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Work like a Surgeon

There is an old joke about a surgeon and a mechanic that goes like this:.

A mechanic was removing an engine part from the motor of a car when he spotted a world-famous heart surgeon in his shop. The heart surgeon was waiting for the service manager to come take a look at his car. The mechanic shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc, can I ask you a question?” The famous surgeon, a bit surprised, walked over to the mechanic working on the car.

The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag, and asked, “So, Doc, look at this engine. I can also open it up, take the valves out, fix them, and put in new parts, and when I finish, this will work just like a new one. So how come I get a pittance and you get the big money when you and I are doing basically the same work?” The surgeon paused, smiled, leaned over, and whispered to the mechanic, “Try doing it while it’s running.”

 

The world in which a business analyst operates is quite like the surgical world, in the sense that a BA works with a live or running organisation and needs to make the necessary changes or improvements to the company without shutting down the currently running processes, delivering the required change while reducing impact to the minimum.

We will extend this analogy a little further from the beginning of the process (the patient comes in for consultation) until its logical conclusion (the patient goes home with the issue fixed) and see what observations we can gain from the medical world. We will also use this journey to look at the toolset available to a business analyst and determine which tool would work the best for which stage of the process.

 

Let us follow the example of a hypothetical heart surgeon. A patient complaining of chest pain is referred to him by a local GP.  The surgeon reviews the medical exam tests conducted by the GP, forms some initial conclusions about the issue, and validates the same through further diagnosis of the patient. Based on the diagnosis and the testing, the surgeon determines that the heart is not in a good condition and that there is a high chance of heart failure. The surgeon advises that heart surgery is required to resolve his condition.

This carries some risk; however, avoidance of the surgery carries a greater risk and is more likely to result in cardiac arrest. He directs the patient to the hospital admin team to get an idea of the costs involved. The hospital admin team provides the patient with all the details, including the overall cost, including the pre-operation treatment, cost of operation, cost of recovery procedures, and timelines of each stage, so that the patient has a good idea of when the operation procedure will start, how long the entire process will take from end to end, and how much it will cost.

The patient agrees with the cost and the timelines and makes the arrangement to pay the funds to the hospital by the agreed date. The surgeon proceeds with the operation. The operation is successfully completed on time, and the patient is discharged with regular follow-ups scheduled.

Now, let us consider a parallel example in the software sector, i.e., a medium-sized software company. The company has noticed a steady decrease in profits along with an increase in customer complaints and wants to fix this issue. The company engages a reputed consultancy for this.

The BA from the consulting team arrives at the company and conducts a detailed study of the current state and the reported complaints. Through a series of discussions with the company members and interviews, the BA identifies all the key parties involved in the processes and complaints. The BA organises a series of workshops with the company representatives and uses several problem-solving techniques, such as the 5 Whys, root cause analysis, the fishbone diagram, and flowcharting of the current process, to get to the bottom of the issue.

 

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The BA ensures that all the relevant parties understand the question by providing them with clear objectives for the workshops and what is expected of them. During the workshop, the BA also ensures that all the members get an opportunity to express their views, so that the findings are as unbiased as possible.

After this process, the BA gets a good understanding of the current state and the main causes of the issues that the company is facing. It appears that the existing software used by the company is quite old.  not in line with the current needs, resulting in inefficient and time-consuming processing. There are also a few legacy processes being carried out, with some steps that are no longer relevant but are still being carried out as the staff have always worked that way.

This is resulting in a poor customer experience, with a corresponding decrease in sales and an increase in customer complaints.

 

These series of workshops have helped the BA and the senior management of the company get a clear understanding of the current state and the main causes of the issues being faced by the company. To take the next steps, the BA also needs to get a good understanding of the future state, i.e., what the company aims to achieve as part of its short- and long-term objectives. To do this, the BA requests that the company provide its vision, goals, and the approach or strategy decided to achieve these goals. Some of this may be readily available in the company documents but may require further discussion with senior stakeholders to clearly flesh it out so that there is no misunderstanding.

