The Competencies of a Business Analyst (SECTION 2)

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, the role of a business analyst has become increasingly critical. With organisations striving for success and growth, business analysts serve as the backbone of effective decision-making and strategic planning.

 But what exactly are the competencies that set a skilled business analyst apart? 

In this section, we will delve into the key competencies that define a successful business analyst and explore why these skills are essential in driving business transformation and ensuring the alignment of business goals with technological advancements. 

Whether you're an aspiring business analyst or simply curious about the profession, understanding these competencies will provide valuable insights into the role's multidimensional nature and the value it brings to organisations.


8 Core Competencies for All Startups



First things first, what does it mean to be a Business Analysis "rockstar"? Imagine a "T-shaped professional" – someone with deep expertise in their specialised field and a broad range of skills across various disciplines. These individuals excel in problem-solving within their area of expertise and communicate seamlessly with colleagues and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. 


Now, let's focus on the Business Analyst's specific competencies.


 They need a mix of generalist skills that are applicable to different roles within an organisation, as well as specialised skills to analyse complex business situations. 


So, what are these competencies that make a Business Analyst outstanding?


 Let's break them down into three key areas: personal qualities, business knowledge, and professional techniques. These areas form the foundation for a successful career as a Business Analyst.


Personal qualities are the interpersonal skills and characteristics that help Business Analysts thrive. These skills are essential for collaborative work in any business environment.

Good behavioural skills, such as attitude, personality, and mindset, are fundamental for effective teamwork. In fact, it's often easier to teach technical skills to someone with strong behavioural skills than vice versa. Building rapport, active listening, influencing others, and empathy are just a few examples of the critical personal qualities that Business Analysts should possess.


Next comes business knowledge. Business Analysts must develop a deep understanding of their organisation and the industry it operates in. This knowledge allows them to provide valuable insights and advice to improve overall performance. While experience within organisational and project environments is the primary source of business knowledge, additional understanding can be gained through relevant literature and business qualifications.

Professional techniques set Business Analysts apart from other roles.

These techniques are specific to the Business Analyst's responsibilities and play a vital role in their effectiveness. 

Communication skills reign supreme in this domain. Business Analysts must master various communication styles to align with different stakeholders, avoiding jargon and technical language that might cause confusion. Relationship building, influencing others, facilitation, resilience, and analytical thinking are also key professional techniques that Business Analysts should excel in.

Business Analysts must continuously adapt and evolve to meet the challenges they face. An adaptable mindset allows them to thrive in ambiguous situations, explore new ideas, and challenge conventional wisdom. Political awareness is also crucial, enabling Business Analysts to navigate organisational dynamics and effectively utilise available resources.

Successful Business Analysts exhibit professionalism in their conduct and personal development. 

This means possessing the necessary knowledge and skills for the role, collaborating respectfully with colleagues, maintaining an ethical mindset, and continuously improving through personal study, coaching, training, and engagement with professional forums.

Becoming a skilled Business Analyst requires dedication and a commitment to developing these competencies. By honing your personal qualities, deepening your business knowledge, and mastering professional techniques, you can unlock the full potential of your role and make a significant impact in the ever-changing business and IT landscape.


Mastering Business Knowledge

Every Business Analyst must understand the sector and industry they operate in. This knowledge helps align proposed courses of action and improvement options with the business environment. By being aware of commercial realities and pressures, Business Analysts can support initiatives that drive success. 

Understanding finance is also vital. It's the universal language of business, regardless of whether you work in the commercial, government, or non-profit sectors. Having a grasp of finance basics, such as balance sheets, profit and loss accounts, financial ratios, budgeting, and cash flow, allows Business Analysts to evaluate suppliers, suggest process improvements, and assess options in business cases.

Speaking of business cases, Business Analysts often play a crucial role in identifying options to address business problems and assessing their costs and benefits. While specialists like management accountants evaluate these options within a business case, Business Analysts should have a basic understanding of financial issues. This understanding enables them to engage in informed discussions with specialists and business managers, making their contributions more valuable.

Moving on to domain knowledge, it's crucial for Business Analysts to possess a good general understanding of the business domain or sector in which their organisation operates. This knowledge helps in effective communication with project stakeholders and gaining insights into what is acceptable and useful within the specific domain. It also allows Business Analysts to draw inspiration from other organisations facing similar issues or operating within the same business domain.

Subject matter expertise takes domain knowledge to a deeper level. It involves a specific understanding of terminologies, processes, and constraints within a particular area, such as a product line or service. This expertise establishes credibility with customers, helps identify areas for change or further analysis, and challenges assumptions to ensure accurate decision-making.

In today's digital age, Business Analysts don't need to be technical experts, but they must bridge the gap between business and IT. They need sufficient knowledge to recognise how digital technology can enhance their organisation's services and processes. Familiarity with trends like AI, robotic process automation, big data, and mobile technologies, as well as software development lifecycles, Agile approaches, and system modelling techniques, is valuable. Understanding technical infrastructure components and different organisation structures, like functional, project, matrix, flat, and virtual, further enhances a Business Analyst's effectiveness.

