What Retail Industry Domain Knowledge is Required for Business Analysts?

Reader question:

“What domain knowledge is required to be a successful BA in the retail industry and how would you suggest I go about accumulating this knowledge and experience?”

Pat’s answer:

It is more important to have the skill in asking thought-provoking questions to obtain the who, what, where, why, how information (and how all the information relates to each other) than to understand retail. Having worked with many retail and wholesale clients, I can attest that you will never know as much as someone who performs the retail business activities. Spend your time learning how to ask thought-provoking questions…assembling the information so anyone can understand and validate what you captured.

The current discussions I’m hearing in a variety of industries, retailers (and wholesalers) are very interested in social media. They want help or ideas on how to create a user experience worth talking about. They want to discuss ideas on how to build their brand and awareness. Visit (virtually or physically) a local library or retail trade association library and read magazine articles on the impact of social media. This will help you develop 25 thought-provoking questions.

Remember…your questions are to uncover information…not to show how smart you are. Do this and you will earn the trust of any business person in retail or any other industry.

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  1. Dave Schrenk says

    While Mike is correct in stating that the way to gain knowledge is to actually do the work, I fully agree with Pat. Domain knowledge is not “required to be a successful BA” in any industry. While domain knowledge does help, you can be a successful BA by following the direction provided by Pat. This is especially true in cases when there is very little documentation related to the “as-is” processes and functions of the organization. If, as Pat says, you can ask the right questions and document this information, it makes it easier to map to the “to-be” model and identify what needs to be done, the gaps, to get there.

  2. Mike Cochran says

    I can tell you from experience the way to gain the knowledge is to actually work in retail – be in management, learn how a store is profitable, do labor scheduling and budgeting, shrink analysis, stock some shelves, deal with angry customers — all this works towards that end.



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