For example, the company may have planned, say, a 20 percent increase in market share, but may not have thought through or clearly spelled out all the associated elements, say, an increasing rate of production, the addition of new machinery or employees, the setup of further logistics, getting additional funding, etc. The BA helps the company work through all the dependencies and impacts and create a comprehensive future state model.

The company now has a good understanding of the as-is, or current state, and the to-be, or future state. The BA now organises another set of workshops involving all the key participants to get a clear understanding of what needs to be done to move from the current state to the future state; in other words, the BA is gathering and eliciting the requirements. During this process, the BA ensures that all the identified problems and issues and the vision of the future state are clearly understood by all the participants. This helps to ensure that the requirements are in line with the needs of the company.

Based on the feedback received from the various members of the company and their understanding of what is available in the market, the BA recommends a set of options, including some quick wins through process changes and long-term solutions such as upgrading the software or replacing it with a more efficient one. The BA clearly highlights to the senior management of the company the risks associated with staying as is and the costs, benefits, and risks of the proposed solution options. The BA also supports the company with the change impact analysis process, i.e., how the changes would impact each of the company staff involved in the current process and what can be done to ensure a smoother transition.

Once the BA gets agreement from the key stakeholders on which solution or solutions they would like to progress, the larger team, including the project managers, system architects, IT consultants, testers, and other change management personnel, is brought together along with the key members of the company, and the project is initiated. The BA carefully monitors the requirements through the various stages of the development process using a requirement traceability matrix to ensure that there is no dropping of key requirements or addition of wants based on the personal desires of some stakeholders.

The BA also ensures that the company representatives are kept well informed about the progress of the project and that there is proper end-to-end, two-way communication. This ensures that the project is successfully delivered with minimal post-project impacts.

The Art of Communication

Gone are the days when being a brilliant business analyst meant you could hide in a dark room crunching numbers and never utter a single word to another human being. In the realm of business analysis, interpersonal skills have grown to be as crucial as a hot cup of coffee on Monday mornings, and the spotlight is shining brightly on communication prowess.

In today’s dynamic and information-driven business world, effective communication plays a pivotal role in driving success and achieving desired outcomes. For a business analyst, possessing strong communication skills is not merely an option — it is a necessity. As the liaison between stakeholders, technical teams, and project managers, business analysts play a crucial role in ensuring the success of a project.

 

Why Communication Skills Matter for Business Analysts

Effective communication is the foundation of successful business analysis. It enables business analysts to articulate complex ideas and concepts concisely and clearly. By communicating effectively, business analysts can ensure that requirements are accurately captured and understood by all stakeholders, minimizing the risk of misinterpretation, and avoiding costly project delays or failures.

Effective communication helps business analysts build trust and credibility with stakeholders. By clearly articulating ideas, presenting data-driven insights, and actively engaging stakeholders in the decision-making process, business analysts can instil confidence and foster a collaborative and conducive working environment for open dialogue.

Moreover, business analysts often serve as mediators between different stakeholders who may have conflicting priorities or perspectives. In these situations, effective communication becomes even more critical as it helps productive discussions and find mutually beneficial solutions. By creating an inclusive and collaborative environment, business analysts can promote teamwork, consensus building, and efficient decision-making, thereby contributing to the success of projects and initiatives.

Business analysts must also be skilled in active listening, empathy, and building rapport and fostering strong relationships with stakeholders. This helps them gain a deeper understanding of the stakeholders’ perspectives, and uncover implicit needs and concerns, which in turn, allows them to tailor their communication and recommendations that address the underlying issues and drive positive change within the organization.

 

The Spectrum of Communication Skills

Communication skills encompass various dimensions, including verbal communication, written communication, non-verbal communication, and emotional intelligence. Each of these dimensions plays a critical role in the day-to-day activities of a business analyst.

 

Verbal Communication Skills

Verbal communication involves speaking and listening. These skills are essential for conducting interviews, facilitating meetings, and delivering presentations. Proficient verbal communication allows business analysts to articulate ideas clearly, ask relevant questions, and actively listen to gather valuable insights and ensure a complete understanding of the stakeholders’ perspectives.

