A Hard Look at the Softer Side of Business Analysis

Business Change Team

December 31, 2007 in Uncategorized

With each sunrise and sunset, it becomes more evident that there is no sunrise or sunset. We live in a 24/7/365 ‘global village’: a civilization intertwined through a maze of connectivity that merges a procession of organizations, blurs the borders of countries, straddles a string of time-zones, patches a quilt of cultures and mingles a medley of individuals.

Dizzy? Well there’s more. Through this tangled web we’ve woven, knowledge has been liberated and consumers have become subject matter experts. Thus, people are demanding constant change and, conversely, are expected to embrace others’ change at an equal pace. Within this ecosystem of endless possibilities, the individuals best equipped to respond to this challenge are those with the talent to operate with ‘context-independence’: the agility to perform regardless of the situation.

Below are just some of the abilities that this star possesses:

  • Interpersonal and group skills: Relationship building, active listening, empathy, appreciation for different perspectives, facilitating, conflict resolution and coaching
  • Interpretation and perception: Information processing, instinct and action to reduce the impact of uncertainty
  • Thinking and problem solving: Critical, conceptual and creative thinking, identifying alternatives, mitigating risks, sound judgment, and decision-making
  • Communication and negotiation: Verbal, non-verbal, written and diagrammatic skills and the ability to effectively engage and convey ideas to achieve partnerships through cooperation
  • Domain and technical expertise: Knowledge of industry trends, standards and practices, business rules and processes, and IT methodologies, tools and techniques.

Do you recognize these traits? Nudge…you should! What’s striking about the BA skill set? Twenty percent of our success is due to technical know-how, eighty percent is due to the softer-side-of-life (thanks, Sig. Pareto). What else? Look again…It’s all about people: people (us) work with people (executives and project teams) to improve situations for people (users) to better service people (customers).

So, given the above, why are we stereotyped as “paper pushers” or “document writers”? We must take responsibility. We help form perceptions and create situations—and what do we do when the going gets tough? We tend to seek solace in ‘technical’ solutions (20%) allowing ourselves to sidestep the challenge of personal accountability (80%).

What can you do to help better the understanding of business analysis and the BA? I thought you’d never ask. Below are some basic starters for our topsy-turvy world:

  1. Balance life and manage stress: Balance work and idleness to increase energy. Demands never cease so organize, prioritize and learn to say ‘no’! Flee, fight or flow.
  1. Really get to know people: Rapport breeds trust, trust builds solidarity when times are hard. Take a genuine interest, respect time, energy and space.
  1. Listen and feedback: Listen with purpose. Understand them; don’t expect them to understand you. Wait your turn to speak, clarify and respond.
  1. Be creative: Find connections. Change your perspective. Change habits, break patterns. Oil paint. Build a sandcastle. Nurture your imagination.
  1. Get feedback: Welcome it. Seek it. Evaluate it. Take it for what it is. Don’t take it personally. Act on it. Stay exhilarated.

Today’s world is compelling us to collaborate across traditional boundaries and inspiring opportunities like never before. So, soften-up and step-up Business Analyst, as Business analysis soft skills play a powerful role in shaping transformation, integrating disparity and influencing people to adopt change.

A hard look at the soft side of business analysis, as published in the IIBA Newsletter December 2007.

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