How to Be a Better Business Analyst in 2015

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Now that we’re a month into 2015, it’s worth looking at our resolutions and seeing which ones will actually last us throughout the year. For business analysts, who work with the goals and objectives of clients in order to deliver more business value, it’s especially important to sit down and work through professional goals and objectives.

With that in mind, here are four resolutions for becoming a better business analyst:

Plan More

There is always a need to find a perfect balance between three elements: time, cost and quality. These three elements are achievable with proper planning, which is the responsibility of not only the business analysts, but also the project manager.

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The more we understand what needs to be done, the better we can carry it out. How does one master planning as a business analyst? At beginning of every project or project phase or even week of a project, plan to plan; in other words, set time aside to make the plans for the next increment of your work.

Less Technology, More Business

As a business analyst, your skills should be heavily weighted toward the business domain—you must understand both the business and the technical sides of an analysis.

A business analyst is often involved in the creation of requirements that enable a business to build a solution that meets business needs. But too often, we see technology thrown at a problem without the latter being fully understood; in light of that, it’s perhaps worth taking a step back before pulling a technology “trigger”:

  • Understand and embrace technology… But focus on the underlying business that drives that technology.
  • Work with businesses to make sure that a stated problem exists only because it is blocking that organization from reaching its strategic goals and objectives.
  • Make sure that every requirement enables the business to reach goals and objectives in the most economical and cost-effective way.
  • Focus on the “why” instead of “how.”
  • Don’t look at every problem in “solution mode.” A good understanding of a problem will get you much further.

Participate in the Community

Business analysts generally works in small teams and interact with business operations to gather/elicit requirements that enable the business to operate more efficiently; they must often work with offshore and cross-functional teams.

Learning from discussion and debate can be one of the most effective forms of growth, so why not leverage a community to learn and develop your skills as a business analyst?

Due to the nature of a business analyst’s work, he or she needs to actively seek out the larger community and become an active participant. The BA should not just take in, but give back: Every person has knowledge that can benefit someone else. Communities exist both internally and externally to organizations:

Internal

  • Join (or form) a community of practice within your organization.
  • Seek out other business analysts within your organization.
  • Have an approachable demeanor when others want advice or to run ideas past you.

External

  • Join organizations such as the IIBA or other, similar like-minded industry bodies.
  • Attend business analysis events (they may be hosted by a variety of groups).
  • Take the opportunity to participate in online forums.
  • Use/Leverage social media to share ideas.
  • Leave comments on industry-related articles you read online.

Learn Something New

There is an abundance of online information that can help you on your quest to become a master business analyst. Apart from comprehending the business domain, it’s worth your time to understand the broader industry, familiarizing yourself with competitors, industry challenges and other social and economic issues that can set you up to add real business value.

The below are helpful ways you can learn, including both informal and formal, free and paid:

Within the Community

  • Read a blog (e.g. www.modernanalyst.com).
  • Attend various business analysis events (such as IIBA events).
  • Watch YouTube instructional videos that relate to the profession.

Online Sources

  • Take advantage of free online learning sites (such as Coursera).
  • Subscribe to industry news websites.

Formal Courses

  • Take formal business analysis courses (in person or online).
  • Look for specific skills courses (UML, business rules, BPMN) to learn a new skill or keep it updated.
  • Look for soft skills courses (business writing, ethics, public speaking, facilitation).

Books and Magazines

  • Business domain magazines
  • Business analysis books

What are you planning on doing this year to improve your professional stature?

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