When it comes to verbal communication, it is not just about the words spoken but also the tone, pace, and clarity of speech. The way information is conveyed can greatly impact how it is received by stakeholders. Effective verbal communication also involves the ability to adapt to different audiences and situations. A skilled business analyst can tailor the language and approach based on the stakeholders they are communicating with, ensuring that the message is understood and well-received.

 

Written Communication Skills

Written communication is equally important for business analysts. Business analysts with exceptional written communication skills possess the ability to organize their thoughts in a logical and coherent manner. It involves creating detailed documents, such as requirement specifications, business process flows, project reports and communicating project updates. Additionally, attention to detail is crucial to ensure that there are no errors or ambiguities in the documentation.

Strong written communication skills enable business analysts to convey complex information accurately and concisely and ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page.

Moreover, effective written communication involves the ability to adapt the style and tone of the message to the intended audience. Different stakeholders may have varying levels of technical expertise or familiarity with the subject matter. By tailoring the communication to suit the needs of each stakeholder, business analysts can ensure that the information is accessible and meaningful to all.

 

Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Non-verbal communication includes body language, facial expressions, and gestures. While often overlooked, non-verbal communication can convey important messages and influence how stakeholders perceive information.

When engaging in non-verbal communication, business analysts must be mindful of their own body language the non-verbal cues. Maintaining eye contact, using appropriate facial expressions, and having an open and relaxed body posture can all contribute to effective non-verbal communication.

These skills are particularly important when conducting interviews or facilitating workshops as being aware of non-verbal cues enables business analysts to detect subtle signs of agreement or disagreement. For example, a nod of agreement or a smile can signal understanding and support. On the other hand, crossed arms or a furrowed brow may indicate scepticism or disagreement. By aligning the non-verbal cues with the verbal messages, business analysts can adjust the communication approach, accordingly, fostering a more collaborative and productive environment.

Furthermore, cultural awareness is an important aspect of non-verbal communication. Different cultures may have different norms and interpretations of non-verbal cues. Business analysts must be sensitive to these cultural differences and adapt their non-verbal communication accordingly to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

 

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a critical aspect of communication for business analysts. Understanding and managing emotions, both their own and those of others, allows business analysts to navigate conflicts, handle difficult conversations, and build strong relationships. Emotional intelligence helps business analysts adapt their communication style to different stakeholders, fostering a positive and collaborative work environment.

 

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Mastering Communication Skills as a Business Analyst

While some individuals may possess natural communication abilities, it is a skill that can be continually developed and refined with dedication, deliberate practice, and continuous improvement. Here are some strategies to develop and strengthen the communication abilities as a business analyst:

 

Active Listening Techniques

Active listening goes beyond merely hearing what someone says. It involves fully engaging with the speaker, understanding the message and intentions, and providing appropriate feedback. Practice active listening by providing undivided attention to the speaker, maintaining eye contact, and demonstrating empathy. By practicing active listening techniques, business analysts can ensure an accurate and complete understanding of stakeholders’ needs and requirements.

 

Practice Empathy

Develop your emotional intelligence by actively practicing empathy. Empathizing with stakeholders and understanding their challenges can significantly enhance communication. Understand other’s perspectives and emotions by putting yourself in their shoes, business analysts can anticipate concerns, build stronger connections and offer tailored solutions.

 

Polishing Written Communication

Business analysts often produce detailed reports, requirements documents, and emails. Improving writing skills is crucial to convey ideas clearly and professionally. Avoid jargon and fancy words; use plain language to ensure everyone can comprehend the content.

 

Enhancing Presentation Skills

To deliver impactful presentations, business analysts should focus on structuring the content, maintaining a confident and engaging presence, and utilizing visual aids to support their message. Practice presenting in front of a mirror before presenting it to a larger audience. This technique will help to adapt the communication style to suit the needs and preferences of different stakeholders. Simplify complex technical concepts for non-technical audiences or emphasise key benefits and outcomes for executive-level stakeholders. Tailor the presentations, to resonate the message with the audience and to convey the desired information effectively.