Supplier management is another aspect that Business Analysts should be familiar with, as organisations often rely on external suppliers for IT systems or outsourcing arrangements. Having a broad understanding of procurement processes and contractual arrangements helps Business Analysts ensure efficient service delivery.

Lastly, enterprise architecture frameworks like Zachman and TOGAF play a crucial role in defining, governing, and coordinating aspects of an enterprise. Business Analysts need to be aware of these frameworks to ensure alignment between proposed solutions and the overall enterprise architecture.



Mastering Professional Techniques

In this section, we'll explore the essential techniques that Business Analysts apply in their work. So, let's dive right in and uncover the secrets to becoming a pro!

First up is stakeholder analysis and management. It's a key element of business analysis that involves identifying stakeholders, understanding their significance, analysing their perspectives, and developing strategies to manage them effectively. Knowing how to handle stakeholders is crucial for successful business analysis.

Next, we have strategy analysis. Business Analysts need a solid understanding of their organisation's strategic context to ensure that recommended solutions align with the objectives and tactics of the organisation. Various techniques, such as investigating the internal and external environments, are used during strategy analysis and definition. 

Investigation techniques are also essential for Business Analysts. Regularly investigating business situations, identifying issues and problems, and analysing root causes are vital skills. 

Requirements engineering (RE) is a crucial framework of activities for Business Analysts. It involves defining requirements through elicitation, analysis, and modelling skills. Requirements form the foundation for designing and developing business and IT solutions. 

Business modelling is another technique that helps visualise business systems through conceptual models. These models, such as business activity models, value chains, organisation models, and capability maps, provide insights into the entire business system and help identify areas for improvement. 

Data modelling is an invaluable technique for analysing the data stored and used within a business system. It provides insights into how the system operates and reflects the information requirements and business rules. Entity relationship modelling and class modelling are widely used data modelling techniques.

Idea generation and visualisation techniques play a significant role in stimulating discussion, generating ideas, and representing outcomes during meetings, workshops, or focus groups. Techniques like dialogue mapping, brainstorming, and mind-mapping help facilitate productive sessions. 

Gap analysis is a core skill for Business Analysts. It involves comparing different scenarios, such as current and future business process models, software products, or capability needs within the organisation. Conducting effective gap analysis is vital for making informed decisions. 

Benefits management focuses on planning, monitoring, and evaluating the predicted benefits of a business change initiative. It ensures that investments in business changes deliver the expected returns on investment.

Project management skills are essential for Business Analysts, especially when working on small projects. Understanding project initiation, planning, monitoring, resource allocation, reporting, and communication helps ensure project success. While larger projects may have dedicated project managers, possessing project management skills is still valuable. 

Appreciating project management principles allows Business Analysts to work effectively within defined plans and understand project dependencies, quality assurance, and risk management aspects.

Lastly, portfolio management skills are valuable for Business Analysts responsible for a portfolio of analysis projects. Evaluating, prioritising, and delivering a portfolio of business change projects requires competence in assessing project dependencies and priorities. This skill is particularly useful in analysing how the portfolio of projects fits together.

By mastering these professional techniques, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the exciting world of Business Analysis. So, get ready to take your career to new heights as a proficient Business Analyst!


Supercharge Your Business Analysis Skills


In this section, we'll explore effective ways to enhance your expertise and become a standout Business Analyst. So, let's dive right in and discover how to unleash your full potential!


Training: Power-Up Your Skills

Classroom-based training is an efficient way to acquire new skills and knowledge. It offers a supportive environment where you can practice applying your newfound skills with guidance from experienced tutors. Plus, you get to interact and learn from fellow learners, enriching your overall learning experience.


Some training courses even lead to industry-recognised qualifications, such as those offered by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. 

Personal Study: Expand Your Knowledge Horizons

Embark on a journey of personal study to deepen your understanding of business analysis and related areas. A wealth of resources awaits you, including online articles, blogs, videos, magazines, and reference books. 


Take advantage of valuable publications like "Business Analysis Techniques" by Cadle et al., "Business Analyst: Careers in Business Analysis" by Reed, and "Delivering Business Analysis: The BA Service Handbook" by Paul and Lovelock. Additionally, the "BABOK V3: A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge" by IIBA serves as an indispensable reference guide. 


Self-study is a fantastic way to broaden your expertise and stay ahead of the curve in technology developments, business change issues, strategy, and the ever-evolving business environment.


Work Experience: Learn by Doing

Nothing beats the hands-on experience gained through work. Engaging in real-life projects allows you to apply techniques in practice, gain insights into the business analyst role, and deepen your understanding. 


Seek opportunities to collaborate with more experienced business analysts who can guide and mentor you. If your organisation has a formalised skills development program, consider yourself lucky! 


