Mind Your Business Analyst Competency Gap

Mind Your Business Analyst Competency Gap Cover
Business Change Team

February 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

Build a foundation to mind your business analyst competency gap with this eight-step process and accomplish what you need to do to get where you want to be.

Successful performance of the business analyst role depends largely on the knowledge skills and abilities applicable to the profession, but differing industries, businesses, models, practices and perspectives affect the organisational implementation of the job. Meaning, in essence, that no two business analyst jobs are identical — each instance being structured on a case by case, merit by merit basis.

Do you know what competencies you need to achieve your business analysis ambitions?

Undertaking a business analyst competency assessment is the foundation on which a solid career development plan is built, and having a plan will help you accomplish what you need to do to get where you want to be, through a thoughtful, deliberate approach.

Competence is the platform from which you achieve your goals.

Arrive at your tailored personal competency development plan using this eight-step process:

  1. Find the role requirements
  2. Build the competency profile
  3. Set the performance targets
  4. Perform a personal review
  5. Assess your competency gap
  6. Prioritise the improvement areas
  7. Create an action plan
  8. Track your personal development

Once completed, the outcomes from this process can be input into a personal SWOT analysis, as part of a broader strategic review of yourself.

But first …

Let’s take a look at each step in turn and unpack what you need to do to mind your business analyst competency gap:

#1: Find the role requirements

Gather information about the competencies needed for the business analyst job — your goal role of the future.

And that future might be now, if you’ve recently stepped into a new position, or, perhaps, are in the midst of cementing your experience in your current job.

You can do this by collecting information about the role from various organisational sources:

  • Job description – detailing the role, responsibilities, deliverables, qualifications and experience.
  • Performance contract – specifying relevant primary delivery areas and key performance indicators.

If these are unavailable, or lacking in detail, you can bolster from generally accepted knowledge, skills and behaviours from such as the PMI-PBA® Standard, the IIBA BABOK® and the IIBA® Competency Model.

Industry frameworks outline the work a business analyst performs and details the knowledge required…

to perform the role, the behaviours that are needed and the results that make a business analyst successful.

#2: Build the competency profile

Take these source documents you found and consolidate the information into a single competency profile.

List the required competencies of the role and mark the relevance of each using a simple ‘High’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Low’ factor, or a technique such as MoSCoW.

You should broadly categorise each individual competency item, to construct and organise the job requirements:

  • Behavioural skills – Communication, facilitation, relationship building, influencing, team-working, analytical skills and critical thinking, attention to detail, problem-solving, leadership, ego-strength.
  • Knowledge areas – Financial and commercial awareness, budgeting and costing, organisation structures and design, business case development, domain knowledge, subject matter expertise.
  • Analysis techniques – Strategy analysis, stakeholder analysis and management, investigation techniques, requirements engineering, business process modelling, managing business change.

Don’t overthink it, it’s a work in progress. Do just enough to keep a working model of your goal role, as value lies in simply having a list that defines your business analysis targets more explicitly.

Take a view of the suitability and practicality of what you have written down …

and whether you need to collect some more information to refine the job profile.

#3: Set the performance targets

Establish the target level for each of the behavioural skills, knowledge areas and analysis techniques required.

Spend some quality time mapping out the required proficiency levels to understand the required performance levels expected from a business analyst.

You could use a simple 1-5 or L-M-H system, but, better still try the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition to scale:

  1. Novice – textbook understanding with no practical experience.
  2. Advanced Beginner – some practical experience.
  3. Competent – good working knowledge.
  4. Proficient – in-depth knowledge.
  5. Expert – authoritative and deep tacit understanding.

Account for the specifics of the particular business analyst role, whether a generalist, specialist or hybrid practitioner, and the expected level of performance for the job, whether entry-level, junior, intermediate or senior.

The thinking behind this is that people usually qualify for a role at a particular level …

and that you need a very clear and realistic view of that target to drive your career towards.

#4: Perform a personal review

Work through the listed descriptors and determine your current level in each of the required competencies.