Develop data visualization and storytelling skills to effectively communicate complex ideas and facilitate decision-making.

 

Utilize Technology

Leveraging communication tools and technology can greatly enhance effectiveness as a business analyst. Get familiar with collaboration platforms, project management software, and communication tools to streamline communication processes and ensure efficient information sharing.

 

Engage in Cross-Functional Collaboration

Collaborate with professionals from various disciplines to gain exposure to different communication styles and approaches. This experience will help to adapt the communication strategies to diverse audiences.

 

Be Flexible! Seek Feedback, Learn and Adapt

Interaction with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and cultures is business as usual for a business analyst. Adapting the communication style to suit different individuals and situations is crucial for effective collaboration. Understand and respect cultural differences, adjust the language and approach, and actively seek feedback from colleagues, stakeholders, and mentors to identify areas for improvement and understand how your communication style is perceived. Flexibility in communication ensures that you can connect with stakeholders on their terms, fostering a more inclusive and productive working environment.

 

The Growing Importance of Interpersonal Skills in Business Analysis

In the evolving world of business analysis, effective communication skills are indispensable for the success of business analysts. By honing the ability to listen actively, articulate clearly, and adapt to different stakeholders, business analysts can be established as an indispensable asset to any organization. As the business landscape continues to evolve, those who master the art of communication will navigate challenges with finesse and lead projects towards triumph. Effective communication is not just about conveying information — it’s about building relationships, understanding needs, and fostering collaboration.

The ability to communicate effectively is the key to unlocking new opportunities and driving positive change in the dynamic world of business analysis.

Remember, even in the world of business analysis, laughter is the best medicine — just make sure you’re laughing with your stakeholders, not at them.

 

Happy communicating 🙂

Transformative Impact of AI in Business Analysis

Integration of AI’s transformative potential into our analysis processes can unleash human potential, drive innovation, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. The future belongs to those who embrace AI in business analysis, and the time to seize this unparalleled opportunity is now. So, let’s take the leap together and unlock new horizons of success with AI as our ally.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in a new era of technological innovation, and at the forefront of this revolution is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In the world of business analysis, AI has transcended its role as a buzzword and has become a game-changer in driving business growth and efficiency. AI has emerged as a powerful ally, empowering organizations to harness data-driven insights, streamline operations, and make more informed decisions.

Embracing AI in business analysis is no longer a choice but a strategic imperative for companies looking to gain a competitive edge and thrive in today’s dynamic marketplace. Let’s delve into the transformative impact of AI in business analysis and understand how organizations can leverage this cutting-edge technology to unlock new horizons of success.

 

The Power of Data-Driven Insights

At the heart of business analysis lies data, and the ability to extract meaningful insights from vast datasets can make or break an organization’s success. AI-driven analytics tools have revolutionized this process by processing large volumes of data at unparalleled speeds and advanced algorithms to provide real-time, data-driven insights. By employing machine learning algorithms, AI can identify patterns, trends, and correlations that may remain hidden from traditional analysis methods.

With AI-powered data analysis, businesses gain a deeper understanding of their customers, markets, and industry dynamics. This data-driven approach empowers decision-makers to make well-informed decisions promptly, minimizing risks and optimizing opportunities. Organizations can harness a more comprehensive understanding of their markets, customers, and competitors, optimizing their marketing strategies, fine-tuning product offerings, identify emerging market trends, driving innovation, growth, competitiveness, and profitability.

 

Automation: Unleashing Human Potential

Business analysts are often burdened with repetitive and time-consuming tasks, leaving little room for strategic thinking. AI automation can alleviate this burden, liberating analysts from mundane activities and allowing them to focus on higher-value initiatives that require creativity, critical thinking, and strategic planning.

AI-powered automation can handle data collection, data cleaning, report generation, and even predictive modeling. As a result, business analysts can dedicate more time to interpreting results, formulating strategic plans, and collaborating cross-functionally. This not only enhances productivity but also fosters a culture of innovation within the organization.

