Earlier this week I addressed the question of how to determine if you are qualified for a business analyst job and noted that the most important thing you can do is understand is your transferable business analyst skills. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how exactly to determine what your skills are. In this post, I share how to pull together relevant background material, how to create a project list of relevant BA experiences, and how to identify your business analyst skills.
This process will help you get a clear view of your business analyst skills, develop a catalog of experiences that back up your skills and increase your confidence using BA terminology to talk about your professional experience.
Step 1 – Pull Together Relevant Background Material
Your career history can be a goldmine. But it’s not always easy to recall all of the relevant skills and experiences you have, especially if some of those experiences are 5, 10, or even 20 years back. Pulling together background material will help make sure you don’t overlook any important gems of experience laying around in what might feel like the ancient history of your career.
The first set of items you’ll want to get your hands on is any work samples you have. Obviously, if you have created specific requirements specifications, you’ll want to include those. But requirements can be embedded in all kinds of documents (proposals, project plans, test plans, marketing plans, issue reports and memos are just a few that come to mind) so you are likely to find more relevant experiences if you widen your net.
Consider the following deliverable formats:
- Word documents,
- Slide decks,
- Visual models,
- Wiki pages, and
- Anything uploaded to an internal website in any format.
Beyond this, consider your tangible creations that aren’t documents. It’s very possible they can provide evidence of business analysis work as well. For example:
- Detailed emails with meeting summaries, project overviews, or introductions.
- Information captured in project management, issue management, release management, or defect tracking tools.
- Pictures of white board drawings or scratch paper with hand-drawn models, prototypes, and lists.
If you don’t have much in the way of tangible output, consider performance reviews and emails about your work. You might need to use a few brainstorming techniques to take a walk down memory lane and bring up details on the key projects and responsibilities in your work history.
Step 2 – Create a Project List
If you have a lot of documentation or a long career history, you could find yourself with an overwhelming amount of information to wade through. You’ll want an easy-to-skim list to use as you dig through your experiences for transferable skills. I find it makes the most sense to organize this list by project.
Create a project list with these key components:
- Project Name
- Your Role
- Project Participants
- Supporting Documentation (if any)
You’ll refer back to this list as you start identifying your relevant skills and experiences, which is the next step in the process.
Step 3 – Identify Relevant Skills and Experiences
With your list of projects and background material in hand, it’s time to start digging for relevant skills and experiences. Essentially you’ll need to evaluate each business analyst skill or knowledge area separately: run through your project list for examples of when you’ve used that skill and document your experiences using BA terminology.
Your BA experience doesn’t have to be all from one project in order to count. You can mix and match experiences across different projects throughout your career. You might find that on one project you used many BA elicitation skills, such as interviews and observations, and then in another, the Word documents you created were very close to use cases or process models.
You’ll need a trusted resource on the BA fundamentals to complete this step. My book, How to Start a BA Career, has a skills list to reference. Ellen Gottesdiener’s Software Requirements Memory Jogger would also be good for this purpose. The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) is a third option.
Step 4 – Get a Clear View of Your BA Skills
After finishing the discovery process, you’ll want to roll up your view of your BA skills. Create a checklist of the skills you have as well as any competency gaps you discovered. And after all that digging, having a clear view of your BA skills laid out in front of you will feel very, very good. (Here’s a great example of how Doug Goldberg diagnoses the transferable business analyst skills of a process improvement professional.)
This answer will give you the clarity you’ve been seeking about your business analysis qualifications and help you decide on your next steps with confidence. You’ll also have a large amount of material to add to your resume or CV and review when preparing for job interviews which could accelerate your job search.
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In How to Start a Business Analyst Career, you’ll learn how to assess and expand your business analysis skills and experience.
This book will help you find your best path forward into a business analyst career. More than that, you will know exactly what to do next to expand your business analysis opportunities.
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