What makes a good business analyst?

Read time 2min 30sec

Business Analysts play a key role as facilitators among various stakeholders in order to fully understand an organisation's operations and recommend solutions that will enable the organisation to reach its goals.

So says Cathy Banks, MD of consulting firm Analyze, adding that business analysts often need to bridge the gap between business and IT, playing mediator between disparate units with their own objectives and ways of thinking. "It is crucial, therefore, that the job not only gets done, but gets done well," she notes.

So what makes a good business analyst (BA)? "The traditional approach of purely looking at the number of years' experience and qualifications has become obsolete," says Banks. "It is important to realise that this alone does not ensure greatness. There are other factors, some of which cannot be taught, that also play an important role."

Banks highlights four important criteria to consider:

* Intrinsic analytical ability

Intrinsic analytical ability is the cornerstone of a great BA. It speaks to a person's ability to gain a complete understanding of the problem at hand, breaking that problem down into specific goals and objectives, identifying the root cause and understanding the relationship between all directly and indirectly impacted parties.

It also means that you're not afraid to ask questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? It's this curious nature that ensures that the right problems are being addressed in the right way.

* Academic grounding

As much as credentials aren't the be-all and end-all, they do shape the way a BA thinks about problems. They provide a formal foundation for solving complex problems and conducting research, while also adding a certain level of rigor to a person's work.

A BCom or BTech (Information Systems), Informatics, BBusSc, or Engineering degree or diploma are examples of relevant qualifications, which further enhance analytical thinking.

* The BA toolkit

Every good BA has all kinds of modelling tools in his or her arsenal. From work-flow diagrams to wireframe prototypes, there's nothing that can't be represented in an easy-to-understand, graphical representation.

Then add to that impeccable documentation skills, along with a good understanding of business processes and the software development lifecycle and you've got a force to be reckoned with.

* Soft skills

The most successful BAs are those who have a high EQ. This means that they are self-aware, good at reading others, proactive, and able to manage their own efforts in alignment with dependencies and deadlines.

They are also able to forge strong relationships and build trust. They are excellent communicators and are able to source the right information through active listening, facilitation and elicitation skills.

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