Business analysts provide significant value to businesses. In order to become a successful Business Analyst, there are some essential skills that must be acquired. These skills help them in their task of researching, examining, defining. documenting and recommending solutions to improve processes, products and services. Though technical skills and industry knowledge are important, and I will address that in a separate article, I would like to highlight the importance of soft skills needed by Business Analysts to be successful in their work environment.

There are many soft skills essential for navigating the daily tasks and responsibilities of analysts and I will be discussing what I consider to be the top 5.

1.    Good communication skills:

Effective communication tops the list for me. This involves active listening as well as asking good probing and clarifying questions. A good business analyst must be a good listener and can stay calm in a conversation to actively listen to understand business needs and challenges. Active listening will benefit a business analyst more when done in an unbiased manner, free from assumptions. This is also important for experienced analysts who can easily be clouded by their past experiences which can lead to missing out on the unique intricacies of specific clients.

The work of an analyst involves frequent communication with project members and external stakeholders. Therefore, being able to ask clear questions and communicate findings both in a formal, informal, group or individual setting is crucial.

2.    Critical thinking skills

Analysts need to think about scenarios beyond the standard happy path. Being able to think and ask questions of what, how and why is essential to be successful as a Business Analysts. Critical thinking also involves seeking to understand why and how a change in one area can affect other areas. This helps the analyst assess risk, identify common problems as well as issues that occur outside normal operating parameters (also known as edge cases and corner cases) to be able to recommend a solution that provides optimal value. This skill also entails that an analyst needs to be an innovative thinker to seek out solutions outside the traditional parameters and business comfort zone.

3.    Stakeholder management and relationship building skills

Analysts regularly engage with different stakeholder during requirement elicitation, when agreeing on a solution and in the case of software development during the development and deployment phases. To understand current or existing (also known as ‘AS IS’) business processes and solutions, a Business Analysts needs to build trust with stakeholders, so that the stakeholder can be comfortable to share the nitty-gritty of subject matters. In occasions where analysts have to gather information through observations, this allows the stakeholders and subject matter experts to be comfortable to share important details due to the trust and respect they share with the business analyst.

4.    Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence relates to the skill of understanding and managing emotions. In the world of business analysts, seeking and receiving feedback is a continuous process. Successful analysts have the skill and ability to stay calm while putting in necessary work to continually refine requirement specification to meet the expectation. Sometimes new information or requirements can change the outcome of the work and this can mean redoing a work. Analyst need to be emotionally stable enough not to take feedback on their work personal. They are able to manage unforeseen changes to find the most viable solution. Analysts will also be more successful if they are able to understand and manage the emotional responses and challenges that can arise in the course of their interactions with team members and stakeholders.

5.    Ability to simplify ambiguity

Finally, successful analysts are good at simplifying complexity. They are able to investigate, process and present complex issues in simple, clear and manageable bits to enable decision and action to be taken on them. Analyst always asks the questions, investigate and propose solutions that cut out ambiguity and complexity to make products, solutions and services more effective and efficient.

There are other important skills that will be helpful for a business analyst to be successful beyond the 5 mentioned above. As an analyst, what will you say have been the most helpful? As one who works with Analyst, what skill do you consider to be most valuable?