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Business Analyst Mindset Defined

What makes a business analyst exceptional? Although skill competency is important, the business analyst mindset plays a crucial role in the success of any business change.

Introduction

Business analysis is widely acknowledged as a profession and a critical competency required to define, plan and implement business changes. Much has been written about business analysis tools and techniques, modelling notations and requirements capturing methodologies. There is a wide choice of business analysis training courses on the market, and formal certifications exist to assess the level of knowledge and experience in the field. Yet many organizations struggle with business analysis competency, and cite requirements quality and requirements gaps as top reasons for project delays and failures.

Key Challenges of Business Analysis

While iterative and agile methodologies emerged and gained acceptance as viable approaches to build software and solve business problems in fast changing and unpredictable environment, some key challenges of business analysis remain as key risks and success factors:

  • Stakeholder and user engagement in the business analysis process
  • Alignment of the executive support of business changes (including funding) with business strategy
  • Ability and willingness to consider the big picture and long term business impacts of a business change that go beyond a particular scope that has secured funding at the moment
  • Communication style of the business analyst and ability to adapt to varying audiences
  • Climate of acceptance of the difference in opinion; supporting analysis-based decision making vs. making decisions based on authority
  • Support for the role of business analyst in identifying and analyzing real business problem vs. a documentation role.

Successful mitigation of these key risks will greatly depend on the maturity and the mindset of the business analyst.

This leads to the concept of a business analyst mindset that plays a vital role in making a business analyst successful. The mindset of a business analyst drives motivation and behavior, especially in challenging professional situations. Following are some scenarios with their challenges, and the mindset that would help a business analyst recover and find a resolution to the problem.

Business Analysis Challenge Scenarios

Situation:

Stakeholders disagree on a vital point, and the side with higher authority is winning even though it does not have a solid argument.

Challenge:

Challenging authority is intimidating. Stepping in between two parties that are disagreeing and taking on a referee role can be emotionally taxing. A business analyst is unwilling to arbitrate or wants the sides to settle their differences themselves.

Constructive business analyst mindset:

The opposing sides may not be willing or ready to settle their differences on all points, but business analyst should help facilitate consensus on the particular questions relevant to the project. The consensus should be based on facts and analysis, use real business data to validate assumptions and an objective evaluation of pros and cons to avoid subjective decisions. This will require diplomacy, assertiveness, and objectivity under pressure.

Situation

An executive request that does not makes sense, is eating up too much resources or takes business requirements in the wrong direction.

Challenge:

Managing stakeholder relationships is tricky, especially with the most powerful stakeholders. Sometimes a business analyst does not have access or a line of communication to these stakeholders, and may not even have an opportunity to challenge or question the requirements.

Constructive business analyst mindset:

Occasionally, such request may turn out to be a misunderstanding, a case of broken telephone, or a question misinterpreted as a request by an overzealous team member. Asking for clarification and rationale works most of the time if requested politely and respectfully. A request for clarification may need to be brokered or a line of communication created. This is a case where rational persistence pays off.

A business analyst needs to know the “why” behind the requirements, so that she can facilitate shared understanding of these requirements and support determining the best solution. This should be a sufficient justification for a conversation with the stakeholder that put forward the requirements in question.

Situation

Business stakeholders are making unreasonable or unjustified requests and the business analyst is intimidated into documenting what they are told without analyzing the information.

Challenge

Part of the problem lies in a perception that the job of business analyst is to “document requirements provided by business”. This is a dangerous perception. It creates an illusion that all that’s needed is to write down what the business users are unhappy about, what is not working today, and what they think will fix the problem based on their experience with other software. This substitutes real business requirements for solving a business problem with “premature solutioning”.

Constructive business analyst mindset:

Setting stakeholder expectation about the goals and process of business analysis is necessary at the beginning of every engagement. A business analyst cannot assume what the expectations of a new audience about the business analysis process are. To forge a successful collaboration with requirements stakeholders, a business analyst must educate the group about the importance of gathering information, analyzing the current state and defining requirements as an outcome of the analysis activities. At the same time, the business analyst needs to take a strong stance and recognize that their job is not about “scribing” and “capturing”, but first and foremost about analysis.

Defining Business Analyst Mindset

These examples are just some of many where a strong professional mindset plays a key role in the success of business analysis. To summarize, we define the business analyst mindset as way of seeing, thinking and reasoning that supports business analyst in doing the best possible job of analyzing and solving business problems. There are twelve principles of the business analyst mindset as defined in the book “Business analyst: a profession and a mindset”:

1. Focus on business – calibrate solutions to business goals
2. Solve the right problem
3. Question everything
4. Lead and facilitate
5. Analysis before synthesis; information before requirements
6. Uncover gaps – do not cover them up
7. Simplify until nothing can be removed
8. Take responsibility for shared understanding of business requirements
9. Accept and embrace business change
10. Be part of the solution
11. Expect human behavior from human beings
12. Learn, adapt and thrive

Conclusion

Beyond tools and techniques of the trade, the principles of the business analyst mindset reinforce the importance of building successful relationships and communication patterns, taking accountability for facilitating consensus and addressing gaps, and guiding stakeholders to make analysis-based decisions.
Putting emphasis on the business analyst mindset and fostering its principles can become a foundation of building a successful business analysis practice in an organization.

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