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12/12/2008
03:28 PM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
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What Makes a Good Business Analyst?

What's needed to excel as a business analyst and to get projects started on a good footing? Forrester Research, for example, has published a spreadsheet (called the Business Analyst Assessment Workbook) that lists more than 150 attributes of a good business analyst... Here are 10 items from the Forrester list that I found particularly interesting and beyond the obvious...

Good business solutions begin with good business analysis. But what's needed to excel as a business analyst and to get projects started on a good footing?

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the set of skills that go to making a good business analyst. Forrester Research, for example, has published a spreadsheet (called the Business Analyst Assessment Workbook -- Note: subscription required) that lists more than 150 attributes of a good business analyst, grouped into categories such as Core Capabilities, Business Knowledge, Job-Specific Skills, Technical Knowledge etc. (I was particularly pleased to see this last category: It is important but not quite obvious that business analysts should also have a rudimentary general understanding of technology environments and architectures… mostly built up through seeing past analysis engagements fructify into delivered solutions).Although the workbook is obviously intended as an assessment tool, I also found in it good for use as a training tool - for example, to bone up on technology approaches to business needs and to study sample projects, correlating the original business requirement with the type of solution delivered.

Here are 10 items from the Forrester list that I found particularly interesting and beyond the obvious (in no particular order), for your consideration:

  • Ability to think abstractly, identify patterns, and generate ideas and solutions
  • Understanding of when and how to escalate issues or needs
  • Understanding of and ability to delivery the appropriate level of detail needed for each task
  • Interest in exploring and understanding new concepts and topic areas
  • Emotionally invested in the work
  • Ability to learn by shadowing stakeholders
  • Ability to clearly articulate technology in terms stakeholders can understand
  • Understanding of the organizational culture and its impact on processes and projects (this one seems obvious, but the latter phrase is more profound than might seem at first glance)
  • Ability to drive a decision analysis and selection process
  • Ability to recognize patterns in requirements and categorize them appropriately

Being a good business analyst takes more than possessing a long list of skills; typically, it's not just the skills you have, but the ones you choose to bring to bear that will be a key determinant of your success. Here, the word "choose" is important, because depending on the circumstances, there are skills that you may choose to keep below the surface. For example, you might not want to strut around your top-notch linguistic skills and natty dress sense in a blue-collar environment. Or, you will want to tone down that "hail-fellow-well-met" approach - which went down so well at that engineering workshop - in a discussion with senior managers.

With this last observation in mind, here are three overarching suggestions of my own, before you get started with business analysis:

  • Know the organization's external environment: its competitive position, current state of the industry, geographical & social factors, etc.
  • Know the organization's internal environment: its financial position, organization culture, IT maturity, etc.
  • Adapt to the needs (your language, dress etc.), but be yourself. Imperfect, yet genuine, is fine; falsity comes through easily, and will destroy your credibility in no time.
What's needed to excel as a business analyst and to get projects started on a good footing? Forrester Research, for example, has published a spreadsheet (called the Business Analyst Assessment Workbook) that lists more than 150 attributes of a good business analyst... Here are 10 items from the Forrester list that I found particularly interesting and beyond the obvious...

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