Qualities of an Effective BA: Cues from Business Folks

Solving business problems, a main function of business analysts, is similar to managing a business. There are many qualities that can be transferred from managing a business to business analysis. This post discusses some of these qualities.

1. An Understanding of Numbers

Two quotes come to mind:

When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact, no longer be reading numbers anymore than you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings - W. E. B. Du Bois 

It is frightening how many business owners think cash is profit, or that money in the bank means the business is profitable. Being able to read the numbers of the business allows the business owner to regularly measure the path - like reading the dashboard of a car - Janice Gordon

Managing business operations involves understanding finance, taxes and business accounting. While you could always hire someone to help you with some of these tasks, you will still need a fair understanding of numbers to verify the output. The same goes for business analysis. Business Analysts often have to deal with numbers, percentages, business calculations and financial reports. Having a good grasp of numbers and a solid experience with tools that make calculations easier and faster can give the BA an edge. An obvious example is Microsoft Excel which can help with calculations and data analysis. It's worth taking out time to understand how such tools work as they can come in handy on the job.

Another example of an area where numerical skills come in handy is in developing business cases. Business cases often involve calculating costs, IRR, NPV and the like. Having a good understanding and affinity for numbers can help the BA hit the ground running even in a new domain. So, next time you’re proposing a solution – think numbers. What is the lifetime cost of this solution? What cost saving can the business expect to achieve?

In addition, tracking numbers can help in measuring the performance of solutions. For example, analysis could be performed on responses received from questions like, "How many complaints are received per week?" and "Which problems occur the most?". Monitoring numbers can help to identify and resolve problems before they become worse.

2. A Relaxed State of Mind

Here are 2 quotes that describe the importance of managing stress:

Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life - Marilu Henner

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency - Natalie Goldberg

Like business owners, business analysts, are often under significant pressure to meet user demands, deadlines and resolve business problems. The buck often tends to stop with the BA when something goes wrong with the project, after all, the BA was recruited to promote the chances of project success. The enormity of a BA’s responsibility can be overwhelming. Being over-stressed can lead to judgment mistakes; this is why it’s important to take time out to rest. Good business analysts know when to call it a day so that they bounce back, more focused and productive than ever.  

3. Trust Building

Business owners often have to build partnerships and internal working relationships based on trust with other organisations or individuals to grow their business. A good example is Amazon. Amazon has partnerships with numerous businesses and individuals with products to sell as well as web publishers who help to market Amazon's products in return for commission. The same goes for analysts. Working with stakeholders involves establishing trust and a good working relationship among team members. No matter how small or large the project team is, it’s important that everyone understands the purpose of the project. Qualities such as good listening skills, honesty and adaptability can help instil trust in the BA. 

4. Effective Communication Skills

Every Business Manager requires good communications skills to be able to explain business tasks or how the business runs to other employees. A business owner also needs to motivate the team and define business goals through communication. Good negotiation skills in addition, help in sealing deals with customers or business partners.

In a similar vein, Business Analysts must know how to communicate using both the technical language of developers and everyday business language. Processes and business problems need to be communicated as much as requirements need to be defined and negotiated.

5. Consistency

A business owner should be consistent. Once a good business model is discovered and adopted, the business owner should follow it consistently. If you think of McDonald's, you'll understand why consistency is a good business practice.

Business analysts in a similar vein, need to be consistent in managing relationships with stakeholders and in their BA practice.


Joana Armie is a blogger from London UK. She has an interest in reading and writing articles. She is currently researching UK passports, which explains the procedure for applying for passports.