Top 7 Soft Skills for Business Analysis Professionals
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In IIBA’s annual Global State of Business Analysis Survey, the global community identified a list of soft skills that are considered essential for most business analysis professionals to have. You may have all the technical skills in the world, but without these soft skills in your arsenal, you may struggle within your profession. Most individuals will likely have these skills to some degree as they’re not exclusive to any profession but there needs to be an emphasis on further developing and reinforcing them.
These are some of the skills that the community has identified as being important to the role of business analysis. If you’re new to the profession or looking to make the next leap in your career, these skills can really help to make a difference in the work that you do.
Communication and Listening Skills
According to IIBA’s Business Analysis Competency Model, communication skills are not merely limited to understanding and engaging in written and verbal communication, but it encompasses other areas such as knowing the appropriateness of your communication and its planning.
We have been taught that active listening is a crucial part of our listening skills. We can break down that concept into two parts:
Listening to act involves solution-oriented thinking. We listen with the intent to arrive at a solution, quickly and efficiently.
However, listening to comprehend is an often-neglected part of that equation. Listening with the intent to really understand what the other person is saying, asking questions along the way and trying to empathise with them. As you may have guessed, this requires empathy on our part and requires emotional intelligence (EQ). It also needs a keen eye that takes in details well, such as demeanour, body language and tone. This is a sense that comes with steady experience and is honed over time through perseverance and practice. It’s not something you can easily acquire through a learning course.
Our communication and listening skills lay a foundation for the rest of our skills to build upon.
“Business Analysis is a relationship business!” says Susan Moore, Community Engagement Manager with IIBA®.
Stakeholder Engagement and Relationship Building Skills
As a business analysis professional, getting straight to business may not be the best policy, as ironic as it may sound.
It is in your best interest to try and really know who you’re working with. Know who they are, not just professionally but on a personal level as well. Try to gauge their interests and preferences. What are their goals? What are their concerns? Make small talk, talk about the weather or the football game, to remove barriers and create an aura of comfort that facilitates smoother communication.
Building trust through authentic connection is crucial to the process. Finding their deeper motivations, not just in business, but in life requires solid social skills: Interacting and listening to people, persuading, and empathising with others, being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Once again – these are skills that can’t be learned in a bootcamp. You may not be naturally gifted at this – no shame in that. Your individual personality plays a role in determining your success in this part, but it’s something you can improve on.
Seek out your peers that have this talent and pick it up through observation. If you can’t find someone within your circle of colleagues to help, visit your local chapter. There’s a large variety of people you can find and interact with and learn from.
Analytical Thinking and Problem-Solving SkillsOnce again, we peek into IIBA’s Business Analysis Competency Model to find out the core competencies in this domain: Creative thinking, decision-making, learning, problem solving, systems thinking, conceptual thinking and visual thinking.
Creativity is important in analytical thinking. Words can be bland at times, taking notes may be boring. For some people, visuals do the trick. Illustration through diagrams can deliver the same ideas more efficiently and generate greater interest in the same topic. Which in turn leads to better problem solving.
When it comes to decision making, it’s not just about making the decision itself, but knowing the process on how to get there.
The ability to be flexible; to shift and change according to unique situations and times is the core of adaptability skills.
Learning the mechanics of a discipline and sticking to the rules and principles is a neat thing to do but not always the best practice. Sometimes letting things deviate in a guided fashion, according to changing contexts may yield better results.
Adaptability skills also entail being coachable: having an openness to change and transformation. Expecting people to tell you what to do, but then being able to find your own path, makes you a sought-after individual in your profession. It requires a willingness to take chances on others’ ideas.
For candid practitioner chat on this topic check out the Top 7 Soft Skills for a Business Analyst on Business Analysis Live!
Want to learn more about the skills, salary, and best practices from the latest Global State of Business Analysis Report? Click here to read the full report.
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About The Author:
Salman Khattak is a Program Operations & Research Analyst at IIBA®. An Electrical Engineer by profession and currently in pursuit of his postgrad degree in Signal Processing, he considers himself a jack of all trades, master of none.
Before joining IIBA, he wrote blog articles for a living, on an eclectic range of topics; a practice he has not given up. In between his work hours, he now devotes his time to writing about Business Analysis.