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The 4 Chords of Great Business Analysts

In our professional community, there is so much confusion or different perspectives on what analysis is and what makes someone a great business analyst.  With so many different descriptions of the role, it is difficult to look at job descriptions to get the answer.

I talk to a lot of people, attend conferences, and hear thought leaders in our profession talk, and get to observe people doing analysis work. For this post I want to share what I feel are qualities that the best of the best in our field have.

How I will describe these qualities is based on a great video demonstrating how just 4 chords are used in many popular songs.  Check out this funny video by Axis of Awesome to hear all these well-known songs using the same 4 chords.  It is all clear to me now why so many songs sound the same.

So, in a not so quite Axis of Awesome way, I came up with a list of the 4 “chords” all great analysts have. 

Why do so many great business analysis professionals “sound” the same to me? Here they are:

1.      Empathy

The best business analysts have a wave of empathy flowing through them. The way they listen in order to understand. The stakeholders they work with say things like “you really understand my situation. You get my group and me.”

Looking through an empathetic lens they yearn to see how a solution impacts the people, processes, the organization as a whole, and technical impacts.

When people buy a new car, why do they all of sudden see the same car on the road? When someone ends a relationship why does every song on the radio remind them of their lost love and bring them to tears? It’s because it is what is on top of their mind, what they are focused on. A good analyst understands this. They do not assume because everyone says they understand something that that means everyone has the same interpretation. 

There are two things going on here. First, the good analyst cares about all the impacted stakeholder groups.  They want different perspectives to gain a holistic view. They understand there is a customer, the business, and a technology view to everything. This aids in fully analyzing the situation so that the right problem or opportunity is being addressed and that the solution is desirable. Secondly, they always have their eye on the bigger picture. They want to avoid situations that may create a scenario where solving one problem leads to another problem for a different group.

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2.      Yearning for learning

Great analysts always want to learn. They never stop. A great analyst will never be perceived as a know-it-all.  They will be confident in their skills yet humble. They attend webinars, read books, got to training classes, conferences and love reading blogs like this! They are always searching for new techniques or different ways to use old ones. And when it comes to their process of their teams, they are always analyzing what can be improved.

3.      Politely Challenging

This one is easier explained by saying what they are not. They are not note-takers. They are analytical and critical thinkers that search for the facts. They have multiple ways to “roll back” stakeholders to understand the real problem/opportunity that needs to be addressed. They don’t push forward without first making sure there is a shared understanding by the team why a solution was asked to be implemented.

They highlight the elephant in the room. You can sit in a meeting and watch how they gracefully expose the “elephant” to make sure no underlying issue has time to fester. They know it is not about individuals as much it is about results.

That description may sound like a great analyst is a little rough around the edges. A strong person not to be messed with. Actually, they are quite the opposite. They are people everyone wants on their team. They find ways not to put people on the defense. They bring teams along on a journey to uncover the real problem.

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They also know when to move to solutioning when teams are getting stuck. I think sometimes there is almost a black and white view as it relates to problems/opportunities and solutions.  There is a view of no solutioning until we are all on the same page of the problem or opportunity.  This assumes it’s a simple task to get everyone on the same page related to the problem or opportunity. That is not always the case. Instead of getting stuck in analysis paralysis a great analyst will start down the solutioning path to test a hypothesis and see if they can figure out the problem that way.

4.      Value networking

All great business analysts have a knack, a desire, and an understanding of the importance of connecting. Why is connecting with as many individuals important? In this profession you are not paid for what you know, you are paid for who you know and how to find the information. So many people want to find ways to negotiate better,  influence better, and get time with the right people to do their job. The way to do it is by building trusting relationships. 

How often do you go out and connect with people in and out of your organization?  How many new people do you meet a week? How many relationships do you foster in a week? Do you even think of this?

In today’s environment we need to move quickly. When you are working on an initiative, you need to know who the go-to people are. You need to be able to access to them. Just think about your day.  You most likely don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do. You don’t have enough time to meet with everyone that needs to meet with you.  How do you prioritize who you will talk with? Most likely one factor is people you have a relationship with already. 

I’ll end my post now so you can go meet some new people!

All the best,