Author: Paul Benn

I have a passion for helping people find their journeys through life. Through many journeys, incorporating success and failure, he brings his wealth of experience and understanding to build your Hero Journey and achieve higher altitudes in life. With 25 years as a Business Analyst -working across the world, international speaking and webinar host experience, I bring my passion for working with people in mentoring, coaching, and training people to achieve better and higher altitudes in all their journeys. I am the founder of Altitude Journeys (www.altitudejourney.com) a place to builder journeys through life. My philosophy is based on the words FOCUSED, INTENTIONAL, THINKING. Applying these three words to my career, life, and projects has launched me to increasing levels of success in all of journeys. My life after 25 years as a business analyst is devoted to this passion to help others in their journeys through the FOCUS, INTENTIONAL, and THINKING philosophy.

Being strategic in your non-strategic business analysis role

We typically see business analysts as a tactical resource – eliciting requirements, analysing solution alternatives, determining the best approach for testing, and implementing a solution, defining non-functional requirements, etc.

This largely comes down to how we as a profession have marketed our ourselves.

The more valuable business analyst operates strategically and thinks strategically.

I am not talking about strategic business analysis; I am talking about being strategic. Even if you are a junior business analyst.

Benefit to strategic thinking in a business analyst role:

You can add a lot more value to an employer when you think strategically.

For instance, working through a problem by viewing multiple elements of and making meaningful comparisons allows the business analyst to come up with various options, and solution approaches to the problem.

If you want to take your career and leadership to the next level, you need to develop strategic thinking.

You need to be great at solving problems. You need to influence and lead your stakeholders through your strategic ability to solve these complex problems. The world is changing fast and you need to lead that change while leading people with you.


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What does it mean to be a strategic thinker in business analysis?

We have kind of answered it in the introduction above, but let’s look at it in more detail.

We can define strategy as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim,” – Oxford Dictionary

We define thinking as “the process of considering or reasoning about something….. using thought or rational judgement; intelligent,” – Oxford Dictionary

We define Business Analysis as “Business Analysis is a disciplined approach for introducing and managing change to organisations, whether they are for-profit businesses, governments, or non-profits.” – IIBA

At the intersection of these three, I believe we find the purpose of strategic thinking in business analysis. Above, I have highlighted the keywords that I believe help us understand strategic thinking in business analysis.

A strategic business analyst “introduces change to an organisation through consideration of organisational problems and opportunities identified, apply intelligent reasoning and rational judgement to the information available, analysing different factors or variables, to help the organisation not only identify the change but also manage the change, through a plan of action to achieve a future aim.”

Having this holistic view of what makes up strategic thinking in a business analysis role also helps us have a strategic thinking framework in our work.

This graphic I developed, using the three definitions above, help us define some framework for strategic thinking.

Element 1: We apply reasoning to business analysis work to determine the current and future state. Identify the gaps between the two and determine the change strategy and how it needs to be managed.

This is represented by the Business Analyst and Thinking circles intersection.

How do we do this?

There are three things we can do here to apply reasoning and judgement

  1. We use what we know about the organisation’s capabilities, resources, objectives, the environment within which the organisation operates, identify change and the impact of the change.
  2. We use the knowledge we have, the understanding of the organisational capabilities, the environment and other relevant information to guide stakeholders with expert reasoning and judgement.
  3. As business analysts, we can apply our judgement and reasoning to determine what that value is and maximise the value an organisation can get out of a change initiative. We help the business rationalise the reason for change, and that if it is worth the value to be gained.

Element 2: We apply reasoning to the strategy objectives (the intersection of the bottom circles)

If you think about the BABOK describes as defining the future state

“defines goals and objectives that will demonstrate that the business need has been satisfied and defines what parts of the enterprise need to change in order to meet those goals and objectives”

Thinking strategically is in your role is about applying your reasoning and judgement to the desired change and to identify what areas of the organisation are affected and how. Having a systems thinking that looks across all the following areas:

  • Business processes,
  • Functions within departments and systems,
  • Functional areas and the interdependencies between them,
  • Changes to the organisation structure,
  • Staff competencies and the training/reskilling required,
  • Knowledge and skills required in the organisation,
  • Resources needed,
  • Tools used within the organisation,
  • The current and future locations of the organisation,
  • Data and information – what data is required and what the flow is,
  • Application systems needed, or enhancements to current ones,
  • Technology infrastructure to host the systems.

Element 3: The last element that is found at the intersection of Business Analyst and the Strategy circles in the diagram.

The BABOK refers to identifying the transition states that address or ensure the change progresses. As a business analyst, we manage that change. This is not project management, but we certainly have a lot to do with helping to identify the things to manage the change in an orderly manner that adds value to the organisation.

