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.
I’m Excited – What Does a Business Analyst Do?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Learn and implement the best techniques for workshop facilitation –
User Story 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Ask probing questions.
Carefully define the problems.
Carefully define the solutions.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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”
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.
Advanced Business Analyst Habits
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 ;-).
Smile, be naturally passionate and stay positive.
Know ALL the BA habits.
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.
Ask lots of questions about the projects around you.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities at ALL times.
Take action immediately.
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.
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.
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.
Learn and improve.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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”
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
ProcessImpact.com -Analyst Habits
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.
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.
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.
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.
Expert Business Analyst - Conflict Management
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.
Look at people when they’re talking, nod frequently, listen to body language and provide feedback carefully.
Wikihow.com - Become a Better Listener
23. Decision Maker
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.
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.
Mindtools.com - Paired Comprison Analysis
A very powerful attribute – The ultimate vision of change as properly defined must be in-line with company objectives and strategy.
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)
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.
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.
Bridging The Gap - Lessons are Opportunities
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!
Don’t make excuses.
See deadlines as essential.
Push that extra mile when you don’t really feel like it.
Mark Tyrrell - Self Discipline Tehniques
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
30. Forward Thinker
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.
Two things can help here.
Know your vision.
And influence others to think about the future.
BizJournals.com - Train Yourself to be a Forward Thinker
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.
Get a thorough understanding AND memorise your stakeholder’s interests using Stakeholder Management tools.
Power-Interest (PI) Grid and CATWOE analysis both ‘pack a punch’
Know your subject and promote it in the right way with the right attitude.
Know when you’re nearing the ANNOYING stage.
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.
Create and adapt personal SMART goals that are based around CORE rules or values.
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.
BIA.com - 5 Steps to Ensure Consistency
33. Continuous Learner
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).
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
Find fellow Analysts in the online forums – http://modern-analyst.com/forum
Live Business and breathe Analysis (SAD! I know)
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
Share your knowledge of methodologies, techniques and applications.
Say why you use them.
Set up a blog to share your knowledge online.
A great BA is ALWAYS an ambassador for change.
They need to promote it and believe in it, otherwise change won’t happen.
Promote, drive and live for change.
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.
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.
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
Optimise your Business Analyst Resume/CV for greater visibility to employers.
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.