Underlying Competencies for Business Analysts
The Underlying competencies give a wide range of fundamental skills should have. Also, it further defines the requirements for success on-the-job in broader terms.
A business analyst plays an important role in a company’s productivity and profitability. As such, Business Analysts should be able to demonstrate the right mix of skills, knowledge, on-the-job abilities, and they must be able to adapt to the ever-changing requirements in the business world of today.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) in its Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (BABOK Guide) defines the Underlying competencies as traits that character display and groups them into 6 key areas.
The underlying competencies provide the knowledge that will enable Business Analysts to become successful and adaptable business analysts. Skills are one of three facets that make up a competency, knowledge and abilities are the other two. If you can master this set of skills, you will be able to perform your roles and responsibilities as a business analyst.
The underlying competencies are grouped into six categories, and they are:
- Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Behavioral Characteristics
- Business Knowledge
- Communication Skills
- Interaction Skills and
- Tools and Technology
Each of these competency categories comprises of sub-competencies which are further discussed below:
Having sound analytical thinking and problem-solving skills is a must for business analysts to analyze problems and opportunities effectively. These are fundamental thinking skills that help to identify which changes may deliver the most value and the best ways to present information to their stakeholders in order to understand the impact of those changes.
Analytical thinking and problem-solving competency assist business analysts when planning their business analysis approach. It also enables them to communicate business analysis information in a manner that suits the material being conveyed to their stakeholders involved. The Analytical Thinking and problem-solving competency consist of the following sub-competencies:
– Creative Thinking: Creative thinking involves generating new ideas and concepts as well as finding a new or different linkage between new and existing concepts or ideas. This may be facilitated through brainstorming, mind mapping and lateral thinking. A Business Analyst must be able to look at the needs of stakeholders, think from a different perspective, and suggest exceptional solutions.
– Decision Making: Decision making is a cognitive process where a Business Analyst is faced with having to select an option from a set of alternatives and a decision must be made on which is the most advantageous for the stakeholders and the enterprise. This may include making a decision on which tools or techniques to use, which stakeholders to consult, which solution options to take and so on.
– Learning: Learning is the process of gaining knowledge or skills. A Business analyst must be able to describe their level of understanding of the business domain. As such, he must be capable of applying that level of understanding to determine which analysis activities need to be performed in a problem or opportunity.
– Problem Solving: Many a time, Business Analysts encounter problems during the entire phase of a project. A Business Analyst’s role is to ensure that the nature of the problem and the underlying issues are well understood by the stakeholders involved. Also, he must be able to recommend suitable solutions.
– Systems Thinking: Systems thinking is all about understanding how people, processes, and technology within an organization interact. This allows business analysts to understand the enterprise from a holistic point of view when determining solution options.
– Conceptual Thinking: Conceptual thinking in business analysis is specifically about understanding the linkage between contexts, solutions, needs, changes, stakeholders, value, and the big picture. It involves understanding, and connecting information and patterns that may not be easily defined to the underlying problem or opportunity identified.
Furthermore, it involves using past experiences, knowledge, creativity, intuition, and abstract thinking to generate alternatives and ideas that are not easily defined.
– Visual Thinking: Visual thinking is the ability to communicate complex concepts and models into understandable visual representations, which allow business analysts to engage stakeholders and help them understand the concepts being presented.
Visual thinking allows Business Analysts to create graphical representations (graphics, models, diagrams) of the concepts or systems being discussed. The goal of these graphical representations is to allow stakeholders to easily understand the concepts being presented and then provide input as well as understand and appreciate others’ contexts more clearly.
Behavioral characteristics have been found to increase personal effectiveness in the practice of business analysis. The core competencies of behavioral characteristics focus on the skills and behaviors that allow a business analyst to gain the trust and respect of stakeholders. Business Analysts are able to do this by consistently; acting in an ethical manner, completing tasks on time and to expectations, efficiently delivering quality results, and demonstrating adaptability to changing needs and circumstances.
– Ethics: Behaving ethically allows business analysts to earn the respect of the stakeholders. A Business Analyst is a powerful individual within a project context because he or she gains access to processes and information that may be highly sensitive to the stakeholders within an organization.
Thus, the BA is expected to recognize when a proposed solution or requirement may present ethical difficulties to an organization or its stakeholders. This is an important consideration that can help to reduce exposure to risk.
– Personal Accountability: Personal accountability includes effectively planning business analysis work to achieve targets, goals and ensuring that the value delivered is aligned with business needs. It ensures business analysis tasks are completed on time and to the expectations of colleagues and stakeholders.
