What are a few characteristics of a top business analyst?

1) They deeply understand the business problem being solved. 
Most business analysts end up solving the wrong problem. Well, maybe not the wrong problem but not quite the right problem.  Often analyst might be solving a related problem but haven’t really identified the root problem.  Top business analyst have the ability to properly frame and structure complex business problems such that they are more readily understood by the entire team and the root problem is the one being solved. They also repeatedly question who, what, when, where, why and how to ensure that they right problem is fully revealed.

2) They are excellent translators and negotiators.
Business analysts are constantly interacting with different types of team members from business people with almost no detailed knowledge of technology to the most skilled developers.  One group speaks the language of business and the other speaks the language of IT.  Rarely the two groups are able to smoothly communicate with one another.  The business analyst is the translator between the two.  Top business analysts understand both languages and are excellent at translating between these two groups.

Business analysts must also be adept negotiators.  Different business stakeholders will often have competing needs.  Similarly, those things that are important to the IT group might not be what is important to the business stakeholders, and vice versa.  Business analysts must be able to explain the positions of each group and negotiate a common plan and direction to move forward.

3) They must be able to view the project from the highest to the lowest levels.
As the project carries on, the business analyst will get involved at an increasingly detailed level.  The team will be making hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions about the features and behavior of the application.  This is the critical point when the business analyst must be able to view the project from a high-level as well.  The best business analysts have the ability to keep all involved parties focused on the big picture and longer term benefits of the software even when in the midst of detail and fast approaching deadlines. 

4) They understand technology and its limits.
Business stakeholders rarely have enough technical knowledge to know what capabilities exist that will best solve their problem.  Similarly, they often don’t realize that technology decisions impact each other.  Once one specific architectural decision is made, other technical capabilities may no longer be supported.  Top business analysts will have enough technical understanding to be able to advise the business stakeholders of what can and can’t be done when it comes to software solutions.

In addition, some technical solutions while possible are just too costly to make sense.  The business analyst should be able to communicate software decisions in terms of TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and ROI (Return on Investment) and direct the business stakeholders to make the most cost effective decision.

5) They have credibility with the business.
While business analysts can come from either a business background or an IT background they must have credibility with the business stakeholders.  Usually, this means that strong business analysts first start out on the business side and slowly develop an interest in the technical side over time.  Since they already have a detailed understanding of the business processes and business problems that are being automated and solved the have almost immediate credibility with the business stakeholders.

It’s not impossible for an IT person to become a business analyst, but convincing people on the business side of the organization that an IT person has a strong understanding of what they do is a difficult feat.  Additionally, many IT workers have difficulties translating the IT speak into something that the business stakeholders can comprehend.

6) They enjoy interacting with people and are excellent communicators.
Communication and collaboration are vital skills for any business analyst.  The best business analyst are adept communicators and prefer interacting with team members rather than keeping to themselves in their cubicles or office.  Being an active communicator minimizes the chance that information doesn’t get fully disseminated across the team and it increases team cohesion. Additionally, the superb communication skills of a strong business analyst ensures that the true requirements of the software are understood and conveyed to the development team accordingly.

posted @ Saturday, August 10, 2013 5:38 PM by Chris Adams