How to Become a Better Business Analyst

Do any of these situations apply to you?

I have a meeting scheduled for next week that I know will be tough. There is a talkative stakeholder that I need keep on track.

I’m facing a new problem with this project and our traditional requirements process isn’t quite working. I know I’m missing something, but I’m not sure what.

During the last three projects, we always ended up finding new elements of the business process during the user acceptance test cycle. I’m tired of facing this situation…there has to be a better way.

I’ve just been assigned a project that is a bit bigger than my last one. There are a few more stakeholders and we’re integrating with a legacy system. I want to be sure to do my best and not miss something.

Or…..[list your challenge here]

All of the above represent a challenge or a problem. We’re idling along, doing our best work, when BAM! a problem hits us in the face. Now, as business analysts, we love problems. But we especially love other people’s problems.  

Our own problems aren’t quite so fun, that’s why I choose to refer to these situations as “overcoming challenges,” or better yet, “professional development opportunities.”

Better BAs Turn Challenges Into Professional Development Opportunities

Turtles stacked together

Becoming a better business analyst involves stacking one growth opportunity on top of another…and then another. Small changes add up over time.

I’d invite you to consider any challenge you might be facing as a golden opportunity. Why not experiment with a new model, craft a new type of meeting agenda, ask a different set of questions, or just try something new?

Every challenge is an opportunity because you have the opportunity to grow and learn.

Becoming a better BA is not just about doing the big things well or getting the big promotions or salary increases. Becoming a better BA is all about becoming better at business analysis with each and every assignment. It’s about facing the small challenges head on and growing through them.

You don’t have to go to a fancy training class to become a better BA (though it can  definitely help). You don’t need a license from your manager to become a better BA (though this can help too). But most importantly, you don’t need a bunch of extra time to become a better BA (unless you like to deprive yourself from sleep or time with friends and family).

Nope. Every challenge you face is an opportunity to become a better BA. Professional development is about developing the right mindset in how you approach your work, not something that happens outside your work.

Better BAs Fix Problems – One at a Time

  1. Identify any challenge you are facing in your work right now. State it clearly. Write it down.
  2. Brainstorm ways you might address the challenge in a new way.
  3. If needed, invest 15-30 minutes learning something new about one or more of the solutions.
  4. Select what seems to be the best solution and commit to trying it.
  5. Assess your results. What worked and what didn’t.
  6. Repeat. Every day, every week, every month.

If you can’t do this in an hour, select a smaller challenge. Instead of trying to plan a perfect meeting, just ask yourself how you’d help diminish the impact of one troublesome stakeholder. Instead of defining the perfect process for a complex project, this week just identify the first step you should take. Keep the challenges small so the solutions will be achievable.

Invest a bit of time each week and you’ll transform your mindset about the work you are doing anyway. These small achievements will add up. You’ll be achieving improved results and increasing the value you provide to your organization.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Laura!, for this wonderful posts.

    Doug – what you shared is 100% true and agreed. It made me to recollect this famous lines by, Robert Schuller, Tough times never last. Tough people do!”

  2. Thanks, Karie! And you are also doing one of the best possible activities (imho) for your professional development…writing. You learn so much when you are willing to share your ideas with others, at least that’s how I feel and that’s part of what keeps me motivated to write each week!

  3. I love this post, Laura! It’s so true that we have the opportunity to learn incrementally all the time. Becoming a better BA doesn’t necessarily mean large, expensive training experiences. I’ve become a “junkie” of learning opportunities, and thankfully there are so many great resources online including blogs like this one. Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us, to help us incrementally be better BAs!

    And Doug, I totally agree that attitude is so key in helping us to see those challenges as learning opportunities! I think we all need to reminded of that every now and again. 🙂

  4. Hi Doug,

    I recently read somewhere that when you are full of negative energy your creative juices (and ability to think) can basically shut down. That’s an important piece of this nugget as well, because if you respond negatively to the challenge then you aren’t going to be in a strong position to identify and implement new solutions. It starts with looking as challenges as opportunities, or as you say “painful lessons” as those with the potential for the “greatest benefit.” I like this idea because it is super-motivating. The bigger the problem you have, the more you stand to gain in the end.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you are doing some great things with your current “challenges”.

    Laura

  5. DougGtheBA says

    Hi Laura:
    Thanks for your post. Again, straight to the core of the problem and with great advice to dig out. I wanted to offer one thing that I also use.

    I noticed that when I was whining and complaining about my job and had fallen in to that “I hate this job” mode, I wasn’t paying attention to what was clearly laid out before my eyes. I’m a big believer in the fact that the most painful lessons are those that provide the greatest benefit when resolved. I realized that I needed to change my attitude before anything else; I had to move from reacting with negativity to the realization that the difficulties in my way were fantastic opportunities to learn and overcome challenges. This simple change in perspective has allowed me to drive through these obstacles, even if I don’t want to, with confidence that I will become a better analyst for the experience.

    Thank you again for provoking thought
    Doug

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