Also, Personal Accountability enables business analysts to establish credibility by ensuring that business analysis efforts meet the needs of the business.
– Organization and Time Management: Organization and time management involves the ability to prioritize tasks, perform them efficiently, and manage time effectively. Organizational skills help Business Analysts to differentiate important information that should be retained from less important information. At the same time, ensuring the information is organized and stored in an efficient manner so that it can be used and reused at a later date.
Effective time management requires the ability to prioritize tasks and deadlines.
– Trustworthiness: Most organizations and stakeholders provide access to sensitive information, systems, processes and other high-value assets. Sometimes, even placing their entire business at risk.
The BA is then expected to earn and uphold the trust of stakeholders. Also, the business analyst should ensure due diligence is given when eliciting business analysis information and devising solutions that will deliver value to that organization.
This, in turn, may offset the natural fear of change experienced by many stakeholders.
– Adaptability: Adaptability is the ability to change techniques, style, methods, and approach when performing Business Analysis tasks. Business analysts frequently work in rapidly changing environments and with a variety of stakeholders. As a result, they adjust their behavioral style and method of approach to increase their effectiveness when interacting with different stakeholders, organizations, and situations.
By demonstrating a willingness to interact with and complete tasks in a manner preferable to the stakeholders, business analysts can maximize the quality of service delivered, and more efficiently help the organization achieve its goals and objectives.
Business knowledge is a must for the business analyst to perform effectively within their business, organization and industry as a whole. Business knowledge enables the business analyst to better understand the overarching concepts that govern the structure, benefits, and value of the situation as it relates to a change or a need.
– Solution Knowledge: A Business Analyst must be able to leverage his understanding of existing departments, environments, or technology to efficiently identify the most effective means of implementing a change.
This, in a way, prevents them from re-inventing the wheel and also expedite the discovery of potential changes through elicitation or in-depth analysis. Hence, an understanding and familiarity of existing solutions give BAs an added advantage in delivering value to stakeholders.
– Organizational Knowledge: Organization knowledge provides an understanding of the management structure and business architecture of the enterprise being analyzed. This includes an understanding of how the enterprise generates profits, accomplishes its goals, organizational structure.
Often times, it involves the relationships that exist between business units, and the persons who occupy key stakeholder positions, and other aspects of the organization in place.
– Industry Knowledge: Industry knowledge provides the business analyst with an understanding of; current practices and activities within an industry, similar processes across industries, and even the competitive forces that shape the industries. As a result, Business Analysts are required to understand forces such as competitors, current trends, suppliers, market forces, buyers, products, substitutes etc.
As such, they can easily identify commonalities and differences that may influence business requirements.
– Business Acumen: Organizations frequently share similar practices, such as; legal and regulatory requirements, finance, logistics, sales, marketing, supply chain management, human resources, and technology. Business acumen is the ability to understand and apply the knowledge from these practices to different situations.
Although not a must, it is good for a Business Analyst to be familiar with the practices so as to consult and advise customers with relevant requirements in an efficient manner.
– Methodology Knowledge: Methodologies determine the timing (big steps or small increments), the approach, the role of people involved, the accepted risk level, and other aspects of how a change is approached and managed Understanding the methodologies used by the organization provides the Bas with information regarding context, opportunities, and constraints used when developing an approach.
Also, it helps organizations to either adopt or create their own methodologies to fit varying levels of culture, maturity, adaptability, risk, uncertainty, and governance.
Knowledge regarding a variety of methodologies allows the business analyst to quickly adapt to, and perform in new environments.
Effective communication benefits all stakeholders and it may be accomplished using a variety of delivery method namely verbal, nonverbal, physical, and written. Business analysts spend a significant amount of their time interacting with clients, users, and developers. Therefore, communication skills are necessary, as they expected to facilitate meetings, ask the right questions, and actively listen to their colleagues to take in new information and build relationships.
Essentially, a project’s success is dependent on a Business Analyst’s ability to communicate things like project requirements, changes, and test results.
Communication Skills core competencies include:
– Listening: Listening is the process of not just hearing words but understanding their meaning in context. By exhibiting effective listening skills, business analysts not only have a greater opportunity to accurately understand what is being communicated, but also to demonstrate that they think what the speaker is
saying is really important.
– Written Communication: Business analysts are to have good written communication skills in order to convey ideas, concepts, facts, and opinions to stakeholders. Also, proper command over language in terms of vocabulary, grammar and style and use of other terms is essential to ensure that written text is understood easily.
