7 Important Business Analyst Skills

There are many skills that a business analyst needs to be great at their job. In this article, I’ll go over what I think are the top seven skills that allow good business analysts to stand out from the rest.

1. Communication

Communication skills are probably the most important business analyst skill on this list.

It’s important for business analysts to be able to speak to others fluently, easily and without confusion. The skill of communication is quite a broad one, but I’m referring to a few areas when I mention it.

Speaking is a big part of communication. Being able to explain a point and talk to people is a big part of your role. Explaining systems, requirements, clarifying certain points are all part of speaking skills. Getting to know people on a personal level can involve speaking as well.

Listening is also the other big part of communication skills. It’s important to listen to other people when they are speaking, not only out of politeness, but to gather information for you to be able to do your job. Listening to people when they explain requirements, problems, solutions and ideas can go a long way in you being able to do your job well.

2. Asking the Right Questions

One of the core business analyst skills is asking questions. This is more than just the main skill of communication. It covers the ability to ask questions in a way that will get you the answers you need, and in the manner you want to.

Asking better questions involves thinking about what you want the answer to, and phrasing the question so it is easy to understand. These two points can help you ask better questions.

It can also help to give the listener some options, in the way you phrase your question. A question to someone about a new subject area could be “Could you tell me about process X?”. If they are not aware of it, they may not be able to answer the questions. The question could be rephrased as “Are you the best person to speak to about process X? If not, do you know who would be?” This would give the recipient a way to answer yes or no, and provide more information.

It’s a skill that is developed over time, but it’s important for business analysts.

3. Organization

Being an organized person is a big help when you’re a business analyst. There’s often a lot of people you’re dealing with, a lot of questions and a lot of things to write down and follow up. Keeping on top of all this does require some organization skills, which is why I think it’s an important business analyst skill.

Organization is more than just keeping a clean desk. It can involve creating a to-do list, keeping logs of questions and answers, keeping a record of contacts, organizing your inbox, creating meetings, saving time, and so on. The benefit of being organized is being more productive at work, getting more things done, and being less stressed while doing your job.

4. Writing

Another major business analyst skill is writing. This is a skill that’s used often, whether we realize it or not.

Writing emails is a big part of our job (even though they can sometimes be a waste of time!). Business analysts should learn how to become better writers, as it can directly impact the effectiveness of their role.

Business analysts are also responsible for writing documentation, which is a different style of writing to emails. Documentation can have varying audiences, and adjusting the writing style to match is a good skill to learn.

5. Microsoft Word (And General Word Processing)

This doesn’t refer to the skill of writing, exactly. This skill is all about being able to use a word processor effectively, which is more than writing.

Using Microsoft Word effectively can make you a better business analyst. It can reduce the time it takes you to prepare a document, it can make your documents look better, and even reduce the time it takes for others to read your documents. Areas of word processors that can benefit you are:

  • Formatting – using styles, bullet points, spacing
  • Links and references – setting up links in the document and references to other areas
  • Headers and footers
  • Graphics, tables, and other features

6. Ability To Learn Quickly

Another important business analyst skill is the ability to learn new things quickly. Business analysts are often put into teams or organizations right at the start of a project, and their role is to find out what needs to be done and how things work.

At the start of a project, there isn’t a lot of information available. Sure, there may be some documentation around, or some diagrams. However, it’s usually your job to sort through it all and make sense of what it is, how it works, and who to speak to.

To do this effectively, you need to be able to learn quickly. Learn about new systems, learn new processes, learn about the requirements and how things need to work. Being able to learn quickly will make you a better business analyst.

7. Identifying Stakeholder Priorities

Part of determining requirements for a project is working out the priorities. Some things are more important than others. Most of the time, software projects are constrained by either time or money (or both). In this instance, it’s necessary to prioritize the requirements.

Some requirements are top priority, such as major features and legal requirements. Others are lower priority, which the system may not need to be functional.

To be able to work these out, you need to speak to the people involved in the new solution, which are the stakeholders. In many cases there are more than one. The stakeholders can also have priorities that conflict with each other. This is where your skills come in.

The ability to identify stakeholder priorities, and come to an agreement on them for the wider team, is an important business analyst skill to have. It’s something you’ll come across often, and being able to handle it is a good thing.

The responsibility isn’t yours alone, though. Team leaders and project managers can help with getting decisions made if no agreement is found.

Well, I hope this list of the top seven business analyst skills have helped you in your career. Share your important skills in the comments section below!