The Art of Business Analysis

The business analyst gathers requirements, documents processes, and uses technology and data-driven insights to solve problems in alignment with the goals of the business.

At least that’s what the internet says.

In practice, the role is as much an art as it is a science. A talented business analyst paints a picture of the desired future state and writes the story of how to get there.

All Salesforce consultants wear the business analyst hat. Anytime we map out processes, interview stakeholders for requirements, and ask the “what-ifs” and “how comes,” we are engaging in business analysis. However, there are certain characteristics common to those who take the role and its impact to the next level.

Here’s what the great ones do.

They Know the Business

They’re called business analysts for a reason.

Of course, business analysts are good at writing use cases and documenting requirements. They know the business processes, the products, the pain points and the industry in general. Hearing them speak, you’d easily mistake them for a tenured industry professional.

More importantly, great business analysts understand the ‘why’ behind the solution. They quickly absorb information about systems, have a natural curiosity about processes, and align themselves with the goals of the business. As a result, the business analyst is often the first person on a project team to gain the trust of stakeholders and become an information hub where project managers, developers, and others go with their questions.

They Practice Active Listening

Business AnalysisBusiness analysis is 91% listening and observation. Business analysts listen to needs, wants, struggles, context, politics and history. They are open-minded and able to facilitate fruitful and honest conversations. They push for clarity by asking open-ended questions and challenging assumptions.

They paraphrase and restate the things that they hear to check their understanding. They draw out the hidden and unspoken requirements. With their ability to quickly earn trust, they uncover fears, concerns, uncertainties and resistance that might have otherwise been overlooked.

The more information a Business Analyst can extract, the more accurate the documentation will be, the more precise the requirements will be, and the more comprehensive and complete the solution will be.   

They Are Acutely Aware of Timeline and Dependencies

While not project managers, good business analysts manage themselves in accordance with the project. They know the context of their requirements – what must happen, when it needs to happen, and what needs to happen before that. They are uncomfortable with inconsistency.

Good business analysts understand the scope of work. They can have difficult discussions with their clients around scope and push back on requests that will affect the timeline. They know the downstream effect of meeting or not meeting milestones and can quickly adjust.

They’re Technical Enough

Business analysts communicate regularly with developers, technical leads, solution vendors, and system subject matter experts. They must translate business requirements into technical solutions. While they’re not expected to throw down lines of code, they should know to speak intelligently around the technology.

When they are working with a specific tool like Salesforce, they should be able to speak to limitations and best practices.

They should also understand the fundamentals:

  • How relational databases work
  • Basic tenets of object-oriented programming
  • If/Else statements
  • Proficiency in project management tools
  • Understand Integration patterns

In short, business analysts can hold their own with technical crowds.

They’re Storytellers

Business analysts are gifted storytellers. Although these stories would bore our kids, they’re important to the business. Business analysts tell the story of the business pain points, the current processes and the future state. They illustrate in use cases, user stories, requirements, and business process documentation.

Business analysts can speak eloquently about the high-level vision to executives and talk details with the developers. They can explore hypothetical scenarios, identify edge cases, and foresee risk before it becomes reality. A great business analyst is an excellent communicator.

They Chase and Hunt

Great business analysts aren’t just glorified note takers. They are doers and go-getters. They know that capturing new requirements can be just as important as crossing them off.

A skilled business analyst has the courage to jump into uncomfortable discussions or chase down the right subject matter expert to get clarity. If a business analyst does not have what they need, they find the person who does.

For all of these reasons, a talented business analyst can be the difference between a successful project and a costly nightmare. Tech-savvy and business-minded, a great business analyst brings the knowledge and communication skills to gain trust, tie up loose ends and bring about project success.

Learn more about how to become a Salesforce Certified Business Analyst 

Author: Grant Ongstad, Senior Salesforce Consultant

EightCloud wildly exceeded our expectations. They showed a genuine commitment to understanding our needs, our business structure and processes. Additionally, they had insights that added value well above the tactics of our implementation of Salesforce. They were a true partner and have helped improve our processes overall."

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