Be honest about your abilities — especially considering illusory superiority (the reason we all think we’re better than average) — otherwise your improvement is baseless.

You must ask yourself a set of probing questions for each of the identified competencies in your framework:

  • Is this competency something I have experience in?
  • How much guidance do I need to perform this competency?
  • Can I independently perform this competency?
  • Do I consistently perform this competency in a variety of situations?
  • Am I looked at to set standards and mentor others in this area?

We’re supposed not to care what others think. But, it can and it does matter, sometimes — this is one of those times. Seek objective perspective from people with whom you interact on a regular basis.

Approach your line manager, project team and business stakeholders to provide you with feedback, …

and use the information that you are given to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.

#5: Assess your competency gap

Spot the difference between the future level and your current level to find your business analyst competency gap.

Perform some straightforward mathematics, by taking the performance target that was set and subtracting the outcome from you performance review.

You could keep the answer black and white, with a simple ‘meet’ or ‘do not meet’, or add a little granularity:

  • Full competency – performing to or above required standard
  • Partial competency – generally perform or require some improvement
  • Limited competency – not performing or below required standard

Review each gap that you have generated, as this part of the skill gap analysis process is particularly important — you need a complete and realistic picture of how many gaps you have and what size they are.

Embrace your competency assessment and realise its value as a roadmap for your growth, …

by signalling the red, amber and green status of the opportunities and threats you face.

#6: Prioritise the improvement areas

Rank the priority of your improvement opportunities based on their contribution towards making an impact.

When improving current skills and developing new ones it’s prudent to focus on a few key areas at a time — those most valuable skills to reducing your competency gap.

You can use the factors you’ve set previously to sort your development into three bands:

  • Actively pursue – high relevance with limited competency
  • Continue growth – medium/high relevance with partial competency or medium relevance with partial/full competency
  • Keep watch – low/medium/high relevance with full competency or low relevance and limited/partial/full competency.

The skills development competency/relevance model is a simple approach that you can use to assess the importance/urgency of closing each gap area, and filter out the most significant aspects of your skills profile to work on.

Reflect on this new perspective over your business analyst competency, …

and the highlighted focus areas you need work on to achieve your business analysis career goals.

#7: Create an action plan

Plan the skills development strategy and tactics that you are going to follow to close your competency gaps.

Find solid business analyst development goals that can sharply raise your competency levels, weighing up the return on investment they will have for your efforts and outlay.

Your development plan should detail the following components:

  • Competency area – which items will you focus on?
  • Action required – how will you close the gap?
  • Investment – what duration, cost and/or effort is required?
  • Impact – what benefit will taking this action give you?
  • Resources / support – what do you need to complete the task?
  • Responsibility / timing – who will do what task, by when?
  • Status – how’s are the action items progressing?

The main point is to have a place where you can document what you are going to do, smartly, serving as the basis for planning your career development activities and with which you can manage your growth.

Motivational success stems from maintaining this proactive approach,

and holding you yourself, alone, accountable for taking decisive action towards your goals.

#8: Track your personal development

Use your well thought out development plan to monitor your progress and keep you firmly on track.

Keep a close eye on how you are moving with your development plan, making sure you act, but also conducting periodic self-assessments to see how you have improved in your competency levels.

It could go a little something like this:

  1. Carry out the steps according to your action plan
  2. Set a review date for you to assess your progress
  3. Adjust and reposition your plan as necessary
  4. Periodically repeat the steps in this cycle

As you become more proficient and hit your target levels, cross-off the gap on your action plan and move on to the next priority area — knowing that you’ve made real progress with your competency development.

When you reach your goals make sure to take time to celebrate the wins, …

to acknowledge, reward and motivate yourself to keep feeling good and to keep it going.

Knowing the competencies required for the business analyst role is essential for anyone starting or continuing a career in business analysis, and knowing how to mind your business analyst competency gap is a game-changing step to seize performance improvement opportunities and see your career soar.