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Steps to becoming a great business analyst

Morgan T. LeeWhile writing a presentation on “tips for becoming a better BA”, I came up with a list of topics that could be used to help anyone improve just about anything they do.

Quick Guide: 15 Steps to becoming a great BA (or anything else)
1. Love what you do
2. Education
3. Networking
4. Additional Training
5. Practice
6. Keep up on trends
7. Join a professional group or chapter
8. Work at it
9. Mentor or be mentored
10. Get a professional Certification
11. Communication
12. Documentation
13. Approval and sign-off
14. Create a BA toolkit
15. Do something better than everyone else

1. Love what you do. The first and maybe the most important step are to enjoy what you do. If you do not love the work you do it will be reflected in the quality of your work. Often a person that loves their job will produce a better product than an expert that would rather be doing anything else.

2. Education. Taking formal education is key to becoming a great BA. Take whatever courses you can to increase your knowledge levels. Many Universities are affiliated with a MCBA (Masters Certificate in Business Analysis) program. There are also a number of online courses or programs that can give you a great base of knowledge in business analysis.

3. Networking. Meeting other BAs or people with similar skills can help your career. Meeting the right person can set you on the right path to new contracts, projects, online courses, websites, subject matter experts, and more. Meet as many people as you can. BAs can always use more contacts.

4. Additional Training. If you have formal education you will want to continue learning. The internet is full of great websites and videos that can increase your BA knowledge.

5. Practice. We have all heard the expression “use it or lose it”. As a BA this is also true. If you learn a technique that you would never use on a daily basis you might forgot all about it when the time comes to use it. So in your down time, free time, training or professional development time, practice those new techniques that you picked up along the way.

6. Keep up on trends. New industry trends may keep you on top of your game and in demand with your clients. Read the latest white papers, blog posts, attend webinars whenever possible to learn what is new and exciting in your field.

7. Join a professional group or chapter. As a BA you are lucky to have the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) as a professional group to join. As a member you have access to hundreds of books, webinars, and contacts that can help you with just about any BA situation you can think of. Many cities have a local IIBA chapter. Join a local chapter is another great way to meet new people, learn about business analysis trends, attend meetings and information sessions, and participate in workshops.

8. Work at it (Do it, improve on it). Knowledge isn’t everything. At some point you must put all your training to good use. Try and do as must BA work as you can to increase your BA experience. If your company does not provide you with enough work experience try doing BA work for free. There are a lot of companies out there that can’t afford a BA but they can sure use your expertise. Also, you never know where the Pro Bono work can lead.

9. Mentor or be mentored (Learn from others that know and teach those that don’t). If you have tips and techniques for various BA activities don’t keep it locked up, share it with those that can benefit from it. Also, if you know someone that has knowledge that you can learn, ask them to show you. Many companies have mentoring programs as part of the employee career development plan.

10. Get a professional Certification (This involves work experience, education, and training). One of the best ways to get recognized in your field is to get a professional certification. Most certifications require that you have the training and experience to hold a professional certification. Studding for a certification can also refresh your BA knowledge or teach you things that you wouldn’t normally get from just your work experience alone. Not every BA job allows you to do all BA activities.

11. Communication. Communication is another key area for a BA. Communicate your activities with your stakeholders. It is better to have everyone in the company know what you are working on than letting people wonder “What is it he really does anyway?”

12. Documentation. Elicit needs and requirements. Sound simple enough? Document what people want, determine their needs and record it. Review it with them to make sure what you wrote is what they asked for. Poor documentation and communication is the cause of a lot of project rework.

13. Approval and signoff. Make sure you get approval and sign-off for your activities and deliverables. You may think you know it all but your boss, client, or project sponsor may have a different idea of what you should produce. Get it in writing.

14. Create a BA toolkit. A BA toolkit is a collection of tools, techniques, and deliverables that a BA can use on any given project. Take the time to record documents, templates, processes, and just about anything else you do as a BA and save it in a safe location where you can retrieve it and use it for current and future projects. If something works and it can be reused add it to your toolkit.

15. Do something better than everyone else. This is easier said than done but if you find something that you excel at as a BA then keep it up. If you are great with diagrams then use that to play your projects. If you are a great communicator then use those skills to elicit better requirements with the stakeholders. If you are a great writer then create clear documents that the entire organization can understand. One person cannot be perfect at everything but if you have a talent for something special you are well on your way to becoming a great BA.

I hope you find this list useful and good luck with becoming a great business analyst.

Posted in Business Analyst, Checklist.

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