 

Personalizing Customer Experiences

In an era where customer experience reigns supreme, personalization has become a key differentiator for businesses. AI plays a pivotal role in this domain by enabling businesses to personalize interactions with customers. Leveraging AI-driven analysis, organizations can understand individual customer preferences, behaviours, needs, and engagement patterns to segment customers. This enables businesses to hyper-personalized product recommendations and tailored marketing campaigns to individual customers.

By delivering personalized experiences, businesses can foster increased customer loyalty, satisfaction, ultimately leading to increased revenue and brand advocacy.

 

Predictive Analytics: Anticipating the Future

Traditional business analysis often focuses on historical data, providing a retrospective view of performance. However, in today’s fast-paced business environment, organizations must be forward-thinking and anticipate future trends and challenges. AI-driven predictive analytics enables just that. By analysing historical data, market trends, and external factors through sophisticated predictive models, AI can forecast future trends, demand patterns, identify potential risks, and anticipate changing customer preferences empowering organizations to make proactive decisions.

Armed with these insights, businesses can proactively adapt their strategies, pre-emptively address challenges, seize new opportunities as they arise and can stay ahead of the curve and gaining a competitive edge.

 

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Improving Fraud Detection and Risk Management

In an increasingly interconnected world and increasing digitization of business processes, cybersecurity threats and fraudulent activities have become major concerns for organizations. AI excels in detecting anomalies and patterns indicative of fraudulent activities. AI-driven fraud detection models can learn from historical data to identify suspicious patterns and flag potential fraudulent transactions promptly.

Additionally, AI-powered risk management tools can assess and mitigate risks, helping businesses safeguard their assets and maintain trust with customers and stakeholders.

 

Conclusion: Unlocking New Horizons of Success

Embracing AI in business analysis is no longer an option; it’s a necessity for organizations that aspire to thrive in today’s dynamic market. From data-driven decision-making and process automation to personalized customer experiences and predictive analytics, AI’s impact on business analysis is undeniable.

As business analysts and leaders, embracing AI unlocks new horizons of success, driving growth, innovation, and efficiency. It’s time to seize the transformative power of AI and shape the future of our businesses with confidence and enthusiasm. So, let us embark on this exciting journey of AI-driven business analysis and embark on a path of unrivalled success.

 

Embracing AI in Business Analysis: A Guide for BAs

Artificial Intelligence in business analysis is fast becoming the next big evolution of the BA practice. It acts as a superpower to enhance decision-making, automate repetitive tasks, free up time for strategic work.

BAs add value to organizations that AI cannot replace, like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. But with increasing competition in companies, BAs can use an assistant like artificial intelligence to do more with less. This article covers the growing influence of AI in business analysis and how you can thrive as a business analyst in the age of generative AI.

 

AI in Business Analysis: A Growing Field

Business analytics powered by AI can detect patterns, anomalies, and deviations and raises them for review by business analysts.

Business analysts are embracing AI/ML tools to make more informed decisions and improve their competitive advantage. Tools like Tableau, Power BI, and others increasingly have a significant AI component

BA coaches have also begun thinking and producing content on how to use AI tools like ChatGPT for business analysis.

The growth of AI tools has also led to an increasing push for human oversight over AI. For instance, the European Commission has proposed a regulation the stipulates how high-risk AI systems like facial recognition algorithms should be created with human oversight in the loop.

Developing regulations like these will affect downstream industries like business analysis in due time.

 

AI-enhanced Business Analysts

The most beneficial way to deal with the rise of AI is to enhance your existing skill set using it. Generative AI tools can also lead to happier and more productive workers.

 

Here are some ways you can adapt to the changing reality:

Know your Core BA Skills

As recently as May 2023, Forbes recognized six core business analysis skills:

  • Analysis: Parsing large amounts of complex data and recommending solutions.
  • Communication: Active listening and clear delivery of data in verbal and written form.
  • Interpersonal: Working effectively with stakeholders and teams within client organizations.
  • Problem-solving: Creative solving of unique client issues.
  • Time Management: Prioritizing tasks and getting the job done quickly.

