The Anatomy of a Rockstar Business Analyst

By XTGlobal Posted 10-Sep-2014

In an ever-changing corporate landscape with technological advances seemingly happening by the day, the role of the business analyst has grown increasingly important. While a business analyst could once be successful in the role based solely on their IT/project knowledge, ability to communicate clearly and stay organized, these skills are now expected rather than coveted. If your goal is to become a rockstar of your profession and make yourself indispensible to employers, there’s a new set of skills to develop.

Be cross-disciplined

While your ability to act as liaison between technical and non-technical stakeholders is critical, it’s equally important to develop the ability to operate freely and seamlessly between departments and business functions. Since the business analysis needs of your company or clients vary by project, having the ability to shift effectively between IT projects driven by various business units can make you much more valuable to your employer. Understanding the technology needs of a marketing department can be dramatically different than those of an HR team, and understanding how to effectively address these needs with project and technology personnel is key.

If you don’t already have previous work experience to facilitate a smooth transition, be open to taking advantage of any business unit or cross training your company offers. Finding a mentor with expertise in the area you hope to move to can also be useful.

Much of this knowledge is part and parcel with career experience, but a superior business analyst will absorb as much detail as possible, ask questions and maintain a keen awareness of the cross-functional nuances of the organization.

Be an advanced communicator

Your communication skills have the ability to define your success as a business analyst and it goes far beyond just being clear and concise. As a business analyst, it will often fall on you to educate a business unit or client on the technical resources available and their limitations. At times, this can mean informing your colleagues that what they want can’t be done within their desired timeframe, or worse, isn’t possible at all.

In a very real way, a rockstar business analyst must have the communication style of a diplomat. This allows you to deliver bad news, liaise between departments that aren’t on the same page about project goals, and help keep everyone focused and on task when they may have no idea about the full scope of the project. For business analyst Scott Wolf, “building relationships ends up being one of the most important parts of his job.”

Be a visionary

In order to be truly successful as a business analyst, it’s necessary to have the ability to fully see and understand the big picture of what your company or client is trying to accomplish, while still being comfortable with the smallest details of the project requirements.

It’s all too common for projects to be undertaken without considering the long-term implications, but a rockstar business analyst can help bridge the gap between written requirements and long-term success. Maybe a new feature is being developed for another project that can be leveraged for others. Maybe a new technology framework has hit the market, making certain tasks more efficient and scalable. It’s not required for a business analyst to necessarily have the hands-on coding capabilities to execute this vision, but by combining a keen understanding of the technology landscape with a unique understanding of current and previous projects, a visionary business analyst can bring much more to the table than one who leaves requirements unexamined.

Be open-minded

Once you understand the big picture of the projects you take on, it’s important to still approach each project or individual requirement within it as something entirely new. When you maintain an open mind to all the possible solutions – even those you don’t initially believe would be effective – you allow yourself to increase your odds of success. Even when you ultimately must approach your new project in the same manner as previous ones, you do so because it’s truly the best course of action, not because you’ve allowed yourself to grow complacent.

Be a critical thinker

The ability to get your preconceived notions about the project out of the way can create a space for genuine critical thinking to occur. This allows you to develop the unique solutions that help to further company objectives rather than reusing the cookie-cutter methodologies you’ve already employed for no reason other than they’ve worked in the past. Your ability to continually innovate your way through any challenge you encounter is a skill that, frankly, not every business analyst develops, yet should.

Remember, developing these five rockstar business analyst skills will be an ongoing process, but over time, will help increase your professional capabilities and organizational value.

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