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Author: Donovan Grant

7 critical career mistakes Business Analysts are making every day

It is no secret that many Business Analysts – systems, data or otherwise – are in conflict. Some in conflict with stakeholders, some with the boss and some in conflict with themselves.

Here are seven critical mistakes some BA’s making:

Mistake #1: They shouldn’t be a BA in the first place.

Some people don’t realize it is an honour to be a BA. You earn the right, based on a background of knowledge, experience, and results you’ve achieved. This background can come from many sources including working in industry, training and character development to name a few.
With the potential to earn a nice salary or contractor fee, there seems to be a constant flow of new entrants in the BA space. Some join the BA practice and realize that it is not what they expected. It’s great to have a new influx of BA’s, but it takes time for new entrants to be ready to face demanding senior stakeholders. A training course can never replace years of experience that successful BA’s need. There is no short cut to becoming a successful BA.

ALTERNATIVE: Become a BA if you have achievements, experience, and curiosity to bring value to the industry. If you have a great track record of delivering results, get the right training, learn the language and techniques then making the transition to a successful BA is achievable.

Mistake #2: They don’t put the key stakeholder first.

They forget the number one reason why the project exists is that of the key stakeholders. Our role as the BA is to bring value to our stakeholders. This seems an obvious thing to state yet we don’t see it championed enough. I have sat in on project meetings and heard stakeholders referred to as “difficult,” “aggressive” and even “ineffective.” Instead of treating the key stakeholders as partners, they are treated as foes. Hence, BA’s are focused on getting the job done efficiently rather than delivering the project effectively. We must never neglect to focus on what our stakeholders want, value and expect from a BA.

ALTERNATIVE: It is important to get clear on how the stakeholder defines results and value. If you speak the stakeholder’s language, uncover their most pressing concerns and show how you can help, they will never forget you.

Mistake #3: They treat each project and stakeholder the same.

The thing is, as soon as you treat all stakeholders the same, you lose the genuine human connection. Just imagine going to stakeholder meetings and asking the same set of questions every time regardless of the project or the character of the stakeholders.

ALTERNATIVE: It is better to be more like a consultant and treat each project as a new situation. You can do this by getting to know the stakeholders and how they work. Additionally, help them to know you and how you work. Discovery is not just about the project; it’s about the people in the project too.


Mistake #4: They get stuck at the same company.

Have you been doing the same projects and BA practices for too long? If you want to feel like you are going through the motions, stay with the same company and in your comfort zone. Eventually, you will drive yourself crazy or retire; whichever comes first. Before you know it, you will be treated as nothing more than another BA commodity.

ALTERNATIVE: Have a personal career management plan that excites you now and for the future too. A goal focused BA is a BA with influence and a sense of purpose.

Mistake #5: They are only BA’s.

If you are only a BA, you limit your opportunities in the market for at least three reasons. First, you are not presenting yourself at the highest level you could be in the market. So, you are not seen as a strategic BA but rather more as a functionary that does a role. Second, you may not be offering the range of skills that potential companies might want from you to get maximum value. Most BA’s have a wider skill-set than they tend to market, for some reason they tend to focus narrowly on the technical BA skills only. Third, you only look for openings that you are “sure” you can deliver with your skill-set. They are under-selling themselves.

ALTERNATIVE: Be more than a BA. Position yourself as a partner and strategic adviser with a range of ways to deliver solutions. Be willing to be a BA who offers unreasonable ideas.

Mistake #6: Comes to a project with your own agenda.

You’ve probably worked with at least one BA who talks jargon that stakeholders do not understand and simply asks a bunch of open-ended questions that go nowhere. BA’s who adopt this approach are focused on impressing “how good I am.” This approach could be one of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your stakeholders.

ALTERNATIVE: The best BA’s use direct and simple language and the help the stakeholder to tell the story. The key thing is to understand the stakeholder needs and work with them to deliver value and results.

Mistake #7: Forgetting that you have two main objectives.

Many BA’s forget this. The first objective is to deliver the results for your stakeholders. The second is to deliver results for yourself. Whether you are an employee or a contractor, you need to know how to brand yourself, attract opportunities and follow up long after your project has finished. Many BA’s do not put in the time, effort and commitment required to grow and be a successful BA.

ALTERNATIVE: Work with a mentor or a coach and cover the best practices of industry, technique and personal development. Your employer will tend to focus on the top 5% talent pool for training opportunities. You need to focus on getting yourself developed for the long term.

If you found yourself nodding while reading these seven mistakes, do not despair. At least you are aware of it. Your job now is to act. Do your own discovery, decide where you need to focus and then deliver your own results.