Business Analysts – Their 37 Habits – And what you can do Now

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This is the most complete and actionable list on the web. But it doesn’t just explain what a Business Analyst does.

It actually SHOWS you in simple, clear detail.

But don’t let the length of it put you off, you don’t need to have all these habits to become a BA.

However, you do need to improve and nurture them as you progress your career.

And, you WILL already possess some of them, so that’s a great start.

Why 37? It sounds a lot!

This job advert for an experienced Business Analyst might clear things up a little.

business-analyst-job-advert

More Business Analyst jobs here if you fancy a peek.



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I’m Excited – What Does a Business Analyst Do?

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You’ve probably read many a summary about BA roles.

In my view, the best way to truly understand what they do is by understanding why their key competences actually need to become their unconscious habits (i.e. things that come naturally to them).

And this is where you’ve come lucky.

Because I’m now giving you the 37 habits of a Great Business Analyst.

I’m also explaining EXACTLY why these habits are needed AND at least one thing you could do to thrive at EVERY single one.

Psst. I also give you some awesome resource links for you to get your teeth into immediately.

For me, just thinking about these habits and attempting to improve upon them has enabled me to excel at my work.

I’ve received excellent feedback from project managers, developers, testers and business stakeholders.

Here's some Stakeholder Analysis Templates

And had major successes in large projects. Not to mention the promotion(s).

And all this, despite having pretty much zero knowledge of Business Analysis just a few years ago.

FREE BONUS SECTION: Download a free checklist on becoming a Great Business Analyst – Perfect for beginners and experts alike.
Also includes the title of a book that completely changed my thinking. Click here

So now you’ve downloaded the bonus checklist to complete as you go.

Let’s begin…

Firstly I’ve broken the list into three sections, so make sure you read right to the end:

    1. Critical habits (1-11)

    2. Advanced habits (12-29)

    3. Expert habits (30-37)

Critical Business Analyst Habits

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1. Communicator

Why:
Bridging the communication gap between business users and the software development team is often the core reason for a BA’s existence.

Another core task of the BA is to clearly communicate - to executive level management and subject matter experts (SME) - the issues, risks and opportunities during business process transformations.

Action Points:
Always make sure you have a full understanding of what you are trying to communicate.

Explain in different ways depending on the recipient.

Adapt to the situation - Use documentation, presentations, or even just a brief discussion.

Focus on face-to-face discussions where possible.

Further reading: BA Times - Bridge the communication gap

2. Facilitator

Why:
Facilitating Requirements Gathering workshops with managers, users, developers and ‘anyone who’s interested’ helps identify important solution characteristics.

Holding workshops with a number of stakeholders who have conflicting interests can create friction.

Managing this friction is something a great BA needs to do.

Action Points:
Learn and implement the best techniques for workshop facilitation –

User Story workshops

VOE workshops

Set objective(s) for every interview, meeting or workshop.

ALWAYS bring discussions back towards objectives.

Address the requirements for ‘Next steps’ after every meeting.

Further reading: Business Analysis Excellence - Workshop Facilitation

3. Analytical

Why:
Mapping ‘As-is’ and ‘To-be’ processes is only a small part of the role. Analysing them for improvement opportunities and re-engineering the processes are where real benefits are made.

Everything a BA does is based around analytical thinking.

Action Points:
Focus much of your efforts on analysing the outcomes of workshops, process maps and requirements sessions in relation to the project goals.

Affinity Diagrams are handy when analysing a lot of information.

4. Detailer

Why:
Details of the functional and non-functional system requirements must be clearly documented in a way that can be understood by all parties – users, developers, managers etc.

Considering the finer details helps identify overlaps, conflicts, feasibility, traceability and consistency while the Business Analyst is eliciting and documenting requirements.

Remembering the details also ensures a substantial advantage during negotiations – believe me on that one.

Action Points:
Practice detailing and separating functional and non-functional requirements.

Obtain thorough knowledge about ‘Applying the filters' when analysing functional and non-functional requirements.

5. Relationship Builder

Why:
Arguably the most important.

BAs are dependent on a large cross section of personal engagement throughout all business improvement projects.

Building a strong relationship with someone makes them wonderfully keen to offer their support.

