3 ways to differentiate yourself as a BA

What is differentiating about you as a BA? Is it your ability to create workflow diagrams? Is it your ability to clearly articulate a business requirement? What about your ability to manage difficult stakeholders? Perhaps it is your ability to work with unclear scope and deal with ever changing deadlines and still deliver on time? In fact, it may be that none of these things is a differentiator and all BAs should be able to do those things. What are those things that will help you shine in your work above and beyond these parity activities? I offer you three that I think will create that shine for you and your career as a business analyst. They are courage, confidence and charisma. Can you tell I am a fan of alliteration? This is why I think these are differentiators.

1. Courage

Courage is a differentiator because it takes courage to lead a conversation, to challenge an idea or to propose a topic and be shot down. This trait is on that separates an average BA from an outstanding BA. This is not something that happens overnight in a career, it’s developed and honed with experience.

A business analyst that has the courage to speak up and say ‘I am having trouble understanding what the problem is we are trying to solve!’ and then starts to help the group create a problem statement stands out among BAs. Having the courage to start the conversation to bring the group to a share understanding of what the issue is rather than solving the wrong problem is a leader that is practicing strategic business analysis.

It takes courage to suggest a possible solution to a group and then have the group state loudly and clearly why that is a bad solution. The courage comes from being willing to start the conversation. Be willing to be wrong and then listen to the dialogue to come to a better solution. An outstanding BA asks questions and elicits dialogue to generate more ideas or identify potentials roadblocks.
It takes courage to step away from a dialogue and diagram a conversation on a whiteboard. Immediately you separate yourself as one willing to be watched and evaluated as you draw on the board and help the group to see what you have been talking about. Be courageous and step away to be watched and lead!

2. Confidence

Confidence comes from taking risks and living to tell the tale! It takes courage to takes risks to gain confidence. I do things that scare me personally and professionally. I was recently talked into riding the Tower of Terror ride at DisneyWorld (Peer pressure is REAL!). That rides terrifies me. When it was over my hands and legs were physically shaking because I was so afraid. However, I lived and I am confident I could do it again and perhaps not be terrified the next time.

It takes confidence to accept a new assignment to work on a problem in an area you are not familiar with. I had a leader once tell me that she knew she could assign me anything and I would tackle it. I always said yes. I was differentiated as BA because I was confident that I would figure it out. I have tools and techniques, as described in the BABOK®, that help me to approach any problem and work towards a solution.

Confidence is developed with lesson learned, not just documented. Having situations that do not work and then changing. I was eliciting requirements with a group of stakeholders using sticky notes and involving them in the process. The feedback was that they didn’t like that exercise. It was not effective for them. In my early years of working I would have felt like a failure and been crushed that I did something that was not well-received. The confident me reached into my toolkit and tried a different approach. Guess what? They loved it and it moved us forward in our solution. Be confident and move forward when at first you don’t succeed, try again!

3. Charisma

Charisma is defined as a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, or
a divinely conferred power or talent. Why is this differentiator for a business analyst? It is the role of the BA to be a change agent. We have to broker a change in culture, process, system or organization in our work. This is accomplished by being pleasant and charming in our interactions with other humans.

Charismatic leaders are followed. Charisma alone isn’t enough to be effective, however it is a differentiator. One of the best charisma tools I have is my smile. I try and smile to welcome each person to my elicitation conversations. I try to be kind in my conversation and welcoming. I try to be positive in my approach. These set me apart. People are encouraged and know that I will help lead difficult conversations. People want to help me achieve goals because I draw them into the possibility of success.

Challenge yourself to be approachable with a smile, a compliment, and have positive energy. As BAs we have the power to change the energy in a room. We can guide the direction of the team with charisma that will compel the team to keep working towards a solution. Be charismatic and invite people to see that a solution is possible. Laugh, smile and have joy in the journey, even when it appears the ship you are on is going to sink!

When something is not going well in a conversation, we can be courageous and speak up. This makes it safe for others to share. We can be respectful in our disagreement. We can be confident in our ability to question and make sure we all understand what the problem is before we dive deep into the wrong solution. We can be charismatic and be a team member others want to follow and work with. These three differentiators will help a good BA be an Outstanding BA!

Heather, A BA Without Borders

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