The BABOK says that as business analysts we:

“enable the enterprise to address that need, and align the resulting strategy for the change with higher- and lower-level strategies,”

Managing the change, for me, is about ensuring that we have done all that is possible to not only identify the change, but how that change is going to happen and that we have thought through how this all works together to achieve a common aim. This means I apply my capabilities and thinking to ensure that:

  • I help the organisation have outside in view of what is happening. This helps us, and stakeholders, to make rational decisions based on facts and not on assumptions.
  • Provide an objective view of what is happening based on sound research and data. So, for instance, I might look at market movement, other industries, competitors, the economy etc and use data to predict future trends.
  • Help stakeholders decide which route is best for the organisation and which changes will have most favourable outcomes in terms of value.
  • To ensure the change strategy remains on track, a business analyst would have identified the major decision makers needed. Maybe even predict where each stakeholder is needed along each of the transition states.
  • A business analyst defines and communicates the desired future state. Ensuring everyone is aligned with the desired change strategy.
  • Sometimes organisations don’t know what they want. A good business analyst can work in extreme cases of uncertainty to steer their organisation to more certainty about what their needs are.
  • A business analyst also needs to know how the change is going to happen, know each moving part, and how they will contribute to implementing the new future state. They create a clear, actionable plan that makes sense to everyone.

The original article, Using Strategic Thinking in a Business Analyst Role, goes on to explore the 7 habits to develop to aid your strategic thinking capability.

4 Common mistakes made when looking for your first Business Analyst job

Often when I coach Business Analysts to land their first Business Analysis Job, I find that either they have no strategy and just throw darts and hope one of them hits the bullseye, or that they make some serious errors in how they approach it.

Darts does sometimes work, but not always (read my e-book on 13 strategies for your first Business Analysis Job) and if you do the following errors then it takes just as much wasted effort.

Let’s look at some of the common errors I see:

1. Don’t have a plan or strategy

Many prospective candidates who want to break into Business Analysis don’t have a strategy or plan. They send their CVs out to every job ad that mentions Business Analysis.

The first thing I look for when I get CVs for job ads is if the person takes the time to match his/her skills and CV to the position they are applying for.

A successful business strategy comes down to the following. First, what are your goals? Getting a job as a Business Analyst isn’t a SMART goal.

If we think of SMART then it comes to the A – achievable ask yourself is this achievable i.e. are you accountable for it.

I think it is important to have a goal you are accountable to achieve, no one else. Getting a job isn’t entirely in your control, is it? Someone else has to agree to it, and you don’t have that authority.

An appropriate goal would be something like:

“I will engage at least x recruiters per week with my CV”, or

“I will spend at least x hours a week looking for Business Analysis jobs that match my skill set”.

So let’s test those two through SMART:

S (Specific) – Yes, I am specific about what I wish to achieve.

M (Measurable) – Yes, I can measure how many

A (Achievable) – Yes, because I am responsible for them.

R(Realistic) – Yes, I can do either one.

T (Timeous) – They follow a schedule

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2. Your Resume or CV makes you sound like you know you know what a Business Does – not that you can do the job

When receiving a CV, I also look at it to determine if it seems like the person has a good understanding of what a Business Analyst does and if their experiences on the CV reflect that.

You don’t have to actually work as a Business Analyst to have real Business Analysis experience. You can have it regardless of what you do.

So I am looking at the title.  Even the BABOK 3.0 says it is not about the title but the tasks when defining what a Business Analyst is.

It is the skills, the experiences, and the tasks and related activities that a candidate performed in that role that speak to their understanding of a Business Analyst, and that even the candidate can recognize the tasks they have performed that are applicable to a Business Analyst.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to an employer and they told me about how many CVs they are rejecting just because the CV does not position a candidate with relevant Business Analysis task experience.

3. Your CV must speak the language of the job you’re applying for.

You putting job before experience and not experience before job

A few days ago I was coaching a client who wanted to become a Business Analyst. They are in a non-Business Analyst role. I was trying to find out how much experience they have in tasks related to Business Analysis.

I asked what I could do to fill the gaps of experience. He said there are none and I will wait until I have a Business Analysis job to acquire the experience.

Here is the problem. Employers value experience. It is no different in any job application. Even doctors have to go through a community service program before they are allowed as practicing doctors.

You must embrace it, so think about how you can gain relevant experience at your current location.

I love the saying “We grow into opportunity”.  Apply the skills now and learn, gain experience, and reflect that on your CV.  Then the opportunity will come.

4. Focus on Certification

As a member of the IIBA, and CBAP certified individual, you are probably raising your eyebrows. Let me explain.

Certifying yourself is one good way to learn about Business Analysis, gain accreditation with peers, and boost your confidence. Yes, it does play a role in getting a job.

However, for an entrant in Business Analysis you must understand that employers want experience foremost.  A certification doesn’t give you that. Just like a degree doesn’t give experience, it gives knowledge.

Do the certification to gain knowledge that you can apply to gain experience.  Back to having the right goals again.

You need to put in the time and have SMART goals that you can achieve. Then, your strategy flows from there. It’s not an overnight thing either. Work at it, and adjust your strategy as you go.

When you have worked hard for your first opportunity, it will come.

For more strategies download my free e-book “13 strategies to getting your first Business Analysis job” – https://www.altitudejourney.com/ba-career-starter



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