How to Help New Business Analysts Capitalize on Their Transferable Skills

In your role as a leader in your organization, it’s likely that you are approached by many people interested in starting business analysts careers, and are looking for your support and guidance.

Helping new business analysts get started provides a path for you to move into more of a leadership role, expand the credibility of business analysis and your team, and is also a lot of fun. We build our profession one business analyst at a time, and when you help a business analyst get their start, you are making a big contribution. Thank you.

Today’s video is all about what to do when someone approaches you for help, and how to help them capitalize on the transferable skills they already have.

(And if you are looking to start your career – you’ll still want to tune in – as this can help you understand what support and guidance you need to be successful.)

Also, be sure to download the Business Analyst Skills Assessment, as a tool to help you identify transferable business analyst skills.


For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:

This is Laura Brandenburg with Bridging the Gap. Today, I want to talk about, for the senior business analysts and the managers and the directors out there, how do you help a new business analyst capitalize on their transferable skills?

In your role as a leader in your organization, it’s likely that you’re approached by many people who are interested in starting business analyst careers, but they don’t quite know where to get started. You might not know how to help them get started, and they’re looking for your support and guidance.

Helping new business analysts get started, it’s a huge path for you, too. It’s a path into leadership, it’s a path into expanding the credibility of the business analysis role within your company. It’s just a lot of fun. I want to start by honoring the work that you’re doing here because I do believe we build our profession one business analyst at a time, so, the work that you’re doing to help that new business analyst get started is also helping build our profession. So, thank you so much.

If you are a new business analyst getting started, you still want to stay tuned into this video because it’s going to help you know what to look for in a mentor and somebody who’s guiding you, or even pass this onto them if they want to help you, but they’re not sure how, this would be a great resource to pass on to them so they can use it and help you in a more structured way as well.

Training Can Help Discover Transferable Skills

When we’re thinking about how to help somebody get started, the first thing we want to do is understand the depth of the skills and experience they already have. I’ve worked with hundreds or thousands or business analysts, or aspiring business analysts, and again and again, the pattern I see is that they don’t appreciate the experience they already have and how it relates to the business analysis profession.

They get hung up on specific terms. I didn’t do things that were called that, or specific templates. That’s the outer layer of what we do, and it’s important to use the templates and the terms that are appreciated in your organization. But the core skills behind that, a lot of times they have core analysis skills and strong communication skills, and are able to do a lot of the work of a business analyst.

They just need to provide these tweaks to make it look like the right kind of documentation, or be able to talk about how it’s the right kind of documentation. You want to start by helping them assess their transferable skills.

A lot of people that go through our programs actually do this by virtue of going through some business analysis training. They start the training thinking I don’t have the business analyst skills, and so I’m going to get some training to expand my skills, improve my skills, and expand my experience. Through the course of going through the courses, they realize, “Well, wait a minute; I kind of have done this before and I have done this before.”

The course helps them put that tweak on it to give it that extra edge of formality, but it also builds upon a skill that they already had, and an experience they already had. That’s one way to go through a transferable skills assessment. Just take a business analysis course that touches on a lot of the techniques and the process, and use that as a tool to figure out what you know and what you don’t know.

Coach Them Through a Transferable Skills Assessment

You can also coach somebody through this, and that’s something I’ve done several times throughout my career as well.

What you want to do is start with a list of the key skills, and a list of the key process areas. You can create this using your job role, your job description within your company, or by looking at job descriptions across companies.

With this video, wherever you’re seeing it, there should be a link to download a skills assessment that we offer through Bridging the Gap. It will map to our Business Analyst Blueprint® and the 8-step business analysis process that we teach. It’s because we’ve seen these skills come up again and again, it would be critical for new business analysts to have and be successful in.

You don’t have to create your own checklist; you can download ours and use that as a tool as well.

What do you want to do with that assessment, though? The assessment gives you the structure, but you as the business analyst, need to help them understand what all of these terms mean. To what depth has something that they’ve created represent experience and valid experience in that skill?

One example might be a process model. “Well, I’ve never really done that.” Then you say, “Well, let’s talk about what it is. It’s a visual model that has activities and boxes and decision points about if there are different paths through that process, and a starting point and ending point. Have you ever created anything like that?”

