The Art of Business Analysis

By Nathalie Adam, Salesforce Consultant at Nubik

From the outset, let me make one thing clear: you don’t learn business analysis but rather, it is something you develop. Of course, you should take a course to properly learn the fundamentals. But business analysis is above all a question of listening and understanding.

I will focus on the following techniques, which have worked for me:

  • Listening
  • Detaching
  • Questioning
  • Assessing borderline cases

LISTENING

Each company is unique. Companies are the sum of their employees, their business goals, their products or services, and their clients. These factors are what differentiate companies from others in the same field or niche; this means that solutions that are appropriate for one company may not work for another.

Listening sounds simple, but it can actually be quite difficult. When a problem is presented, you shouldn’t immediately go into solution mode; you should just continue to listen, in order to understand the repercussions and ramifications of the problem. Don’t jump to conclusions; let the client “talk out” the problem.

The best business analysts ask questions, but listen first, last and in-between.

DISTANCING

Sometimes a problem can have several solutions. But there is only one optimal solution. This solution isn’t necessarily the one that fixes the actual problem in the best way, but rather it is the one that has the most beneficial impact on the whole organization. This means that you have to distance yourself from the actual problem and look at the processes as a whole. You move from a micro view of the problem to a macro view, gaining a holistic understanding and suggesting a solution that minimizes collateral impacts.

QUESTIONING

Just because a company has always done things a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the best way! Take an IT system replacement, for example. A common mistake is to try to duplicate the old system with the new one. In this case, the business analysis should move beyond understanding more than just the system that’s in place, and try instead to review and optimize processes. Companies will, of course, stick to the processes they’re familiar with. But the role of a business analyst is to gain an understanding of these processes (and underlying requirements), and to suggest alternatives to help the company improve. We should all fear the status quo. In today’s evolving environment, renewal is a necessity, not a luxury, and it starts with innovative business analysis.

ASSESSING BORDERLINE CASES

You’ve probably heard the expression “the devil is in the details.” I can tell you from experience that it’s absolutely true! A proper business analysis takes into account every last borderline case. And I mean every last one. Overlooking borderline cases leads to incomplete solutions, which in turn leads to poor adoption of the solution. So, throughout your business analysis, make sure you question everything ad nauseam: “Yes, but…”,  “What happens if…”. Your client will thank you later.

CONCLUSION

Business analysis is definitely an art, but above all it’s a question of listening and understanding. The skills you need to excel in this field have to be developed by gaining experience with many different companies, ideally of all sizes and types. But the secret power of the best business analysts, in my opinion, is curiosity. Curiosity will lead you to ask all sorts of questions, providing food for thought. It will make you think outside the box and dream up new and innovative solutions. One last bit of advice: cultivate your interest in learning. The best business analysts are those who never stop learning and continuously develop their business acumen, whether on a technical, operational or strategic level.

Have fun!