Learning from the Business Analysts

All this week the BA Summit is online – if you’re not aware of it, it’s a week long programme of expert speakers being interviewed about different aspects of business analysis.The theme this year is “Tough Skills for a Changing World.” The ‘tough skills’ are the ‘softer skills’ so I was intrigued to see what was on the agenda for the week.

I signed up and listened to the first one yesterday – you can still join up to listen in to the rest of the week – and of course the topic of softer skills in the Business Analyst’s workplace is just the same as a project management professional or PMO.

Yesterday session, hosted by Penny Pullan* was with Debra Paul**on The Human Touch – Negotiating Situations. I liked Debra, she’s obviously worked in the industry for a while and the best part for me was the way she shared some of her own day-to-day techniques and approaches to getting the job done with a human touch. The session included questions from delegates posted before the interview and to kick off, two great questions I’m sure everyone can relate to; how do you negotiate scope with the business & how do you negotiate plans with the project manager?

Debra talked about the business analyst’s work as a professional service to the business and to be able to be professional you have to be credible. In order to be credible you have to build your skills and competencies. This was broken down to three main areas; professional skills (the tools, techniques that are used in a BA’s toolbox), knowledge of the business and work with others. To gain credibility BA’s must understand the pressures of the business; the objectives and terminology. Talking to the business on their level helps to gain respect and credibility. Working with others included skills like facilitation – right across the piece rather than narrowed to workshop facilitation and presentations, again not just presenting with a slide show but with the ability to persuade and influence.

In terms of negotiation, the  focus was very much on the idea that a potential negotiation situation is not necessarily a conflict situation. The idea that you enter a situation with the aim of understanding the other parties pressures and how you can help them, leads to a smoother approach rather than one where you’re ready to ‘fight’.

Debra also talked about two approaches that BAs can use in their technique tool box. SPIN and CATWOE.

I’m aware of SPIN as its most commonly known as a selling or sales – for the want of a better word – methodology. It’s about persuasion based on asking the right questions and can be useful in other situations like building business cases. The other, CATWOE, is used as a framework to analyse perceptions of people – in this case stakeholders. It seems that the BA’s world is very much like the PMs or the PMOs where understanding stakeholder behaviours,assumptions, prejudices, self-interests etc are key to a successful outcome. The W in CATWOE is world view – a reminder again that we should be trying harder to see and understand what others are actually seeing and thinking rather than making assumptions and second guessing.

There was loads more things I learnt in that 40 minute interview – things that are of definite value not just to the BAs of the world but PMs, PMO and other functions within the business environment. After all the world is changing for everyone in the workplace and we’re all going to have to get a grip on the right blend of tough skills in order to make the passage easier.

To sign up for BA Summit for the rest of the week – visit the website



*Penny Pullan works with people in multinational organizations who are grappling with high risk international projects and programmes of change, often involving a complex and culturally diverse mix of stakeholders. Within this context, Penny is experienced in bringing order and clarity, giving support, and providing the tools needed to cut through the problems and deliver benefits, whilst helping the individuals involved to develop. Penny is co-author of A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management (Gower, 2011) and each June hosts the Virtual Working Summit . Clients of Penny’s company Making Projects Work Ltd include Novo Nordisk, AbbVie, NFU Mutual, Quintiles, the UK Government, ESI and others from financial services, technology and pharmaceutical multinationals. Penny can be reached by Twitter Penny

**Debra Paul, co-author of the best-selling book Business Analysis and Techniques for Business Analysis and now a new book Human Touch, has over 20 years experience of business change and systems development. She specialises in business analysis as Managing Director of AssistKD. Debra is a key player in the UK Business Analysis world, active on steering panels, as a chief BCS BA Diploma examiner and industry awards judge. On top of all of that, she’s an engaging speaker, full of great ideas that work in the real world.

Debra covers the human touch – negotiating situations. Her wide-ranging talk will focus on different aspects of business analysis work where negotiating skills can be critical. For example, during meetings and workshops (possibly on minor issues), where there are conflicts in requirements, where stakeholders disagree on the priorities and focus of the work, and much, much more.

Image By Gavin St. Ours

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