In my last post I talked about the importance of communication. I can pretty much guarantee that any job posting for a business analyst will say something about requiring good communication skills. As expected, this is referring to good oral and written communication skills. However, it goes so much further.
When someone says “communication”, most people immediately think about writing or speaking. However, particular for a BA, a huge part of communication is all about listening. Obviously you need to listen to hear what they are saying, but you also need to listen to hear what they AREN’T saying. You need to be able to read between the lines and recognize what they mean (not just what they say).
In talking with stakeholders I have often had them say that issue ‘A’ is the pain point, then heard much more frustration in their voice when they talk about issue ‘B’. Recognizing that, then digging in to learn more, can mean the difference between success and failure. A lot of times ‘B’ is kind of like a mosquito – it is little and annoying, but can totally wreck your day. It may be something as simple as the number of button clicks an action takes. If you deliver ‘A’ but nothing changes with ‘B’ your client will never truly be happy.
For some folks this particular skill just comes naturally. For the rest of us, it can be mastered with practice and experience. If you are struggling with this I would recommend you start by looking for signs of emotion. Pay particular attention to their tone of voice. If their voice changes in pitch or tempo, it’s a good indicator that they have strong feelings about the topic. Watch their body language. I’ve found that people tend to use more hand gestures and lean forward when they have strong feelings.
If you see any of these indicators, dig a little deeper. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to address it directly. Getting to the root of what your client really mean, not just what they say if once of the key factors to being a successful business analyst.
Until next time, keep on being a B.A. Boss