs or sometimes even as part of a client stakeholder team. The BA is expected to be having good skills in developing personal relationships, avoid conflicts and be able to work towards a common end goal.

Software Applications

General Purpose Applications
A business analyst is expected to have knowledge in applications that help carry out day-to-day project tasks. This includes MS Office suite, requirements management tools such as JIRA, communication tools such as Skype, Email client etc.

Specialized Applications
The BA must also be capable in using specialized tools such as document management systems, content management systems, sales force automation systems etc. which are built specifically for different purposes. This may depend on project requirements.

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