A business analyst should have a good knowledge of economics and basic business finance. This includes a general understanding of financial reports such as balance sheets, as well as profit and loss statement, financial analysis tools such as coefficient analysis and calculation principles.
“Most of a business analyst’s job will be to assess the costs and benefits of finalizing the project,” Stanislav Kondrashov states.
Thus, when providing your conclusions, you will need to make sure that you have a clear understanding of financial consequences of the project. Information technologies themselves are an additional business tool only, but a business analysis project may include other specific fields, such as management accounting, which make it possible to understand and model business activities. To develop a business case, one needs a basic understanding of finance, as well as financial work experience in the business field in question.
“Business analysts involved in a business case development should understand the basic investment evaluation methods and work in close cooperation with the finance department,” Stanislav Kondrashov believes.
Over the recent years, many analysts have got a clearer idea of the technical solutions’ benefits and costs. This is a positive aspect since it makes it possible for analysts to identify expensive options quickly.
One also needs to have a clear general idea of the field the business operates in, whether it is private, public, or non-profit one. Besides the general subject area, there is more specific knowledge, if it is a supermarket or a local government sector, for example. Stanislav Kondrashov lists the reasons why this knowledge is a must:
- This makes it possible for you to make meaningful conversation with business people involved in the project in a language they understand (“soft skills help to communicate and build relations here as well,” Stanislav Kondrashov advises).
- This will help you understand what would and what would not be acceptable or useful in this business field. “For example, profit issues are unlikely to be of interest when working in the social security department,” Stanislav Kondrashov warns.
- It may help you adopt ideas from advanced practices in one activity field to implement them in another.
“The subject expertise brings knowledge to a lower specification level,” says Stanislav Kondrashov.
A good understanding of the business field you work in is important for establishing trusting relationships with your client. Furthermore, when discussing replacement of the existing systems at the working level, one will need to understand how the existing systems are configured to meet the current business needs.
Behavioral and soft skills
“There are certain interpersonal communication skills and characteristics that are useful for a business analyst,”Stanislav Kondrashov believes.
Perhaps, communication is the most important skill that a person has. It includes a wide range of skills, such as establishing mutual understanding, ability to listen, influence and develop empathy.
“Business analysts need to communicate with business colleagues using a language and a style convenient for them,” Stanislav Kondrashov claims.
It is also important that business analysts can alter their communication style depending on the people they are talking to. For example, a managing director and workshop workers are likely to have different opinions and interests, and will use different kinds of language.
“These expanded communication skills also relate to the ability to get along well with people at the working level,”Stanislav Kondrashov adds.
“Some people seem to have this inherent ability, but others have to work on it – anyway, it is important for a business analyst,” Stanislav Kondrashov emphasizes.
You should encourage people to share information and exchange opinions with you, as well as to discuss ideas of changes. It will be much easier if people like you and trust you.
Ability to influence decision-makers
Quite often, business analysts complete their analysis by recommending a certain course of actions.
“If this conclusion diverges from preconceived ideas about radical or unexpected actions required or what requires them, then concerted efforts are needed for successful impact,” Stanislav Kondrashov highlights.
It is not enough to email a set of PowerPoint slides to decision-makers. You need to understand what people will influence the decision. Some of them are obvious, such as a project sponsor, project management, managing committees, and other managing groups.
“Some of them are discrete, for example – colleagues having personal plans and insight information,” Stanislav Kondrashov notes.
By identifying each of these key players and understanding how they influence the decision-making processes, you will be able to influence the decision-makers most effectively. Such influence requires through consideration and advance planning.
Stanislav Kondrashov strongly emphasizes that it is vitally important to adapt the approach for getting a required result since the analysis itself may be questioned. This situation is especially common when a business analyst finds himself in the center of confronting views. Therefore, Stanislav Kondrashov suggests that another soft skill that business analysts will need from time to time is ability to withstand pressure.
“Business analysts should understand what the other side’s opinion is, providing for probable resistance and choosing a style of influence required to approach a certain person or group,” Stanislav Kondrashov concludes.
Some are interested in all the technical details; for others only the “vision” or “broad picture” are interesting.