Action Points:
Look out for rapport building opportunities at ALL times.

Look for and create common interests with stakeholders as well as discussing common problems –

Know when your stakeholders are engaged – read my article on engaging stakeholders

Stay positive!

6. Methodical

Why:
The Business Analysis world is inundated with project methodologies often in the form of a System Development Lifecycle (SDLC).

Some of these include - Waterfall (PRINCE2), Agile (SCRUM), Six Sigma, and Lean – to name just a few.

Action Points:
Learn ALL the methodologies as thoroughly as possible.

Naturally you will be geared towards one of them in your role.

But be prepared to use any technique of any methodology in order to gain the desired project outcome.

Further Reading:

AGILE - http://www.agilemethodology.org

Waterfall - http://businessanalysisexperts.com/waterfall-methodologies

Six Sigma - http://www.isixsigma.com/new-to-six-sigma/what-six-sigma/

7. Influencer

Why:
Getting hard-headed business people on board with recommendations is to influence them to your way of thinking.

Do this - and you're improvement recommendations WILL gain traction.

Action Points:
Focus on the benefits NOT the features.

These benefits MUST directly impact the stakeholder’s interests.

And that’s why it can be very difficult to keep all stakeholders happy.

There’s a convo on the Modern Analyst forum:
How to influence people you have no authority over

8. Problem Solver

Why:
It’s essential for a BA to identify the root cause of problems before recommending a solution.

It’s often easy to solve the symptoms of a problem and ignore the cause.

Action Points:
Become great at Root Cause Identification – Fishbone Analysis or 5 Why’s are great tools for this.

Ask probing questions.

Carefully define the problems.

Carefully define the solutions.

9. Mathematician

Why:
My favourite!

Change projects must have benefits.

Tangible benefits can only be measured with statistics.

Statistics need to be calculated at the start AND throughout AND at the end of a project.

Action Points:
When reviewing processes and documenting findings. Focus on removing WORDS like many, numerous, lots etc.

And replacing them with NUMBERS.

E.g. Accounts Payable process many invoices in a day

Becomes…

Accounts Payable process 1000 invoices per day.

Do this for EVERY project you’re involved in.

And make sure your PMs are doing it too.

10. Technical

Why:
As a Technical Business Analyst, understanding systems is imperative to documenting requirements AND overseeing User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

Fully realising what a customer is asking for in technical terms will help developers deliver accurate and timely solutions.

Action Points:
Get down and dirty with coding in any spare time you have.

Read some coding books.

Learn the basics of SQL, Java, PHP - just knowing the basics of any of these will make you a naturally more technical thinker.

I use this website a lot:
www.w3schools.com

11. Summariser

Why:
The outcome of a feasibility study, a business case or requirements studies MUST be well summarised.

For one simple reason -

A good summary makes the audience decide whether they will continue to read or listen

Too much unnecessary detail can come across as lazy.

In the words of Blaise Pascal (a French Mathematician)

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”

Action Points:
When holding user interviews, meetings, workshops, documents, presentations and even email, attempt to summarise things without losing the detail.

It’s like anything really, the more you do it the better you’ll become at it.


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Advanced Business Analyst Habits

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12. Enthusiastic

Why:
Many BA employers will value enthusiasm above skills, so if a BA can show they are enthusiastic AND have the skills – the job is yours.

On the other hand – if they don’t value enthusiasm, you probably don’t want to work there anyway ;-).

Action Points:
Smile, be naturally passionate and stay positive.

Know ALL the BA habits.

13. Opportunistic

Why:
Quickly identifying opportunities across projects WILL save your company time, money and costly resource.

Being opportunistic is essential for a BA working across a number of projects at any one time.

Action Points:
Ask lots of questions about the projects around you.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities at ALL times.

Take action immediately.

Don’t procrastinate.

14. Proactive

Why:
It’s not easy starting out on a project.

Because no-one on the project really understands the process - other than a few SMEs.

And the process could span across many different people or systems who just don’t communicate very well.

So what should be done?

Taking an early proactive initiative to seek out valuable information is key to enabling a fast start on any project.

Action Points:
Memorise the layout of the Terms of Reference and BOSCARD.

