Personal Identification: The Soft Skills PRECEDE the Hard Skills, for BAs

Doggone and dadblast it, what is going on! Didn’t I just say the opposite last month? How is your tolerance for ambiguity holding up? Are you on top of the BABOK 1.6 BA Fundamentals? If you are aspiring to the top of your profession, and have the courage to self-identify, dive right in!

I begin by quoting the entirety of BABOK Chapter 8 here (don’t panic, it fits in the blog):

Chapter 8: Underlying Fundamentals
8.1 Introduction

8.2 Basic Skills
8.2.1 Analysis Skills

.1 Structured Analysis Techniques
.2 Issue Management
.3 Communication Skills
.4 Learning Skills
.5 Usability

8.2.2 Business/Domain Knowledge
.1 Products
.2 Processes
.3 Markets
.4 Systems
.5 Sources of Knowledge

8.2.3 IT Knowledge
.1 Paradigms
.2 Methodologies

8.3 Advanced Skills
8.3.1 Meeting Management
8.3.2 Presentation Skills
8.3.3 Decision-making Skills
8.3.4 Facilitation Skills
8.3.5 Communication Skills
8.3.6 Conflict Resolution
8.3.7 Negotiation Skills
8.3.8 Relationship Skills
8.3.9 Questioning Skills
8.3.10 Systems Thinking
8.3.11 Escalation Skills
8.3.12 Logic
8.3.13 Cultural Awareness

8.4 Leadership Skills
8.4.1 Coaching Skills
8.4.2 Facilitating Long-term Goal Setting
8.4.3 Motivational skills
8.4.4 Appraisal Skills
8.4.5 Interviewing Skills
8.4.6 Role Definition
8.4.7 Behavioral Coaching
8.4.8 Delegation skills
8.4.9 Succession Planning
8.4.10 IT Architectural Skills

8.5 Peripheral Skills
8.5.1 Sales

8.6 References

Interestingly enough, it is only the Basic Skills that have any detail at all, and those not much. What does this mean? The Basic Skills are the things that we learn just by doing IT requirements work. So many BAs cut their teeth on IT, that this is “self-evident” to many of us. The KEY skill is that we LEARN.

Self-test number 1:
Did you love school, or at least did you love reading and learning? Can you see the relationship between a three-year IT project and a three-year PhD program? WHY is it important to involve stakeholders (bet you don’t know)?

Next are the Advanced Skills. These are the sorts of things that BAs learn when (typically) we have been in a job long enough to have institutional knowledge and process experience, plus enough maturity to get along. In effect we get “promoted” to working with more people. We may not be good at it at first, but we’re here because we know so much and can share it. This thrusts us beyond analysis of processes affecting teams, into the processes of team analysis. We can lead the team to meetings, but can we make them think?

Self-test number 2:
How balanced were your SAT scores? Are you as comfortable with words as you are with complex IT and financial concepts? Would you rather listen, except when it is vital to talk?

Then comes Leadership Skills. This is Advanced Skills on steroids, in the sense that NOW you can really make it work, not just oversee uninspired meetings and team sessions.

Self-test number 3:
Do people just fall all over themselves to be with you and get your approval and do what you say because you are just plain charismatic and, frankly, too sexy for your project? If not, have you held at least one sales job for more than two years? If not, try it and find out if you want to lead.

Yes, this is the punchline. Leadership IS influence, regardless of style, or outcome. Sales IS the profession of learning to influence, for good or for evil (both kinds of leaders are out there – which will YOU be?).

SO, as you look for “people skills”, don’t forget that a successful sale means a happy customer, whether the customer is a stakeholder, an executive, a system user, a boss, or an IT team member.

Happy customers are getting what they want – good systems; no one loves a salesman who sells a lemon. If you have happy customers, you are on your way to the top of the profession.

Here is the problem we have posed: BUT, loyal reader, I am out of time this month.

© 2008 Marcos Ferrer