Define the Best Analyst for your Organization

By Steve Hendrick, Business Analysis Senior Manager, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

As you progress on your journey to establish or refine a highly effective and impactful business analysis team, it is important to define what a business analyst is and in some cases, what it is not. To accomplish this effectively look at the role from three perspectives; Technical Skills, Soft Skills, and Job Specific Requirements.

To define the role of Business Analyst, formulate a job description outlining the necessary expectations and skills. The first step is to determine the areas in which the role will operate. Utilizing A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide), you can determine the knowledge areas that your analysis role will be expected to execute. Every organization is different, so looking at the operating landscape will greatly increase the successful introduction of this role. Leveraging the relationship diagram in the BABOK® Guide is a quick and effective method for determining the specifics of the role.

Figure 1.1 Relationships between Knowledge Areas1

In order to identify the necessary areas that will impact your organization, you should begin to build a profile of skills and experience. Start with two aspects: analysis based technical and soft skills. Technical analysis skills may vary based on your organization’s focus, deliverables, or methodologies, but some common ones can include:
  • Model authoring and interpretation
    • E.g. UML2, Data Flow Diagrams, Business Process Modeling, etc.
  • Requirements Elicitation and Authoring Techniques
    • E.g. Use Case creation, Non-Functional Requirement Elicitation, Focus Group Execution, Interviewing, etc.
  • Design
    • E.g. User Interface, Data Modeling such as ERD’s, etc.
  • Visualization Tools and Techniques
    • E.g. Storyboards, Wireframe, Low/High Fidelity Prototypes, etc.
The technical skills you decide are important for your organization should be used to identify the initial investment needed to bring on this candidate. In general, technical skills can grow with the candidate, and styles, either imposed by the organization or developed by the person, will play a part in the competency level in each of these areas.  This list is not intended to be exhaustive, and the BABOK® Guide highlights a number of techniques that should also be considered in Chapter 9. 

When looking at soft skills, qualities that differentiate candidates for the role emerge.  These skills are experience and, at times, personality based. Similar to technical skills, styles come into play and vary with your organization. Every year, IIBA® and Forrester conduct a survey of professionals to understand the landscape of analysts in the work force2 . One of the interesting findings pertained to skills necessary for a BA. These skills include:
  • Communication (Written and Oral)
  • Analysis and Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Customer and Results Orientation
Other skills to be considered include negotiation, facilitation, and personnel management abilities. 

Finally, consider job specific requirements for this role to include experience with the development methodologies your organization subscribes to, professional certifications (such as Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®)), domain specific knowledge, and tool experience. While the need for these skills will vary by organization, each should be considered teachable and factor into the anticipated ramp-up time of potential candidates.

Depending on the current state of your organization’s analysis function, there may be a need to evaluate existing staff or to hire new personnel. In either case, it will be important to know an individual’s competencies in the areas you have identified to determine the best fit and the level of expertise that will be injected into your business analysis team. 

For new hires, raising awareness of your needs with interviewers is key to identifying skills. With existing staff, it is often more complicated to do this type of evaluation.  Previous work experience and conferring with resource leads is always effective, however, a competency assessment may be best. A competency evaluation, such as the one provided with the IIBA Competency Model, are effective tools to obtain self and managerial assessments.  The results provide a view to your team’s skills, and more importantly, can be used to devise a plan for the development of your analysis team.

Steve Hendrick is a Business Analysis Senior Manager at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.  He is the Leader of the Business Analysis function for Global Shared Services.

1International Institute of Business Analysis, A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge Version 2.0, 2008, p.7.
2Forrester/IIBA 2010 Global Business Analyst Online Survey.