The set of business analysis competencies can be divided into three broad groups:
1) Behavioural skills and personal qualities concern the way you think and how you interact with the people around you. They are not specific to business analysis, but are general skills that are important for developing and progressing in any business environment. Behavioural skills are arguably more important than technical or business skills, since they are a prerequisite for working with other people. It is often said that it is easier to give a person with good behavioural skills the techniques they need for their job than to graft behavioural skills on to a good technician. One of the main reasons for this is that good behavioural skills take many years to develop.
2) Business analysts also require business knowledge, which helps them to develop a good understanding of the organisation and the business domain or sector within which it operates. This knowledge is vital if a business analyst is to offer advice and insights that will help improve the organisation's performance. Business knowledge can be developed through reading relevant literature or studying for business qualifications and can be given context by working in a variety of business and project environments.
3) The techniques of business analysis are those specific to the role that differentiate it from other business or IT roles. They are the technical skills required particularly of the business analyst role.
Here are the techniques that the business analyst will need to apply during assignments.
The Association for Project Management's Body of Knowledge (APM, 2006) has seven sections that describe the work of a project manager. The Project Management Institute's equivalent publication (PMI 2008) lists the project management context and processes, scope management, integration management, time management, cost management, quality management, human resource management, communications management, risk management and procurement management. It is unlikely that a business analyst will be called upon to display skills in all of these areas, but where the project team is small the analyst may be required to undertake the project manager role. Larger projects often employ a specialist project manager. However, there are some project skills that an analyst should have. For example, understanding project initiation is vital since it allows the analyst to understand, or even define, the terms of reference for the project. It is also important that analysts understand project management planning approaches—as they will have to work within a plan—and are aware of particularly relevant aspects such as dependencies between tasks, quality assurance and risk management.
This covers a range of techniques that can be used to understand the business direction and the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation, or part of an organisation.
Stakeholder Analysis and Management
This includes understanding who are the stakeholders in a business analysis project and working out how their interests are best managed.
Clearly, to get to the root of a business issue the analyst will have to undertake detailed analysis of the area.
This is the set of practices and processes that lead to the development of a set of well-formed business requirements, from which the business and IT solutions can be developed.
Business System Modelling
Business system modelling is an approach to visualising business systems through the creation of conceptual models.
Business Process Modelling
Whereas a business system model looks at the entire business system in overview, more detailed process models are used to map and analyse how the business processes actually work and to help identify opportunities for process improvement.
Analysing the data held and used within a business system affords valuable insights into how the system operates. For example, what are the data items that are held about our customers? What are the relationships between customers, products and suppliers?
Managing Business Change
This covers the techniques needed to implement changes within an organisation and to make them ‘stick’.
The interpersonal skills required for effective facilitation—usually exhibited within the context of a workshop—are those described under the heading ‘Behavioural skills and personal qualities’ on page 19. However, there are other qualities that provide the basis for skilled facilitation. It is necessary to apply the process for effective facilitation, in particular in the preparation for a workshop. The analyst also needs the knowledge of a range of techniques and the ability to apply them.
These techniques include such approaches as brainstorming, mindmapping, the use of Post-it notes, Edward de Bono's ‘six thinking hats’ (de Bono 1990) and so on. In addition, the ‘Further reading’ section at the end of this chapter identifies some useful publications. Effective facilitation usually results from a combination of the right qualities in the facilitator and the choice of the right techniques to match the task and the cultural context of the organisation in which it is being used.