Requirements management is a critical part of executing a project. PMI’s research has shown that poor requirements management is a major cause of project failure. Apart from defining a good requirements management process, project managers must also recruit a team of skilled business analysts. The elicitation and the management of the requirements can define the entire course of the project and the capability of the business analyst team is crucial to success. As project managers we have to be able to spot good business analysts and know the vital qualities that distinguish them.
Here are the five essential skills that a good business analyst should have.
1. Analytical skills
A Business Analyst must be able to dissect a requirement, analyze its impact on the system and understand how it fits into the overall business objectives. Analytical skills are the livelihood of the business analyst. Even the greenest BA must have some level of analytical ability to take up the role. An experienced BA should know how much to analyze and be able to establish what is needed to implement the requirement. The BA team cannot be in a state of analysis-paralysis, not knowing when to end the analysis process. They must have the ability to keep the objective in mind and set an exit point for the analysis as well as guide the business users to do the same.
Business Analysts must have excellent communication skills. They spend a great part of their time communicating with clients, team members and other stakeholders, from eliciting requirements to discussing solutions to building a consensus. The BA has to be able to communicate clearly and confidently with business teams and technical teams alike. They have the responsibility of eliciting the requirements from the client which can set the entire course of the project. Any gaps in communication can lead to serious problems and have an impact on the product to be delivered. Project Managers therefore have a responsibility to ensure that the BA team has the necessary level of communication skills for the role.
3. Ability to build relationships
As the liaison between the team and the business users the BA should be able to build relationships and share a good rapport with all parties. They have to elicit the requirements from the business users and then convey them to the technical team. For a BA to conduct both of these activities successfully they must engage and build good relationships with everyone they interact. At times the BA may even have to mediate disagreements between business users and technical teams or development and quality assurance teams and get buy-in from all groups. The BA who can develop strong relationships and work collaboratively with everybody will be a great asset to the project.
4. Technical know-how
Business Analysts should have good technical acumen and knowledge of the technology being used to build the product. Sound technical ability will help the BA to translate the requirements from the business side to the technical team easily. Having knowledge of the underlying technology will increase the BA’s ability advice the client about technical limitations and propose alternative solutions during the requirements elicitation process. Moreover it will enable the BA to work more closely with the development team.
5. Domain knowledge
Another important skill for a Business Analyst is strong domain knowledge of the relevant system and industry. Lack of domain knowledge can cause problems with the requirements which in turn will have an adverse effect on the overall project. A BA who lacks domain knowledge will usually take everything the client says as-is and will not be able to advise or provide input. With sound knowledge of the domain a BA can work confidently with the business team, understand the business objectives, ask the right questions and improve the overall quality of the requirements.
What are the other skills that you think are important for a BA to be successful? Please share your thoughts in the comments.