Filling your Toolbox: Factors that Influence BA Skill Development
Everyone has a career toolbox—a collection of tips, tricks, skills and techniques. The tools accumulate over time:
- Some tools come with the toolbox: innate gifts, talents.
- We purchase tools: training, degrees, memberships in professional organizations.
- Other people buy or donate tools: employers offer training, mentors, experience.
- If we are inventive, we build our own tools.
Most BAs have a few standard tools they use frequently, but many of the tools just lay in the toolbox, unused. We don’t schedule time to check inventory, get rid of old tools, determine what is missing or anticipate future needs. We don’t fill our toolboxes efficiently or effectively.
BAs need to fill their tool boxes, but they shouldn’t fill them passively—just accepting the opportunities presented. Instead, BAs should choose, with intention, which skills they add.
Three factors influence this purpose-driven approach to BA skill development:
If individuals and organizations cultivate these attributes, BA skill development efforts will be effective, efficient and will provide lasting value.
BAs can’t develop skills effectively unless they understand the strength and value of their current capabilities.
So, what’s the current state of your BA toolbox?
- Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?
- Which competencies have you mastered?
- Which competencies are missing?
- Which skills will future projects require?
- Which skills will be required for career advancement?
- Which skills are valued by your organization?
- What business/technology/cultural trends will influence the value of certain skills?
Essentially, you need to be aware of your own capabilities, but also understand how external entities value your skills.
Here are a few ways to cultivate awareness:
- Complete a BA skill assessment. You can do this informally by creating a comprehensive list of BA skills from sources like the BABOK and then rating your mastery of each skill on a scale of 1-5 or you can use the IIBA’s competency assessment tool.
- Track stakeholder feedback. Make note of verbal and non-verbal feedback you receive from stakeholders. Find patterns and trends that indicate your strengths and weaknesses.
- Maximize your annual evaluation process. For those lucky enough to receive meaningful performance reviews—take advantage of the opportunity—get honest feedback from your manager.
- Ask about your reputation.
- Define skill-related goals.
- Suggest new skills that would benefit the organization.
- Evaluate training provided by your organization.
- Why is the training being offered?
- How can you apply the skills in your current environment?
- What are the expectations upon completing training?
- Compare yourself to others. Choose a few BAs you admire or consider successful. Identify their strengths. Determine if developing similar skills would help you achieve your goals.
- Review industry job descriptions:
- Which skills appeal to you?
- Which skills seem to be in highest demand?
- Do you have all of the skills required for your dream position?
Since the BA role centers on facilitating change in an organization, BAs need to be willing to change themselves too. BAs can’t develop skills effectively without the desire to learn, grow, experiment or improve. Without desire, BA skills get old and begin to lose value.
A BA with desire:
- Advocates for training, mentoring or experiences that will bring value to the BA role and the organization.
- Takes risks by experimenting with new skills and techniques.
- Practices new skills until they see results—do not just try skills once with ho-hum results and not try again.
An organization wishing to cultivate desire:
- Establishes a vision for the BA team.
- Identifies and communicates the skill set needed to achieve the vision.
- Communicates expected results.
- Provides answers to: “How will new skills address my pain and challenges in my job?”
Some BAs have awareness and desire, but find skill development limited by the leaders in their organizations.
Many BAs report to technical or business managers that do not have a clear understanding of the BA role. BAs in this position often struggle to obtain meaningful skill development opportunities.
In organizations where skill development is a priority, this is what you might experience:
- Leaders encouraging the use of new tools and techniques.
- Leaders modeling desired behavior by experimenting with new skills.
- Stakeholders, team members, and peers accepting change and encouraging experimentation.
- Skill development plans with flexibility to accommodate learning styles.
- A strong team atmosphere.
- A healthy respect for the lessons-learned from failure.
Can you think of other factors influence BA skill development? Please leave your comments below.
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