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Seven things music could teach you about what it takes to be a good business analyst

I must admit, I’ve been excited to write this since the moment I first read Mike Cohn’s blog ‘Ten Things The Beatles taught me about being Agile’. So please bear with me over the next few minutes whist I try to blend my love of good tunes, tongue-in-cheek humour, and business analysis all into a few hundred written words. While I am a huge music fan, I can’t honestly say I’ve taken song titles or lyrics and directly correlated them to my day job. Or at least not consciously, but I wanted to find an engaging way to express what I believe are some of the most important traits that are required in any aspiring business analyst. The things that you can’t teach as such, but more the raw talent and character that will help you massively along the way and, some may argue, are even essential to flourish.

While I’ve long been a keen BA advocate, my desire to raise the profile of business analysis as a potential career route has grown from my involvement in the UK’s BA apprenticeship standard (thanks to Christina Lovelock for getting me involved!) as well as having recently been through the process of looking at how we can attract future talent, into what LinkedIn has said was the 6th most in-demand skill globally, onto our own first apprentice cohort during my time at DWP Digital. The latter of those, involved a team of three of us spending a large amount of time in trying to get our advert just right, acknowledging that many considering a BA apprenticeship will more than likely have never heard of business analysis or other associated words that maybe second nature to experienced practitioners. Words like elicitation, stakeholder, and requirement to name but a few. But we passionately wanted to ensure that our recruitment campaign had the widest reach possible, attracting a diverse audience of people that may have never considered a career in IT, yet alone business analysis.


Therefore, we focussed on trying to make the language both clear and engaging. Looking back, I think it’s fair to say, we didn’t do a bad job – as we attracted over 1600 applicants. However, in the spirit of continuous improvement and wanting to ensure business analysis has that widest reach – I’ve given my top 7 chart on what I look for in ‘wannabe’ BAs (…don’t worry, that’s the first and last Spice Girls reference).

  • Kicking off in seventh place, The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony

Things don’t always go to plan. And unlike in the song, it won’t be the only road you ever go down, projects and the teams associated with them come and go. Working in any transformation environment requires resilience to help you embrace the constant change that you will be a key part in trying to make happen.

  • Hitting the charts at number 6, Mardy Bum by the Arctic Monkeys

Good BAs like most professions, need people with the right attitude. Of course, at times we all occasionally have our off days. But delivering change involves taking people and organisations out of their comfort zone. The path is often bumpy, and obstacles can sometimes appear from nowhere – therefore it needs those who have a strong determination to get things done as well as being able to bring those along with them.

  • In fifth place, Red Hot Chili Peppers – Can’t Stop

As business analysts we work in environments where everything is constantly evolving. This can be organisations, technology, or customer needs. Whatever the challenge, the ‘red hot’ BAs out there need to have a lifelong appetite for learning. This may mean different things for different people, so this doesn’t necessarily mean formal academic learning, it can often mean more informal ways such as reading online articles, watching YouTube channels, attending events, or even just talking to others.

  • In at number 4, Listen Up by Oasis

Probably one of the hardest things of all. Listening, as in active listening is something that can take a lifetime to master but fortunately there are lots of established techniques out there to help you develop. Having that raw ability to intently listen, being able to strip out the key parts of what someone is saying and replaying back how you’ve interpreted what has been said (or in some cases, may have not been said) will give you a huge advantage over your peers.

  • Third place, Can’t Stand Me Now by The Libertines

Being able to build professional relationships with teammates, customers and suppliers is key. As a Business Analyst, you will be required to collaborate with others each and every day. So, it’s important that you enjoy networking and building rapport with a huge range of people. The rest, such as techniques to help you identify who to talk to in an organisation, you will usually learn organically, especially if you’re doing a structured apprenticeship or development programme.

  • Another Oasis hit, D’ You Know What I Mean? in at the number 2

Having the courage to ask questions, to get to the bottom of something so you can understand it yourself but more importantly, so you can help others understand it as well. If you’re comfortable asking questions, where others are silent – this could be a very helpful trait should you be interested in the profession. However please don’t mistake courage with a Liam Gallagher-like temper.

  • And ‘raising it up’ in first place, Hunger by Florence and the Machine

Excuse the poor link for our chart topper, but don’t get me wrong, BAs love pizza as much as everyone else. But the point here is that the best BAs tend to be those who have a natural inquisitiveness, or you could even say hunger to find out more. Whether you’re working on developing a new web-based product for banking customers or changing a billing engine for a telco – they want to dig deeper to see how things work, to see what may have been missed or to analyse where improvements can be made. This is often where BAs add their value the most.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the article as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. And more importantly, that it can be of use to those who are considering business analysis as their career choice.

For those in the UK, you can find out more on the apprenticeship as well as which organisations are currently looking for new apprentices on the BCS website.

Lastly, good luck to all those who have recently started or are about to start their careers in business analysis! You are the BA leaders of tomorrow.

P.S. As a bit of fun, it would be great to see what other song titles and the meanings behind them others would choose. All genres welcome, and feel to add them in the comments below.

Jamie Toyne

Jamie is an experienced Business Analysis Leader and community of practice builder, with over 14 years’ experience in transformational change in numerous sectors covering automotive, telco, financial services and more recently public sector. Currently interim Head of Business Analysis in a major UK Government department – Ministry of Justice (MoJ Digital & Technology) and formerly Head of Business Analysis of DWP Digital, where he led one of the largest communities of practice made up of 250+ BAs across the country. An advocate for developing others, he has previously launched the BA apprenticeship in DWP Digital, co-designed and launched an in-house Senior BA Development Programme and have successfully moved large communities to be fully virtual during the pandemic. Jamie is an active and influential member within the Cross-Government BA Leaders community, sits on the IS BA Level 4 Apprenticeship Standard review group, regular guest speaker as well as occasionally reviews new BCS publications.