The Softer Side of Business Analysis

Featured
Nov 13, 2022
3796 Views
0 Comments
10 Likes

Business Analysts solve problems, but ultimately these solutions are meant to serve people, and it takes people to create the definition for these solutions. With that said, no matter how great an analyst is at discovery, analysis and solutioning, key soft skills are essential to being a best-in-class business analyst.

Soft skills are the people-side of business and really any type of engagement. There is a large variety of skills included in the soft skills category depending on which resource you read. But there are two that always seem to land in the top five:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork.

Another soft skill that is actually woven into the very fiber of many of these others is Awareness. This is both self-awareness and awareness of others.

Awareness

Self-awareness is a useful skillset for developing soft skills. Some aspects of soft skills are innate to a person, but many aspects can be taught and refined through self-awareness and practice.

Awareness of others is also extremely valuable in the execution of soft skills. How people best communication and their preferred approach to communication is greatly seated in their temperament, or how that person is innately wired to think and absorb the word around them. As an aware person, you can begin to pick up on how a conversation is going. Is the person engaged and attentive, or have you lost them along the way.

There are a lot of other soft skill elements that are positively impacted when a person is aware of their surroundings and of others. How comfortable people are with change is also greatly driven by their temperaments, and since nearly everything a BA does has a purpose to bring about change, tapping your awareness into the change tolerance of those affected by the change can help you execute the process and communication plan more effectively. This becomes an effective blend of technical and soft skills in action.

Being aware, both self-awareness and awareness of others is really important as a business analyst. This will serve you well, as a great deal of time is spent with stakeholders and team members extracting or conveying information through conversation, in addition to written documentation and deliverables, not to mention the change that your efforts bring forth.

Communication

As a BA this is one of two crucial soft skills to develop to have a successful and long-lasting career. If you’ve worked in the industry for any length, you can see that the whole BA role is built upon being able to communicate the needs and desires of one group to another group in ways they can easily understand. But communication is not only about making sure the message has clarity, but also understanding the ways in which others receive and extend communication that will make those conversations effective and comfortable in the first place.

Soft skills are often thought of in more theoretical terms when teaching them. That is challenging, as many other skill set types have templates, processes and concrete examples to leverage in order to bring the topic from the theoretical into the practical and applicable. I want to do the same thing with these two soft skills – give you more concrete examples and equip you with framework from which you can assess and apply soft skills in practical ways.

For example, you could approach the same requirements gathering session, with the same participants, and through one communications method, it could feel like an interrogation, yet through another communications method it could feel more like a conversation. Rhetorical question here, but which do you think is more productive and comfortable?

You get more out of people when they like you. They don’t have to like you as a person, they don’t even have to really know you as a person, but they do have to like the way you make them feel in conversation to get the best and most productive outcome.

Here’s the tricky part - not all people want to be communicated with in the same way. As a certified temperament consultant, I have successfully woven this understanding into my BA engagements. I discuss it at length in my first book, Color By Design, but essentially, using the analogy of four colors; Blue, Green, Orange and Gold in an applicable and meaningful way allows us to tap into who people are and how they perceive communication styles after just a few moments of interaction. As people, we are all a spectrum of all four colors, but it is the color we lead with that really sets the tone for how we prefer to communicate.

Keeping in mind that people’s spectrums very by the person, the “brighter” someone is (or more heavily sided) in a particular color, the easier it is to quickly pick un on how that person prefers to communicate.

Evenly Mixed Spectrum

Heavy sided spectrum

Let’s look at some examples of this that we may run into with Stakeholders.

If you walk into a requirements session with an executive and that person leads with Blue, expect the conversation to be a little more narrative and story-like in its approach. But if you walk into that same session with a Green or Gold using the same approach, the executive will quickly put up some walls and internally start watching the clock for the session to be over. You don’t want that.

Your job as a BA is to lead the business team through the process of identifying their true need, and walking them toward a solution, whether that’s getting requirements recorded, derived and ready for hand-off, process development or improvement, or even a varying degree of other activities. Both Golds and Greens are process-driven people, and Greens particularly look for efficiency in the process.