AI can do parts of these tasks for you, but none fully. For instance, an AI-based requirements management tool can help you analyze and write requirements based on raw data, but only with your approval.  But it fails at active listening, stakeholder engagement, or creative problem solving.

Without human oversight, AI can be ineffective or even counterproductive. Business analysts can excel through expert management of AI tools and ensure that AIs output aligns with the goals of the organization.

Another core skill that AIs cannot compete is an up-to-date understanding of the industry. BAs with domain knowledge can spot problems and suggest fixes before a project reaches the development team. They have the knowledge and connections to understand market conditions and protocols beyond what is available on AI databases.

Strategies for developing industry domain expertise include:

  • Researching the history, current situation, and prospects of the industry.
  • Learning market-specific protocols. For example, ASPICE is a key automotive regulation.
  • Competitive analysis.
  • Asking questions to other domain experts.

Enhance Your Data Management and Analysis Skills

According to Peter Sondergaard, the SVP and Global Head of Research at Gartner, “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” Analytical skills help BAs generate high quality outcomes that meet business needs.

In practical terms, you need to have a combination of the following data analytics skills to position you as a high-value and competitive BA candidate:

  • Data Literacy: Familiarity with data language, types, sources, and analytical tools.
  • Data Collection: Knowing how to collect unbiased and reliable data through various methods.
  • Statistical Analysis: Knowing statistical terms and techniques like hypothesis testing, linear regression, and p-values to extract insights.
  • Data Visualization: Presenting data honestly to communicate insights.

Learn to Work with AI Tools

A recent survey by Gartner showed that 70 percent of U.S. workers want to use AI to reduce some common tiresome and repetitive tasks.

 

The top task that workers hoped AI would automate is data processing. The demands of a business analyst already include many of these tasks and will do so in the future. Here’s how BAs can leverage AI tools for data processing:

  • Integration: Building “master lists” of data, like merging lists while retaining their integrity.
  • Classification: collecting, extracting, and structuring data from documents, photos, audio, video, and other media.
  • Cataloging: Organizing, cleaning, and retrieving data. SQL is already a key skill for data retrieval and OpenRefine helps with basic data cleaning.
  • Quality: Reducing errors, contradictions, or low quality in databases or requirements authoring.
  • Security: Keeping data safe from bad actors.
  • Compliance: Adhering to relevant industry-based or national compliance standards. E.g. ASPICE for automotive.

BAs should also learn how to interact with AI tools. Some tools have button-based interfaces, but others like ChatGPT use prompts. Engineering prompts will itself become a skill not dissimilar to making SQL queries. The right query may be the difference between an important insight and a dead end.

This collaborative approach to AI in business analysis will help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire organization. The MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group’s global executive survey found that companies combining AI and human abilities are best positioned to succeed.

These days, many tools help boost the productivity of BAs. Some staples like Tableau and Power BI have into their legacy offerings. Others have leveraged the to analyze, write, rewrite, and suggest requirements.

 

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Adapt to Changing Roles and Responsibilities

Beyond working with AI tools, BAs will have to adapt and expand their skill sets to market realities. BAs can stay on top of things by:

  • Keeping up with cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, digital trust, and artificial intelligence.
  • Asking better questions about business needs, technology needs, and stakeholder satisfaction.
  • Considering hybrid roles that combine BA skills with related fields like statistics, data analysis, project management, and UX.
  • Enhancing soft skills. BAs who communication, critical thinking, negotiation, and collaboration skills can adapt and thrive in any environment.

 

The Future of Business Analysis is Bright

The fundamental role of the business analyst will be no less relevant in the near future. Somebody has to perform crucial tasks like business processes evaluation, problem identification, and more. Embracing the paradigm of new AI tools will only increase the productivity of BAs. Combined with their core BA toolkit, domain expertise, fluency in data management, and soft skills, business analysts can thrive and drive the success of their companies in the 2020s and beyond.

