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David Wright
David Wright

Negotiation skills – are they really for Business Analysts?

 I keep seeing in BA skill descriptions or in specific articles that ‘negotiation skills’ are a necessity for Business Analysts. I just don’t see it myself. Negotiation is a difficult activity for many people, and I see this trend as an attempt to offload negotiation to other people… like Business Analysts.

Why do I feel this way? As an activity,  ‘negotiation’ is when people with differing needs but overlaps in other areas (like sharing resources and money) need to reach an agreement that helps them in some way while giving up something in order get that agreement. In business, and especially IT, the need to reach such agreements occurs all the time. It often looks like this: a business unit has objectives to reach and a certain budget, and they need enhanced/new systems to reach the objectives. IT has the resources and tools to do the work. Both have useful but always limited assets.

In this situation, Business Analysts have no assets to negotiate with, what BAs bring to the table are analysis skills. It is the business and IT that need to negotiate an agreement about money to be spent on IT activities, including what the business gets for their money, and when they get it by. Business Analysts bring enough detail and clarity to these points so that both parties are happy; the business is able to define what they need, and IT is able to say what it will take and how long it will take.

The nature of limited resources and increasing time-to market pressures will almost always result in the business wanting more they can afford and/or want it sooner than it can be delivered. This is usually where ‘negotiation’ is said to occur by Business Analysts, but it only happens if one of the parties offloads their participation to the BA, who is told what to offer but has no real authority to bargain.

The better situation is where both sides remain engaged and the BA uses techniques like prioritization to help reach an agreement on acceptable deliverable for a feasible price and time. All through this, the BA is a ‘facilitator’, not a ‘negotiator’. Smoothing the way to agreement makes life is easier for the real negotiators; if we BAs do our jobs well enough, the involved parties will never even know or feel that they were negotiating!

This entry was published on Sep 12, 2013 / David Wright. Posted in Business Analysis, Analytical and Problem Solving Skills, Roles and Responsibilities. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Raphael posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 9:12 AM

I agree that facilitation is more important than negotiation, however, I think that if the BA is involved into writing a recommendation, negotiation skills are of importance at least to ensure that any decision taken is not emotionally driven.

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