Jacqueline Sanders wrote a wonderful article that was posted on the modern analyst site, I highly recommend you read it. In it she writes briefly on the background of the Business Analyst field and several pointers for becoming a better and therefore more distinguished Business Analyst.
I have a few suggestions for some of her points.
1. Associate with Other Professional BA’s. Great point. This should extend to networking in general with a focus on BA organizations and individuals. There are numerous organizations that host local networking events and seminars. They don’t have to be regarding product managing or business analysis. Door64 and Austin Tech HH offer many events where you can socialize with the people you will be interfacing with the most in your job, not other BA’s, but developers, SME’s, and managers. More importantly, while it is good to be part of the in crowd of BA’s, if you are trying to land a job or help secure a deal, you’ve got to know the people with the projects.
2. Seek the Body of Knowledge (BOK) / Become Certifiable / Talk Like a B.A. Learn up on your BABOK, get certified where applicable, and know the language. Its challenging enough to translate business speak to functional requirements, no need to toss in BA’s with different communications. There is no substitute for BABOK and certifications. However, it is not enough to talk like a BA. I highly recommend subscribing to news feeds / blogs / articles to get all the recent traffic and best practices. Don’t just do this for business analysis based information, get into feeds for the space you are working in as well as development information. When you start talking like a BA and someone else starts talking like a developer, you should be able to quickly translate and ensure the same page was landed on.
3. Tools of The Trade. As Jacqueline says, MS Word, Excel, and Visio are not enough. I can almost guarantee you that SharePoint will be involved. You should get to know and love this tool (unless you are provided with another one, in which case you probably shouldn’t mention SharePoint). It will be imperative to use the shared task, communication, and document capabilities of this tool. As for getting to know other tools, if you have the free time, go out there and look up requirements management software and get a hold of all the free trials you can. Get to know any of the lists that inform you about which software offers what values.
4. It’s Hard to be Soft. Just like you would carry around a portfolio of your accomplishments, try to keep in mind your experiences that played out based on your soft skills. Jacqueline states it perfectly,” hard skills will get an applicant an interview, but soft skills will get that person a job.” Be ready to tell an interviewer how you were able to reject the project sponsor’s features without causing a political debacle and making sure they were alright with the decision based on the business needs. These experiences are just as important as your 14+ years of Visio usage.
5. Know You are Not. Jacqueline points out that we Business Analysts are not people who satisfy simple tasks. That we are not just a middle man in getting the information from the fax machine and giving it to the engineers as one lovely movie puts it. We are devoted, business-minded professionals. Everything we do should be an ROI based thought process because that is what we do. If someone doesn’t understand your role, it might even be hard for you to describe. I make sure sound business decisions are executed. I make sure that products meet project needs. I ensure that business needs are met with new or changing processes. I write high level, common and excruciatingly detailed documents. I am the facilitator of meetings to make sure we didn’t waste the entire leaderships day of work. I am the discoverer of everything everyone else forgot to mention. At this rate, I may also be Spartacus.
Our role is diverse and requires dedication to execute well. I find it funny how I never knew this type of job existed growing up, if you recall the silly aptitude tests growing up. I would like to reiterate that this is just a list of some of my personal thoughts regarding some of Jacqueline’s points. Please go read her article. Is there anything you feel we are missing out on?
Do you want to be a Business Analyst? Check out this post on what we look for.