Knowing the headings will make sure you ask the right questions during the very first project scope meeting.

Further Reading:
ProactiveChange.com - Proactivity vs. Reactivity
Siteresources.org - Writing a Terms of Reference

15. Dynamic

Why:
Working across and being flexible to different types of projects or work packages is essential for a BA to succeed.

Such projects could include Process Reviews, Data & MI, database changes or just small change requests.

Many different tasks will need completing throughout the projects.

For example - Requirements Gathering, documentation, process review, improvement presentations, testing etc.

Action Points:
Learn and improve.

16. Fast-paced

Why:
Businesses these days need stay ahead of the game.

To do so they need to move (or change) quickly.

To move quickly, they need their stakeholders and employees to move quickly.

Cue the ‘Fast-Paced’ Business Analyst.

Note: Being fast-paced isn’t a replacement for attention to detail – BA's need both

Action Points:
Prioritise/plan early and update the plan often – for your own work and for the wider project work - short term pain for long term gain.

Make a contingency plan.

Stay assertive when the pressure mounts.

17. Fast Learner

Why:
Working with very different scenarios and data models means they find themselves in new situations ALL the time.

Understanding the current situation stimulates a BA to be more proactive - as explained earlier.

Action Points:
Some people are born to learn quickly.

But if you’re not, no sweat.

Many people can adapt to become a fast learner.

By identifying the most important information and observing the most experienced people around them.

Here are some practical, actionable suggestions from Quora:
Quora.com - Become a Fast Learner

18. Focussed

Why:
Clearly defining the project scope and staying focussed on it ensures projects can be delivered as agreed.

Staying focussed ALL THE TIME is vital to absorbing and re-iterating the most accurate information between the project team members.

Losing concentration, particularly during requirements gathering sessions only creates a guessing game during design, build and test phases of a project.

Action Points:
If you feel yourself switching off in a meeting, bring yourself back immediately.

If you don’t understand something, ask your own questions to re-energise discussions.

Becasue when you realise what people are talking about you will be able to listen for longer.

19. Criticiser

Why:
One of the most common phrases that a BA hears is:

“We do it like that because that’s how it’s always been done”

Therefore, critically challenging the status quo is most important.

What’s more…

BA’s sometimes get criticised for documenting system requirements based on what the user wants NOT what the user needs.

In other words, they are not critical enough of users suggestions for change even though what the user suggests is probably not the correct solution.

Karl Wiegers lives and breathes by -

“The customer is not always right but the customer always has a point”

Action Points:
To use your critical mind is generally to question something in a revealing way until it all makes perfect sense.

And I mean perfect sense.

Whether this be of the business stakeholders, the project manager or even a customer.

Of course you need to be a bit more laid back when it comes to working with important customers

Further reading:
ProcessImpact.com -Analyst Habits

20. Constructive

Why:
Just telling someone they are wrong never wins anyone round to agreement.

Criticism should always be backed up with positive recommendations in order to preserve optimum engagement into the project.

Action Points:
Whenever you feel it is necessary to criticise someone for their suggestion or even their process.

ALWAYS make sure to explain with a suggested alternative.

21. Assertive

Why:
Effective management of meetings, stakeholder workshops and general discussion is imperative for a Business Analyst.

If a BA gets aggressive, key stakeholder engagement could be lost.

If a BA is passive, things may go wrong.

Therefore, assertiveness is the only other option.

Action Points:
Say what you feel whenever you feel the need to - in meetings, workshops, phone calls, emails etc.

Keep cool, calm and collective at all times.

Further reading:
Expert Business Analyst - Conflict Management

22. Listener

Why:
Asking revealing questions is an important task BUT Actively listening to people with empathy truly makes project stakeholders feel like their needs and desires will be fully understood.

Having read about the critical habits, you now know a BA must build rapport.

Many say the gateway to rapport building is through listening and NOT through talking.

Action Points:
Look at people when they’re talking, nod frequently, listen to body language and provide feedback carefully.

Further reading:
Wikihow.com - Become a Better Listener

23. Decision Maker

Why:
Two of the ways they might make decisions are -

1. Off the cuff (no Analysis) – because small issues can require quick fixes.

2. Calculated (little or Extensive Analysis) – because large scale Solution comparison needs much more analysis.

Action Points:
Learn how to apply the Solution comparison tools – Paired Comparisons, Kano Analysis

Having learnt the tools, get your mind-set thinking in this way so you can make quick, calculated decisions without even putting pen to paper.