When you can quickly pick up on the color of the person you are working with, you optimize your ability to generate respect from the onset and further your effectiveness in the communication from that point onward.

Of course, communication extends beyond the language we exchange face to face, but also translates into body language, written communication, and even to a degree, the silence we may exhibit or receive. Knowing how to respond and adjust accordingly can go a long way and leveraging a temperament approach can aid in this dramatically.

Teamwork

Teamwork is essentially defined as the team’s ability to work together in an effective and productive way. The success of teamwork is really a scale from horrible to amazing and everything in between. Gaps in teamwork can make operations challenging and can put projects at risk.

When it comes to teams, the colors approach is also very useful. You see, the best teams all have two vital things in common: Trust and Respect.

The two go hand in hand:

Trust is something that’s developed by knowing and understanding someone and their intent.
Respect is something that’s earned by abilities, competencies and character.

The fastest breakdown of teams happens as a result of two things:

  • Lack in Trust
  • Loss of Respect

These breakdowns are often avoidable however. Understanding why these two things happen is key to creating teams that are resistant to these breakdowns. One key element of this is transparency, and another is understanding. But what does that look like?

Well, misunderstandings and lack of context are some of the fastest avoidable ways to break down the fabric of an otherwise effective team.

So what this means is that when we can understand each other’s colors, we are going to more clearly understand what each team member needs and values as well as their strengths and stressors. This way, when we are engaged in an effort together, the risk of misunderstanding is diminished and there’s a heightened level of respect for each other through understanding the natural competencies and weaknesses of each color. This allows our expectations to be set on who that other person is, rather than basing our expectations on our own temperament and innate needs, strengths and way of thinking.

When everyone knows each other's colors, respect comes more naturally based on accurate scales. That instantly builds a new layer of Trust.

When you work with others, they are more likely to trust you if they feel you understand them, and if you actually do understand them, you are able to appreciate what they bring to the table, even if they are very different from you.

That’s where Respect starts to truly grow.

The best teams are where trust and respect blossom. Each person is able to effectively focus on their area of strength while blending into the spaces of each other with mutual understanding.

In addition to stakeholder interviews and engagement, as business analysts we are also working very closely with other members of the technical team or team to build and deliver the solutions that solve the business’ needs. This involves verifying and asking questions within the technical team as well. This is part of team dynamics, and a very important as part of the BA role.

While you will spend countless hours working through what the stakeholders’ and business teams’ needs, not every solution is the best technical direction, and not all requests are even technically feasible. It will take leveraging those relationships within the team, those you form through trust and respect, to have those conversations about technical approaches, limitations, constraints, best practices, and options for meeting the needs of the customer based on the requirements or processes you have derived.

Additional content surrounding these areas of professional awareness and development, along with scenarios to even better understand them in action, can be found in chapter 8 of my book The Ways of a Business Analyst.

The Power of Soft Skill in Hard Practice

As we’ve looked that the importance of Awareness, Communication and Teamwork, we should recognize that we all start in different places on these. For some people Teamwork may come more naturally, for others Awareness may be something they are more naturally attuned to. Whatever the case, these can be grown and expanded. As you begin to make these areas of focus a priority in your analysis work, the pay-off will far exceed your expectations, and will position you for even greater success in all of your engagements.

As with anything else worth learning, practicing what you learn is an essential part of making the skills productive in your toolset. Challenge yourself today to take steps in your soft skills as you continue to refine your analysis craft.


Author: Jessie Lee Perez

Jessie Perez CBAP, is the founder and president of We Speak Color Inc. (WSC), an IIBA Certified Business Analyst Professional, Academy Trainer and Coach for the Business Analyst profession, Lean Six Sigma Certified GB, established a BA Community of Practice within HCA and is the Author of the books "Color By Design: Why you think what you think...", and “The Ways of a Business Analyst”. Jessie is also a Certified Temperament Consultant and holds a BS in Global Business from Regent University.

Like this article:
  10 members liked this article
Featured
Nov 13, 2022
3796 Views
0 Comments
10 Likes

COMMENTS

Only registered users may post comments.

 



 




Copyright 2006-2022 by Modern Analyst Media LLC