Are you exploring a business analyst role and wondering if you have the required business analysis skills and experience?
It’s likely that you have many transferable skills. But just what skills are transferable to business analysis? And which ones are most important?
What follows is the list of the most critical business analysis skills for new business analysts to bring to the table – organized into the categories of core skills, business analysis skills, soft skills, and skills that can be required for specific types of BA jobs.
Before I forget, I want to be sure you know about my step-by-step BA career planning course (it’s free) that’s designed to help you, the mid-career professional, kick-start your business analysis career.
Now, onto the skills.
Typically if business analysis is a good career choice, you’ll be able to tick off these skills (or be extremely excited to go to work right away on improving these skills just because they sound interesting).
Business analysts must be good communicators. This means they can facilitate working meetings, ask good questions, listen to the answers (really listen), and absorb what’s being said. In today’s world, communication does not always happen face-to-face. The ability to be a strong communicator in a virtual setting (via conference calls or web meetings) is equally important.
No project is without problems. In fact, the entire project is a solution to a problem. At the highest level, BAs facilitate a shared understanding of the problem, the possible solutions, and determine the scope of the project. You’ll also find BAs in the midst of facilitating teams to solve technical challenges, especially when they involve negotiation between multiple business or technical stakeholders.
Critical Thinking Skills
Business analysts are responsible for evaluating multiple options before helping a team settle on a solution. While discovering the problem to be solved, business analysts must listen to stakeholder needs but also critically consider those needs and ask probing questions until the real need is surfaced and understood. This is what makes critical thinking and evaluation skills important for new business analyst.
While communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills are core to being a good BA, they are not all that’s required. Let’s look at the skills specific to the business analysis profession next.
Business Analysis Skills
The following skills are specific to the business analyst role, but even as a new business analyst or someone looking to enter the profession, you’ll see it’s possible you have related transferable experience (and therefore skills) doing similar work under a different title.
(By the way, this is something I can help you do a deep dive into. Click here to learn more about the BA Essentials Master Class, a virtual, self-study course that walks you through the 8-step business analysis process.)
Documentation and Specification Skills
While documentation or writing could be considered a subset of written communication, it’s really its own skill set for a BA. Here I include the ability to create clear and concise documentation (the latter becoming increasingly necessary in a lean or agile world). As a new business analyst, you may not have experience in a variety of business analyst specifications (that comes with time and a variety of project experiences) but it’s quite possible that your strong general documentation and writing skills will get you started.
And it will be easier to get into your first BA role if you can correlate your past experience in something very similar to a formal BA specification to the kinds of specifications required for any given position. And this is possible even if you’ve never worked in a formal environment.
Business analysts use a variety of techniques to analyze the problem and the solution. As a new BA, you might find that you naturally see gaps that others gloss over and identify the downstream impact of a change or new solution. As you mature as a BA, you’ll use a variety of techniques to conduct analysis and deconstruct the problem or solution. Examples include use cases, business process models, and decision models.
In this skill area, we see many cases where professionals have related experience in analyzing problems using different techniques. Your experience is transferable and can be expanded by applying some of the BA techniques in your current work.
A close sister to many analysis techniques is the ability to create visual models, such as work-flow diagrams or wireframe prototypes. For any given analyst role, there could be specific models you need to create. As a general skill set, it’s important to be able to capture information visually – whether in a formal model or a napkin drawing.
Facilitation and Elicitation Skills
BAs facilitate specific kinds of meetings. The most common kinds of elicitation sessions a BA facilitates are interviews and observations. In some more advanced roles, the meetings are called “JAD sessions” or “requirements workshops.”
Most new BAs have experience running very similar meetings or facilitating discussions that can is transferable into elicitation experience.
Business Analysis Tools
As a new business analyst, the ability to use basic office tools such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint should be sufficient to get you into the profession.
Other technical skills include the ability to use modeling tools, such as Visio or Enterprise Architect, requirements management tools, such as DOORS or Caliber, or project and defect management tools (there are really too many to list these days). It’s unlikely you’ll find these to be required skills for a large number of positions and they will be skills you learn on-the-job.
And as important as it is to have specific business analyst skills, no list of BA skills would be complete without the soft skills required to be successful as a BA. Let’s discuss those next.
First and foremost on the list of soft skills is the ability to forge strong relationships, often called stakeholder relationships. A stakeholder is simply anyone who has something to contribute to your project and often you’ll work with many stakeholders from both the business and the technical teams.
This skill involves building trust and often means stepping into a leadership role on a project team to bridge gaps.
While BAs are not project managers, the most successful BAs manage the business analysis effort. This means that the BA is proactive and dependency-aware. It also means they manage themselves to commitments and deadlines, a skill set which can involve influence, delegation, and issue management.