Further Reading:
Mindtools.com - Paired Comprison Analysis

24. Strategist

Why:
A very powerful attribute – The ultimate vision of change as properly defined must be in-line with company objectives and strategy.

Action Points:
Understand and use strategic tools to know your company - SWOT, PEST or Porter’s 5 forces are great;

Implement at least 2 strategic tools during every project.

Read Business Analysis Techniques: 72 Essential Tools for Success
(Especially the Strategy section)

25. Responsible

Why:
A Business Analyst takes sole responsibility for the outcome of their project documentation, clear communication and often the outcome of a project.

For both good and bad results.

Action Points:
Don’t just document a Lessons Learned review at every project stage – reflect and react to the outcomes.

Recognise your successes.

Even more importantly - Recognise your mistakes.

Don’t point the finger.

Further Reading:
Bridging The Gap - Lessons are Opportunities

26. Self-Disciplined

Why:
The ‘Journal of Personality’ found self-disciplined people are happier both in the long run and ‘in the moment’.

A happy BA is for sure a highly effective BA – BOOM!

Action Points:
Don’t make excuses.

See deadlines as essential.

Push that extra mile when you don’t really feel like it.

Further reading:
Mark Tyrrell - Self Discipline Tehniques

27. Creative

Why:
Alternatives and ideas must be suggested during requirements gathering.

The successful Re-designing of processes and systems that haven’t been tried and tested, is what makes great process analysts special.

Action Points:
Don’t be afraid to make ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ recommendations.

Because you never know who you might get on board.

If the benefit proof is there, the changes can made.

28. Qualified

Why:
Qualifications in Business Analysis are seen as a plus to many employers.

They show someone has the willingness to learn and aptitude for self-development.

Action Points:
Complete a certification course such as ISEB, CBAP, CCBA etc.

Apply for funding from the company you work for, if you're unable fund it yourself.

Teach yourself using the endless amounts of resources available, then take the exam separately – it’s cheaper.

29. Experienced

Why:
The classic saying is:

“You need experience to get experience”

But having extensive experience across different projects, systems and varied user environments, means lessons can be learned and project successes much more likely in the future.

Action Points:
Whether you’re a Business Analyst now or wanting to become one, you must proactively look for opportunities to get involved in projects across the business.

This will ensure you get continued experience.

Expert Business Analyst Habits

Business Analysts Expert Habits Banner

30. Forward Thinker

Why:
Planning projects in a Business Analysis or project world can be challenging but is essential to delivering benefits on-time and to budget.

3 to 5 to 10 year plans are the norm for business leaders.

Therefore, thinking outside of the current project plan and into the next possible project plan(s) can provide even greater chance for long term business success.

Unite your forward-thinking with your knowledge about strategy and your skills will be almost unrivalled.

Action Points:
Two things can help here.

Know your vision.

And influence others to think about the future.

Further Reading:
BizJournals.com - Train Yourself to be a Forward Thinker

31. Persistent

Why:
There’s a VERY fine line between persistent and being annoying.

Knowing the line takes oodles of self-awareness and stakeholder management.

But when persistency is approached in the right way, it can reap ultimate rewards in obtaining resource for projects and therefore seeing change initiatives through to delivery.

Action Points:
Get a thorough understanding AND memorise your stakeholder’s interests using Stakeholder Management tools.

Which ones?

Power-Interest (PI) Grid and CATWOE analysis both ‘pack a punch’

What’s more…

Know your subject and promote it in the right way with the right attitude.

Know when you’re nearing the ANNOYING stage.

32. Consistent

Why:
The benefits of consistency are often incomparable to anything else.

Many of the biggest businesses thrive due to consistent marketing.

Project consistency WILL be remembered by the highest people and can propel a Business Analyst towards expert status.

Action Points:
Create and adapt personal SMART goals that are based around CORE rules or values.

EG:
A contractor might only accept work if they can easily see a possible benefit of 50% cost reduction.