Maybe on a whiteboard. Maybe it was in Visio, maybe not. You can have that discussion and get them thinking about, “Well, maybe I have done this at a certain point.” And start to document, then, the level of skill that they have, and the scope of the skill, and their comfort level with that skill.

You essentially want to walk through each of those skills and what does it mean? Have they done it before? Help them see their experience in the context of business analysis. It’s going to give a powerful view into what they have done and what they haven’t done.

Talk About Their Biggest, Most Relevant Project

Another question that I like to ask as I’m starting an assessment like this with somebody is, just tell me about the biggest project you’ve ever been on, or tell me about the project you think is most like a business analysis project, or where you had a role that was closest to business analysis.

We start with the project instead of starting with the skills. As they’re talking about it, I ask, “What was your role? Who did you communicate with? Who did you talk to? What kind of meetings were you in? What kind of meetings did you facilitate? What kind of documentation did you create?”

You need questions to start to pull out from that project, what other business analysis experience is. You’ll start to see it. You’ll be like, “Oh, you were in a meeting with three different stakeholders.” For me, my transferable experience came from the testing process. So, I created a new test process for my organization that didn’t exist before. I was in meetings with business stakeholders to review what was a test plan, but it was really a business process. Nobody told me that, but it was.

I had the experience of running a meeting with six or seven people in it that all had competing interests and wanted me to do things, and I wanted them to do things. We were aligning on what that process should be going forward. That was very transferable when I went to start holding my requirements meetings and figuring out what do people want out of this new product, and what should the requirements be, and what shouldn’t they be.

Different, but similar. I was able to translate some of that experience to be able to run those meetings more effectively right away as a business analyst. That’s the kind of thing you’re looking for to help them understand and appreciate in themselves.

Watch Out for Informal Experience, or Experience Under Different Terms

One thing to be aware of is that a lot of times it’s not going to be a direct match in terminology. It’s not that you can just ask somebody, “Hey, have you done wireframes before?” And they’ll be like, “Yeah, I totally did wireframes before.” This is why they’re transitioning into the role. They might not even know what that term means.

In fact, one of our first participants in the Use Cases and Wireframes course, in the first week of the course was like, “Oh my gosh. I was just in a job interview and they asked me if I had ever done wireframes. And I didn’t know what that meant. And, so I said no.”

The reality is he had done what he called prototypes. Same thing. Same core skills. Maybe there were some nuances because sometimes people use those terms differently. There’s a wide variety of visual models that people create to model the user interface. There’s a wide variety of how that works. But the core skill of being able to create something like that would have been valuable information for that person to share with this employer. And it could have led to getting the job vs. not getting the job. That’s the kind of thing you’re looking for to help them translate the terminology and what they’ve done that might actually be relevant.

So really watch out for the differences of terms and focus more on what that output is, and what process they were going through to generate that output rather than what terms they used to describe it.

Another term that gets used is documentation. I just created documentation. It wasn’t business analysis documentation. What documentation? What was in it? Was it the scope of the project? Was it the details of how the process worked? Was it a list of functional requirements? Could we have put that into a use case? Could you make that translation? Was there a visual model in there? What did that look like? How do we relate that to something that a business analyst might do? Watch out for documentation, too. It’s another commonly used term that often means something more than what the person thinks it means.

Transferable Skills is the First Step

I hope this helps you help your aspiring business analysts get more confident in their skills and take even further steps in their career.

The next thing you’re going to want to do as a result of this is to give them assignments or a task that help them formalize some of their experience, or take the next step and fill in gaps, legitimate gaps in their experience. That’s what I’m going to talk about in the next video.

In the meantime, be sure to download the assessment. I’d love to hear what you think about it. Let me know what you have done to help a new or aspiring business analyst discover and appreciate their transferable skills. I think it would be useful for us all as a community to share that with each other and read what each other has to say. That could give us other ideas as well.

Click here to download the Business Analyst Skills Assessment

Thank you so much again for what you’re doing to help new business analysts get started.

I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. We help business analysts start their careers.

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