Embrace coaching or mentoring to accelerate your growth. And if such a program isn't available, don't fret. Look for respected and experienced business analysts, even from other organisations, who can spare some time to provide valuable support. Learning from the best will propel you towards greatness.


Industry Engagement: Connect and Conquer

The business analysis profession has seen rapid expansion, and professional bodies like BCS and IIBA offer tremendous support. Engage with these organisations through certifications, networking opportunities, events, conferences, presentations, and articles. These engagements foster connections with fellow business analysts, provide avenues for learning and growth, and establish your presence in the business analysis community. Remember, knowledge shared is knowledge multiplied!

By combining these four approaches to skills development, you'll embark on a transformative journey towards becoming a stellar Business Analyst.

 Don't forget to reflect on your learning experiences, connect theory to practice, and think critically about how to apply your skills in different scenarios. With the right mix of training, personal study, work experience, and industry engagement, you'll be unstoppable.


In this section, we've delved into the essential skills that make a business analyst successful. As we've learned, the role of a business analyst can vary across organisations, and the services they provide can differ as well. That's why it's crucial for business analysts to possess the skills that align with their organisation's unique needs.


If you're looking to develop your skills and boost your performance as a business analyst, it's important to understand the range of skills required. Identify the levels of competence needed for each skill area and actively seek out learning opportunities to enhance your capabilities.


While technical skills are important, it's the personal skills that often pose the greatest challenge for business analysts. We're well aware of the apprehension and concerns that arise during business change projects. If these concerns aren't addressed effectively, they can even lead to resistance. That's why it's vital for business analysts to cultivate strong interpersonal skills. By developing excellent communication, collaboration, and relationship-building abilities, you can overcome opposition and collaborate with your colleagues to implement the necessary improvements for your organisation's success.

Remember, becoming a successful business analyst isn't just about technical expertise—it's about honing your personal skills to navigate the complexities of business change and deliver tangible results. So, embrace the challenge, focus on personal growth, and become a well-rounded business analyst who can drive positive change and exceed expectations in your organisation.


Additional Notes 


According to SFIA, the business analysis skill encompasses a systematic process of investigating, analysing, reviewing, and documenting various aspects of a business, including its goals, objectives, functions, and processes. 


This involves examining the information used and the underlying data to define requirements for enhancing processes and systems, reducing costs, improving sustainability, and quantifying potential business benefits. Additionally, it involves collaboratively creating and refining specifications and acceptance criteria in preparation for deploying information and communication systems.


 Business analysts are expected to adapt their approaches based on the specific context of their work, choosing between predictive (plan-driven) or adaptive (iterative/agile) methods as appropriate.


SFIA outlines four levels of competence for the business analysis skill:

Level 3


At this level, business analysts investigate operational needs, problems, and opportunities, contributing to recommendations for improving processes and organisation. They assist in defining acceptance tests for these proposed improvements.


Level 4


Business analysts at this level explore operational requirements, problems, and opportunities, seeking effective business solutions by enhancing both automated and non-automated components of processes. They analyse stakeholder objectives, identify underlying issues, and offer options for consideration. They work with stakeholders to identify potential benefits and define acceptance tests. They contribute to the selection of business analysis approaches.


Level 5


Business analysts with Level 5 competence take responsibility for investigative work to determine business requirements and specify effective processes. They improve information systems, information management practices, procedures, and organisation through their analysis. They select, adopt, and adapt appropriate business analysis methods, tools, and techniques, choosing between predictive or adaptive approaches. They collaborate with stakeholders at all levels, conducting investigations for strategy studies, business requirements specifications, and feasibility studies. They prepare business cases that define potential benefits and options for achieving them, while considering associated business risks.


Level 6

At Level 6, business analysts assume full responsibility for business analysis within a significant segment of an organisation. Their advice and decisions have a measurable impact on profitability and effectiveness. They lead the selection of appropriate business analysis methods, tools, and techniques, choosing between plan-driven or adaptive approaches. They assess the contribution of technology to business objectives, define strategies, validate and justify business needs, conduct feasibility studies, create high-level and detailed business models, prepare business cases, and oversee the development and implementation of solutions. They consider the implications of change on the organisation and stakeholders, guiding senior management towards accepting process and organisational changes.

In summary, SFIA provides a comprehensive framework for understanding and developing the skills required for effective business analysis, defining different levels of competence that business analysts can strive to achieve as they progress in their careers.


Are you ready to test your knowledge of the competencies of a business analyst? Take our multiple-choice quiz to see how well you understand the key skills and areas of expertise that define a successful business analyst. Challenge yourself with questions about personal qualities, business knowledge, and professional techniques that are essential for driving business transformation and strategic planning. Put your knowledge to the test and discover how well you grasp the multidimensional nature of the business analyst role. Take the quiz now and uncover your proficiency in this critical field!

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