– Non-verbal Communication: Non-verbal communication skills enable effective sending and receiving messages through the following means body movement, posture, facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact. This form of communication is important for a Business Analyst to be successful in his career.
– Verbal Communication: Business analysts are expected to be able to verbally express their ideas, concepts, facts, and opinions to stakeholders. In addition, Business Analysts must communicate in a clear manner. The BA must also be able to actively listen to ensure that ideas generated by stakeholders are clearly understood
Interaction skills are represented by the business analyst’s ability to relate, cooperate, and communicate with different kinds of people. These people include executives, sponsors, colleagues, team members, developers, vendors, learning and development professionals, end users, customers, and subject matter experts (SMEs), etc.
Business analysts are uniquely positioned to facilitate stakeholder communication, provide leadership, encourage comprehension of solution value, and promote stakeholder support of the proposed changes.
Interaction Skills core competencies include:
– Facilitation & Negotiation: One of the key elements of a Business Analyst role is to be able to facilitate interactions and group discussions between stakeholders in order to help them make a decision, solve a problem, exchange ideas and information, or reach an agreement regarding the priority and the nature of requirements.
Apart from this, a business analyst may also facilitate interactions between stakeholders for the purposes of negotiation and conflict resolution. Facilitation and negotiation require the Business Analyst to not take sides during conflict resolution. Also, the BA should readily intervene when required in order to make suggestions that leads to the attainment of expected outcomes.
– Leadership & Influencing: The business analyst’s responsibility for defining, analyzing, and communicating business analysis information provides opportunities for leadership and influence, whether or not there are people formally reporting to the business analyst. Hence, a business analyst is to be skilled in this regard when guiding stakeholders during the investigation of business analysis information and solution options.
This, in turn, builds consensus and encourage stakeholder support and collaboration during change.
– Teamwork: Business analysts often work as part of a team with other business analysts, project managers, stakeholders, and subject matter experts (SMEs). Relationships with these people are a critical part of the success of any project or business. Hence, it is important for the business analyst to understand how a team is formed and how it functions.
Also, recognizing team dynamics and how they play a part as the team progresses through various stages of a project is also crucial.
– Negotiation & Conflict Resolution: Business analysts occasionally mediate negotiations between different stakeholders in order to reach a common understanding or an agreement.
During this process, business analysts help resolve conflicts and differences of opinion with the intent of maintaining and strengthening work relationships among stakeholders and team members whilst ensuring the overall objective is met.
– Teaching: Teaching skills help business analysts effectively communicate business analysis information, concepts, ideas, requirements and issues to team members and provide guidance on the scope of the project. They also help ensure that information is understood and retained by stakeholders.
As a result, BAs must be good teachers who are capable of understanding different learning capabilities of individuals and be able to adapt and customize learning material and experience accordingly.
Business analysis requires the use of a variety of software applications to support communication and collaboration, create and maintain requirements artefacts, model concepts, track issues, and increase overall productivity. As a result, Business Analysts are expected to be knowledgeable, skilled and proficient in the use of some tools and techniques when performing some business analysis tasks
Business Analysis Tools and Technology core competencies include the following:
– Office productivity Tools and Technology: Business analysts use office productivity tools and technology to document and track information and artefacts. Hence, a business analyst is expected to have knowledge in applications that help carry out day-to-day business analysis tasks.
This includes Word processing and presentation programs such as MS Office suite, Presentation software, Spreadsheets, Communication tools (email and instant messaging programs), Collaboration and knowledge management tools and Hardware tools such as printers, scanners etc.
– Business Analysis Tools and Technology: Business analysts use a variety of tools and technology to model, document, and manage outputs of business analysis activities and deliverables to stakeholders. Hence, a BA must be efficient in using these specialized tools which are built specifically for different purposes.
Tools that are specific to the field of business analysis provide specialized capabilities in:
– analyzing and mapping requirements,
– identifying relationships between requirements,
– tracking and storing requirements artefacts, and
– communicating with stakeholders
Note that: some of these tools depend on the project in place.
– Communication Tools and Technology: Business analysts use communication tools and technology to perform business analysis activities, manage teams, and collaborate with stakeholders.
Examples of these tools include voice communications, instant messaging, online chat, email, blogging, and microblogging, wikis, electronic calendars, online brainstorming tools, electronic decision making, electronic voting, document sharing and idea sharing tools.
So, if you want to become a successful BA it is necessary that you attempt to be competent in some or all of the above areas.