Top 5 Skills for Business Analysts
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “What are the top skills required in Business Analysis”.
This particular question comes from different quarters ranging from students and participants from my Business Analysis/CBAP Certification classes, folks trying to get into the business analysis function and folks who had read my previous article “Top 5 techniques in Business Analysis’. By the way, the article won “Best Article of the Month” on Business Analysis Times (betimes.com). You should check it out. So, back to the question. I know these guys have access to the Underlying Competencies section from the BABOK, and as such, I was sure directing them to pages 187-215 of the BABOK wouldn’t directly satisfy their curiosity. So, what did I do? How did I arrive at my Top 5 Skills? Please read along.
I could have provided responses to this question using my experience working in Business Analysis function, interacting directly with other Business Analysts or just shopping for top skills across several platforms. However, I wanted the response to be unbiased, so I decided to conduct a research. I developed a survey using SurveyMonkey. The survey was broken down into two sections. The first section gets to know the respondents, with questions about the background and function of the respondents, the geographical locations, their industries, the years of experience they have in Business Analysis and if they have any Business Analysis Certification (I decided to include this to check if the responses would be tilted towards recommended skills in BABOK etc). In the second section, I went straight into the core of the research by asking them to list 8 skills they have found useful working as a Business Analyst, then a follow-up question asking them to choose five out of the 8 skills they had listed in the previous
After creating the survey, I targeted people with Business Analysis responsibilities across North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. I sent over 150 people private messages on LinkedIn from these continents. I also posted the link to the survey on my LinkedIn page.
I received about 107 responses from North America (Canada and USA), Asia (India), Europe (UK), and Africa(Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana). These respondents all perform business analysis function in their current roles. The respondents have an average of 5 years working in Business Analysis, about 45% of them have certifications from IIBA, PMI, and BCS and they come from different industries ranging from BFSI, Consulting, IT, Retail and Manufacturing (interesting).
So, below are the responses I got and the five skills that featured in almost all their responses. Please note that these skills are arranged in absolutely no particular order.
1. COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Communication Skill was present in over 95% of the responses I got and this is perfectly understandable.
But before I go into explaining the justification, let me unpack Communication. Communication covers speaking, listening, writing, presenting and documenting etc. As a Business Analyst, the bulk of your work is in Information. A Business Analyst is either eliciting information, analyzing information, disseminating information or processing information, and this is why Communication Skills is totally one of the top skills needed for one to function and succeed in Business Analysis. The type and kind of questions you ask as a Business Analyst, the way you ask the questions and the way you process the questions you are asked would define the next steps in your business analysis assignment. The things you hear, the way you hear and interpret them, all form the basis for your work. When asked, over 70% of Business Analysts would answer that bulk of their work include eliciting, gathering, processing and presenting requirements and information from and to stakeholders. How more important can communication skills be in business analysis.
2. CREATIVE, ANALYTICAL & PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
Quite interestingly, half of the respondents merged these somewhat distinct skills together, while the other half separated them. However, for the purpose of this article, I have decided to merge them. Again, I totally and completely agree with this skills. According to IIBA, Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver values to stakeholders. From the definition, a need can either be a problem or an opportunity, so for a Business Analyst to be able to define the problem and recommend a solution to the problem, the BA should be creative, should be able to analyze so many actors and factors at play within the context of the problem and creatively solve the problem by recommending solutions. In-depth analysis facilitates a thorough understanding of the context of the problem. Creativity would be at play for the best solution.
3. TECHNICAL (Technology) Skills
I am not very sure if you could call this a skill, however, the respondents picked this as one of the top five skills they have used consistently in Business Analysis. Given that lots of solutions being implemented by organizations across industries and continents leverage technology, so it is safe to agree that for a business analyst to succeed, he/she needs to understand trends in the technology space, be highly skilled in the technology that the solution would run on and be able to speak the technical language that the implementation team would understand. Technical skills such as database, architecture, frameworks, and systems come to mind when thinking about the technical skills for Business Analysts. Also, remember that a business analyst acts as an intermediary between technical and business people, one can’t but hone some technical skills.
4. INTERPERSONAL SKILL
Skills such as influencing, emotional intelligence, Teamwork, leadership etc. were what my respondents came up with when I sent a follow-up question to a subset of the respondents to provide further clarifications on what Interpersonal skills encompass. And this is really a valid point. The Business Analysts depend on stakeholders and their engagement to make any meaningful outcome of their assignment, and given the natural nature of humans, a Business Analyst would need lots of interpersonal skills to be successful with their stakeholders.
5. MODELLING/DESIGN SKILLS
A lot of the deliverables the business analysts create are models of the future state. The respondents believed that they have used lots of skills that boil down to modeling and/or designs in several assignments.
So, before completing the report of this study, I decided to pilot the result with a group of 10 students a few months ago who were in my CBAP/Business Analysis Class. I presented the above 5 skills, then mixed with randomly selected 5 other skills, and asked the participants in the training class to write down, from the list of 10 skills, their top 5. The result? Not a major deviation from the result of my research. Four out of the 5 skills above featured randomly among at least 8 of the students in the class…
So, based on the research and responses I received, these are the top 5 skills used by Business Analysts across industries and continents. Are you a Business Analyst? Have you been doing business analysis for a while? Do you agree with the above 5 top skills? What are the other skills you have found highly useful in performing business analysis functions? Kindly drop your thoughts in the comment section.