 

Source: AI in Employee Engagement: 7 Applications to Try Yourself | Zavvy [AS1] [AS1]
https://www.statista.com/chart/27127/tasks-us-workers-want-ai-to-take-over/ [AS2]

 

Deconstructing the Stress Factors in the Business Analyst Role

Over my years as a professional, I have come to realize that the title of Business Analyst (BA) is a heavy one. How each organization defines the role can be completely different. A BA in Company C may be a requirements scribe, whereas a BA in Company D wears many hats: process analyst, project manager proxy, test validator, etc. Whichever way the role is defined, I think stress has plagued many of us who call Business Analysis our profession. If you have found yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed at any point during your career in business analysis, you are not alone. There are many factors that can play into that feeling. I want to deconstruct a few of the typical stressors here and offer some potential solutions.

 

1. Not understanding the area of study:

BAs are often on the fringes of the business. It is analogous to being a window cleaner.  As each pane gets cleaned, we can see a little more into the room in front of us, but we are still only seeing a portion. Each pane reveals a bit more about the room, but the entire picture may still elude us. We are on the outside looking in. Not having the full picture of the business, its processes, or its business drivers can leave a Business Analyst feeling inadequate and uninformed.

As a BA, questions are your friend (like your squeegee on the dirty window). I have been guilty of feeling like I was asking too many questions. What I realized is that if I don’t ask my second follow-up question, which may lead to a third follow-up question, I risk not gaining the knowledge that I need to understand the business to write better requirements.

Feeling anxious because we don’t know the business is stressful, but not asking enough questions to get the understanding we need will cause more stress later. If you have 100 questions, don’t stop at number 99. Ask all 100. If you find that the participants are getting a little impatient with your questions, gently remind them that you are trying to understand them as an outsider looking in. Once you gain a better understanding, your perspective changes, and you are no longer looking through smudged windowpanes.

 

2. Large complex projects:

If you have been on projects with multiple stakeholders, then you may feel pressure before you even type the ‘r’ in requirements. It can be daunting to start a new project. You may be working in a new department with all new faces. Unfamiliarity coupled with complexity can be intimidating. In instances like this, it is important to build alliances.

Find project team members that you can trust. Relationship building is so important to your success as a BA and will also go a long way in helping alleviate some of your stress. It can be nice to have a friend when you are on the fringes.

 

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3. Requirement Elicitation is not one size fits all:

For those who do not practice Business analysis, gathering requirements may seem like a simple task. You find out the need, and you write it down. It is not at all that simple. Different stakeholders require different elicitation methods. Some stakeholders are very forthcoming with information. Others can be more guarded or may simply not know how to express the need. Interviewing may work for some. Passing e-mails back and forth may be more appropriate for others.

The key here is to really take the pulse of your stakeholder population (a personality assessment of sorts). Understand their optimal mode of communication and how you can best work within the confines of that. Also, do not neglect your best mode of working as well. Finding the proper balance between stakeholder and BA methods of working will be key to helping alleviate stress.

Do not feel pressured to use an elicitation technique that is not a good fit. We do not want to simply check boxes on the list of deliverables; we want to add true value.

 

4. Feeling pressured by deadlines:

Every project comes with a start and end date. BAs often occupy a few task lines on that project schedule, and the pressure to meet those deadlines can feel immense. We don’t want to be the ripple that causes the project timeline to shift.

As BAs, we often take the deadlines given to us and work to fit within them. If we do not understand the business, the project is complex, and we don’t know what elicitation method to use when starting a project, then how can we be tied to a deadline?

Speak up when you feel that timelines are not realistic. Open and honest conversations can be uncomfortable but can also be wholly necessary when the quality of work is on the line. The timeline may not shift because you raised a concern, but I guarantee you will feel a little less pressure when you have been open and honest and raised your hand.

 

This is not an exhaustive list; it is just some of the key things I noticed in my career as a previously stressed and anxious BA. In the end, it is important to remember that your success as a Business Analyst rests in part on your ability to perform the job well. Different stress factors can become obstacles to your performance. Understanding those factors is the first step in tackling them. Apply different techniques to alleviate the stress. You will thank yourself.