Tips for new Business Analysts

Recently I had a chance to make a presentation about new trends in BPM for a group of Business Analysts from Tricity.

To make this more useful for participants I asked few of the best BAs in the world to share their tips for the fresh analysts. Today I want to share those tips with you too.

I framed the question as follows:

Let’s imagine that child of your best friend wants to start a Business Analyst career and wants to borrow your learning curve. What would be your advice for a fresh BA?

Below you can find the answers from BA experts.

Laura Brandenburg, author of How to Start a Business Analyst Career

You probably learned all of the analytical tools you needed to learn in school. Your success from here is going to be more dependent on your business relationships and your ability to communicate. So keep practicing deceptively simple skills like active listening. And don’t be afraid to volunteer to take on new tasks to add even more value to your team.

My career as a business analyst started to grow rather quickly once I just started doing higher level work and solving bigger business problems. And I was managing a team of BAs, PMs, and QA Engineers at the “young” age of 28.

Alex Papworth, Business Analyst on a mission to bring out the best in all BAs

Alex published his answer on LinkedIn too:

Seek teachers and the opportunity to learn everywhere

My advice would be to use every conversation as a learning opportunity. And to seek teachers who can provide you with that learning. Learning can happen inside and outside of work – take opportunities wherever they are offered. People who are generous with their time are not easily found, but they usually do it because it is a passion for them (but only if their time and advice is valued).

Demonstrate your enthusiasm with a generous spirit by inspiring them with your vision and passion, listening, asking questions and taking action on the advice offered. If you do this, your ‘teachers’ will gladly share their time.

My recommended topics for learning…

1. How are new digital products delivered? You need to understand the process at a high level. Get into the detail when you want to understand how the business needs are understood and translated into delivery. Here are some links –;

2. Learn the core BA skills by taking training. Business Analysis Practice and Requirements Engineering are ideal (most relevant in the UK but useful everywhere). If you are on a budget, read some recommended books. Business Analysis by Debra Paul, James Cadle et al is good starting point. Agile Business Analysis by Lynda Girvan and Debra Paul is a good addition. And here are some relevant articles: The business analyst super powers The top 8 behaviours of great business analysts

3. How does the modern business operate? I recommend you start with the organisation where you work or where you have some contacts. What do you need to consider when the business is being changed in some way? The BA training or reading from point 1 should help you with this. Wikipedia can give you a starting point.

4. Who would I work with and what is their role? What are their pain points and how can I help them be successful? You can use (1) and (2) to give you ideas on who you would work with. This is something that you will and should be asking yourself on any piece of work. As you get more experienced, you will have a better idea of the answer. However, making assumptions can be dangerous…

5. How can you get the best results when working with other people? This is not a question of managing others. This recognises that most of what you achieve will come from helping other (to help you and the business). It is actually quite a deep question if you dig into it. A starting list for you to work with would be: facilitation; influencing and negotiation. One good book to read to help you with this and other topics is The Trusted Advisor.

Finally, practice the art of self-reflection. Your early (entire career probably!) career should help you identify your strengths, what you enjoy and where you excel. Spend time writing this down on a regular basis. Check in with people who know you or get to know you and ask them – how would you describe me? What are my strengths?

Oh and take ownership of your own learning. Do NOT wait for your employer to help. If you have a budget and some training, enjoy it but don’t leave it at that.

Every assignment is a learning opportunity. Share your insights with generosity and work out loud. Find others who want to learn together. Never stop learning.

This will help you decide what you ‘want to be when you grow up’. Some of us are still deciding.

As a closing point, this is not my learning curve. This is how I would advise my younger self and others with the benefit of hindsight. Also, 1 to 4 are the fundamentals – everyone should be focussing on these. Focus on 5 and 6 as well and you will be on the way to being a great business analyst (or whatever you decide in the end).

(here are some more webinar resources on various important BA topics)

Bob Prentiss, Bob the BA

I would not borrow from my learning curve… I would crush it, surpass it and set a new learning curve! I don’t live with regrets, however, if I were to do it differently, I wish I had known more about this profession when I was younger. I wish I had not stayed in the same box for so long – you need to get out and experiment with different jobs, companies and approaches to business analysis. Challenge yourselves to do more. Get in touch with your abundance mentality. Do not operate from a position of scarcity. Embrace the idea that there is enough for everyone so you can learn more, take on more, do more. Absorb every bit of knowledge you can about the profession now because in 20 years it will not look anything like it does today. There are 400+ techniques in business analysis. The IIBA BOK only lists about 55. Learn them all. They will make a difference in your ability to make great decisions when doing analysis. Take…the…challenge!

Adrian Reed, IIBA UK (blog) (newsletter sign up)

1. Don’t (unknowingly) re-invent the wheel: Business analysis is a fascinating profession, and we have a rich lineage of tools, techniques and frameworks. Get to know these frameworks and tools even if you don’t need to use them yet. It will stop you needing to ‘reinvent the wheel’ later in your career. Trust me, I wish I did this earlier in my career 🙂

2. But… don’t be afraid to ‘re-invent’ the wheel sometimes: Particularly if working in a large organisation, you’ll probably find there are tools, standards, templates etc. These are all useful–to an extent–but don’t be afraid of adapting them to the context. Practicing in a pragmatic way enables us to get some awesome stuff done

3. Network: Yes, yes, the word networking instils fear in people… but it is so important, and something I didn’t realise until late in my career. This could be networking with business people, going for coffee. It could also be networking (online and in the real world) with other BAs in your organisation and outside of it. I am so glad I have a strong network!

4. Be Brave: Business analysis involves asking difficult questions. Sometimes, people don’t like to be asked these questions–but it is our duty to do so. We must act ethically and in the client’s (or project’s) best interest but we must be brave and bold–often needing to influence without authority.

5. It’s all about communication…. So much of what we do is about communication. Speaking, drawing, modelling. So communication is a good skill to hone.

6. …and the interpersonal skills: You could be the best, most talented modeller in the world; if you can’t interact with people you’ll find analysis hard going 🙂 So, building interpersonal skills & stakeholder management skills are so important.

Dave Saboe

Ask ‘why’ a lot. Having a natural curiosity about your organization, its processes, and how it makes money will lead you to discovering the real value behind stakeholder requests. Instead of implementing a solution you’re handed, ask ‘why’ to discover the underlying problem the organization is trying to solve or the opportunity it’s trying to capitalize upon. Doing so may allow you to discover different, better ways to achieve the goal, which leads you to becoming a trusted advisor.

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