The ability to build and exude self-confidence can contribute to success in many areas of our lives from personal to professional. Unfortunately, many business analysts who are beginners or experienced but new to an organization are not provided with the tools and resources to be confident in their ability to add value to their organization. As a BA, self-confidence facilitates the ability to build relationships, gain respect, and influence others. Below are some of the most effective tactics that I have taken throughout my career to bolster my confidence as a business analyst. Once I became confident in myself, I started noticing that other people’s confidence in my abilities increased as well. Hopefully, these tips will help you recognize your true potential and the value you bring as a business analyst.
Learning about your organization
As a business analyst, we are expected to see things that other stakeholders are not able to see. The ability to do this requires having a birds-eye view of the organization and the systems within. While business analysts are not expected to be subject matter experts, acquiring an adequate amount of domain and industry knowledge will be of great service to any BA. Understanding your organization has two components, which are understanding the industry structure and the actual organizational structure. Industry structure refers to the larger external forces that influence the demands that the organization must meet. This includes trends, competitors and guidelines. Organizational structure is the processes, roles, and responsibilities that determine how the organization operates and meets its goals.
Gaining a better understanding of the industry and organizational structure can be initiated by learning key terms. It's always a good idea to seek out a company glossary to learn the company terms, vernacular and acronyms. If one does not exist, whenever you hear a term or acronym you are not familiar with, ask a reliable source about its meaning and keep a running list and create you create your own glossary for the organization. Observation (job shadowing) is another highly effective way to get familiar with the organizational structure. Not only is this helpful for understanding systems, processes and functions, but it is also a great way to build relationships.
Observation can also be supplemented by doing a document analysis related to the roles or functions that are observed. This will allow you to compare what you learned during observation with the documented processes and procedures. Reviewing the organization’s business model canvas is also highly effective at providing organizational context. A business model canvas is a template that describes how the organization, creates and delivers value for its customers. This will help understand what’s important to the organization, which can come in handy when setting project goals and objectives. If the company does not have an existing business model canvas, try creating one after you have exercised some of the other tactics and review it with your leader to confirm that your understanding is correct.
Understand your organization’s expectations of you
Having a concrete understanding of the business analyst role in your current organization is critical, not only to your confidence as a BA but also to your success in the roles. The role of a business analyst varies greatly by the organization; therefore, one must become familiar with that is expected from them. This includes acquiring a detailed understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the business analyst. A key part of business analyst responsibilities are the deliverables provided for projects and change initiatives. To learn what is required, review the organization's project management processes (PMO) and procedures and well as the enterprise software development life cycle (SDLC) documentation.
Reviewing any Org charts that are available may be a good way to understand your leadership structure as well as the formal relationships of individuals in the company. This is a good way to individuals what may be good sources of information when you have questions or concerns related to their department or application. If you have access to previous project documentation, review the stakeholder lists or maps that were developed. This is another way to identify individuals to build relationships with and who may be valuable sources of information in the future. It may be beneficial to probe these individuals about their experience with previous business analysis activities in order to assess what they have been accustomed to and expect from the BA role. Another way to learn about the expectations of the business analyst is to review the lessons learn results from previous projects to learn what stakeholders identified as successful business analyst behaviors or practices as well as those to avoid.
Build relationships in your organization
Building solid relationships can be critical to your effectiveness as a business analyst. Most stakeholders are more willing to work with and provide information to individuals they have a relationship and are comfortable with. In addition, business analysts how are less experienced or new to an organization can grow more confidence when they have a strong support system.
As mentioned earlier job shadowing is not only a way to learn about processes and functions but it is also a powerful relationship building techniques. The ability to see individuals working in their normal environment builds empathy for pain points and roadblocks that may not be uncovered simply through discussion. This can give insight to the what motivation behind stakeholder wants and needs and lead to asking more relevant questions during structured meetings. In addition, it’s very likely that during a job shadowing session that the individual will real some details about their personal life that may help you form a good relationship with them.
Interviewing is not only a way to elicit requirements, but it is also another way to build rapport. The use of open-ended questions generally can aid skilled interviewers better understand the interviewees. While gathering information about requirements business analyst can get to know the stakeholders on an individual level. In general, collaborative elicitation techniques such as interviewing and job shadowing can facilitate good relationship and alliances that can support the business analyst in areas of weakness. In addition, these techniques allow for opportunities to highlight your strengths to stakeholders who need support. This creates confidence that can add value as well also that you have some support when you need it.
Get a mentor
Establishing a relationship with a good mentor is one of the most effective ways to increase your confidence and increase your success as a business analyst. In many cases, business analysts are hesitant to ask too many questions because they are fearful that they will be perceived as inexperienced or incompetent by peers and others. This is very common, especially for novice business analysts or those who are starting work in a new domain. An established mentor from outside of the organization can be the solution. A business analysis mentor program is an ideal learning platform to share your thoughts and ideas without fear or judgment.
Unfortunately, many organizations do not have structure training environments for business analysts, which leaves many BAs feeling like they are thrown to the wolves when they start at a new organization. A mentoring can make recommendations to help you overcome the hurdles that are leading to low-confidence in your abilities. Mentors have likely experienced the same issues that you are struggling with and are more than willing to give you the guidance you are seeking. In addition, a good mentor can draw out transferable skills that you already have that can be utilized in your current situation, leading to a major confidence boost. If nothing at all, a mentor will always be willing to listen to you when you need a good sanity check. The support of a good mentor can make an impression that not only increase confidence and self-awareness but also may also put you on the path to a successful career.
Independent and continuous learning
Independent and continuous learning is essential to gaining confidence in your ability. There are numerous resources to learn more about business analysis, including books, courses, training programs, and seminars. These resources are highly effective at gaining new knowledge in a relatively short period of time versus the time it would take to gain that knowledge through experience. If you are not confident in your abilities in your skills as a business analyst, it may be a good idea to take up a business analysis fundamentals course or maybe a course that provides instruction on business analysis techniques that are frequently used at your organization.
Continuously learning new business analysis techniques and researching BA deliverable templates can increase your confidence, not only in your ability to effectively execute a technique but also in the fact that you are using the most effective business analysis technique as you will have more tool options to choose from during analysis. Following business analysis pages on social media, newsletters or blogs is another approach to enable continuous learning. This allows passive learning at your leisure to increase your exposure to concepts you may not be familiar with as well as new trends in business analysis. You’d be surprised how such information can increase your confidence in your abilities when built up over time. These tips above can also be applied when aiming to learn more about a specific industry or domain.
Gaining confidence in your abilities as a business analyst can be challenging in environments that are not the most supportive or nurturing. The good news, there are steps that you can take on your own to give yourself a confidence boost! The key to gaining confidence it knowing that your abilities come from within but you must take the initiative to bring them forth. Increasing your confidence can be achieved by learning about your organizations so that you understand the industry and organizational structure. In addition, you’ll need to understand the organization’s expectations of you as a business analyst, so that you know what your objectives are. Building relationships in your organization is also key to building a support system within your organization. Getting a mentor is needed to establish a safe and effective support system outside of the organization. And finally, independent and continuous learning will naturally increase your self-confidence and capabilities.
Author: Michael F. White, Business Analyst and Founder of The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC
Michael has an extensive background in business analysis, project management and coaching. He has driven innovation at some of the top financial institutions in the nation, holds a Doctorate in Business Administration and is also a CBAP. To learn more about The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC visit thebadoc.com