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The Top 10 Business Analysis Skills for 2013

wick featureArticle June18A year ago I wrote the blog The Top 10 Business Analysis Skills for 2012.  In 2013 here are my updates!

For the remainder of 2013, I’m going to switch out the word “broker” (BA as a broker of information from stakeholders) for the word “agent”. Synonymous, yet a distinct shift towards being in the middle of not just information, but of information that keeps changing and shifting, making the relationships and dealing with complexity more important.

Some phrases come to mind this year for the role of BAs as agents:

  • Agent of change
  • Agent of innovation
  • Agent of value through ambiguity
  • Agent of value through complexity

The themes from 2012 remain the same in 2013: 

  • Business Agility
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration with stakeholders to drive agility and innovation

We’ve learned a bit more about the BA skills needed to address these themes. Here’s my updated BA skill list for 2013: 

  1. Contextual Modeling 

    Engage your stakeholders with more meaningful dialog! Contextual Models of the domain of discussion, models that provide context vs. confusion. Staying at the right level of detail for the audience is critical here. Keeping at the right level of detail (or non-detail) will help engage and get the discussion rolling without cornering the dialog into details that may not be the most pertinent and critical to value. We are learning together with our stakeholders in the complexity and ambiguity of projects today, contextual visuals and models will help drive quick and engaged learning from everyone.

  2. Communicating Details and Concepts

    What details are the ones that will make or break the solution? How do these details relate to the overall solution value? This is the mindset that is needed when communicating with our stakeholders. As BAs it is so challenging to go between the big picture and details constantly, yet such a critical skill. This requires a degree of system thinking to break down the whole into parts and then look at the parts for which add the most value overall. In 2013, increased focus must be on paying attention to the right details vs. all of the details.

  3. Curiosity

    How curious are you as a BA? This has always been a critical skill for BAs. Curiosity in 2013 is all about probing questions to help stakeholders and ourselves learn about the vision of the future state. Further, it is about being flexible and curious to change and adapt as the details change to reach that vision. Staying curious in the face of change and ambiguity will be key to success in 2013 and beyond!

  4. Negotiation

    I am using negotiation in a very specific context, that of planning BA work. Once BAs learn the tactical skills in planning BA work, next comes the negotiation with the team on the schedule. It seems like we are constantly being pinned down to a schedule that seems unreasonable to really get quality requirements and a quality solution. Using our tactical planning skills and then negotiation to a win/win to get the maximum value for the time allotted, negotiating quality and value vs. cramming in too much requirements scope for the time originally allowed. When done well, I’ve seen this work miracles with project teams.

  5. Mentoring and Coaching

    We have a skill shortage in many markets for BAs, especially at the entry level. With this, Sr. BAs will need to take on more coaching and mentoring roles to help develop the skill sets of the new BAs in the organization. What a great opportunity for Sr. BAs to delegate to new BAs while gaining more leadership skills in mentoring and coaching!

  6. Communicating Risks

    This one is the only one I am not changing a thing on in 2013!

    Project Managers focus on risks to the project budget, schedule and scope. A BA needs to focus on risks to the business value of the solution and communicating the risk. BAs are in a prime position to see the details and big picture view; this includes seeing the risks to the project, delivering a solution that does not maximize business value. I find that BAs have an intuitive sense of this, but often struggle to communicate the risk in a way that gets leadership attention. In order to get leadership attention to the business value at risk, BAs will need to develop skills in communicating the true business impact of the risk. This means going beyond communicating in terms of the features and functionalities of the process or software, and going beyond that, there is not enough time for requirements to be done right. It means communicating the impact it will have on the business operation or strategy. For example, when the functionality of a point of sale application has a requirements conflict in the process of accepting payment from customers, the focus needs to turn to the impact of the conflict on the customer service representative’s ability to serve the customers and the customer experience vs. the technical details at risk of the requirement. In the heat of requirements and design details, we often let the details drive risk discussions and never get to the bottom line impacts that can really propel leaders to make the right decisions.

  7. Leveraging Core Facilitation Skills in EVERY Meeting

    Are you running your meetings or are meetings and stakeholders running your meetings? Many BAs get into tough situations in requirements meetings and feel that other agendas and personalities are driving their meetings astray. Remember to use critical techniques to facilitate meetings like a visual “parking lot”, and established goals and objectives for the meeting. Be open to others input, but ensure you have a plan to address the original goals and objectives and use that “parking lot” to manage the scope of the meeting. Be empowered to take control of your meetings!

  8. Change Management

    Being an Agent of Change
Embracing the BA role as an agent of change will continue to show the value the organization the value the BA role brings to the organization. This year I am seeing more focus on the behavior changes needed for change to truly take place. Many of our projects are not only needed technology and process changes, but true behavior and attitude changes to drive value. As BAs we are in a key position to help identify and drive what behaviors and by who need to change to make the solution successful,

  9. Getting to Why?

    In 2012 Asking Why was on the list, in 2013 I am chaining it to Getting to Why? The reason is that so many times we are asking the wrong person. Asking Why (in the ways described in 2012’s blog) is critical, but ensuring we have asked the right person and/or all the right people is more important as more complexity surrounds our projects. With multiple stakeholders impacted we need to know WHY from each of them to ensure value is delivered to all of them. Its amazing how many different answers you get from cross functional groups, and yet, so important to understanding the context and how to create value for each group.

  10. Get Visual

In 2013 when innovation, agility, and collaboration are the trends, being able to spontaneously draw will lead to stakeholders to a deeper level of engagement. It will also stop them from checking their phones and tablets. They can only engage one sense at a time, but everyone will try 2. Lets make sure the 2 they are engaging are focused on the meeting and the goal of the meeting. If you draw they will not only listen, but visually engage as well.

    No matter what type of BA, no matter which industry, these skills in 2013 will set your projects up for deeper collaboration innovation and agility.

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