They refuse work if this isn’t visible because they don’t want to ruin their own reputation.

That is their CORE rule. And their SMART goals will be based around it.

Ultimate consistency requires a lot of extra effort and review of your own work.

Ask for feedback from stakeholders on projects you’ve completed.

Further Reading:
BIA.com - 5 Steps to Ensure Consistency

33. Continuous Learner

Why:
Continuous personal development is a core trait of experts in any field.

And it’s no different for Business Analysts

It is this that separates the men form the boys (or women from the girls).

Action Points:
Read books – Amazon.com/business-analysis

Here's a list of Business Analysis Books.

These 72 BA Templates are based on the book - Business Analysis Techniques: 72 Essential Tools for Success

Follow Blogs.

Find fellow Analysts in the online forums – http://modern-analyst.com/forum

Get involved in social media Twitter and LinkedIn are top of the pile for me.

Live Business and breathe Analysis (SAD! I know)

34. Mentor

Why:
Knowledge sharing is absolutely key to keeping the BA industry alive.

Also, if you can mentor upcoming talent, they will already be thinking like you by the time you need them for a project.

As a senior Business Analyst

Action Points:
Share your knowledge of methodologies, techniques and applications.

Say why you use them.

Set up a blog to share your knowledge online.

35. Ambassador

Why:
A great BA is ALWAYS an ambassador for change.

They need to promote it and believe in it, otherwise change won’t happen.

Action Points:
Promote, drive and live for change.

36. Inspirer

Why:

Business Analysts need to inspire young people to get involved in the industry.

Subject matter experts (SMEs) also need inspiring to get involved in projects.

Action Points:

Don’t just tell people about your methodologies, techniques and applications.

Get people EXCITED about the workings of Business.

Set up an inspirational blog to share your knowledge online.

37. Marketer

Great Business Analysts are a cut above the rest when it comes to marketing themselves as an expert in their field. This is how they land the best jobs, contracts or clients

In today’s technological world it has become even more important to market yourself online as well as in person.

Their knowledge of marketing pays dividends when promoting their projects across the business and beyond

Action Points:
Optimise your Business Analyst Resume/CV for greater visibility to employers.

Optimise your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for greater visibility online.

Optimise your blog (when you get that far) for greater visibility online

Or even more importantly.

Be sure to backup your marketing proposals with real action that get noticed by people around you.

So how can I use this information right now?

I’ve created a free step-by-step checklist that you can use to quickly apply the most important habits to your day-to-day workings.

The checklist contains super-actionable techniques that you can implement to excel yourself towards expert status.

It also gives you the title of the book that completely changed my way of thinking.

You may already know it.

But if you don’t, it could change your life.

Click below to download the checklist.


23 thoughts on “Business Analysts – Their 37 Habits – And what you can do Now

  1. Hi Matthew,
    Can you please be my mentor…I want to be a business analyst and it’s a dream job I aspire to have that has challenging task that will change my career life for greater good.

  2. Great list, Matt, incredibly thorough. I especially love the checklist you created, I feel it really brings the competencies you captured to life, by putting them into an actionable format. I am going to print it out at work tomorrow. I already have the IIBA list of competencies, and although there is some overlap (which I would expect), their descriptions can be a more abstract. I love that your checklist provides guidance on how to display the behavior.

      1. Dear Matther,
        Can i get your mail id.

        I am working as a business analyst in startup company and i want increase my key skill in this field.

        Required your guidance.

        Please ping me on [email protected] else share ur email id..

        Thanks,
        SHalu Rajpoot

          1. mam i just started doing business analyst course from ims proschool delhi ..is dis ryt for having good job in future……………..

  3. I suspected that this article might turn out to be fluff, but discovered instead that it’s amazingly useful and valuable. Thanks!

  4. An excellent article that puts everything that a BA does and more , into perspective.An inspiring, motivating article with practical guidance via links to additional readings for aspiring and seasoned professionals. I have been a BA/Senior BA for over a decade now and find that the BA is the most undervalued and unappreciated resource in many organisations. Your article highlights many areas that a BA can use to raise their profile and earn stakeholders recognition and respect for the discipline .Encouraging BA’s to improve competency , knowledge and skills to add even more value for stakeholders.

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