Where does a reflective analyst seek inspiration for development (and reflection)?
There are many sources of inspiration. Sometimes, it is a discussion about problems in a project undertaken by teammates; some other times it is a situation where the customer makes comments on the analyst’s work, whether it is criticism or praise. I collect feedback from stakeholders involved in our projects on an ongoing basis – concerning my work as well as other team members.
Analyst’s work – the impossible is made right away, miracles take a little longer
I have been working on business analysis for a long time, I have a lot of different project experiences and thoughts that result from them. I have been effectively implementing solutions that were non-implementable, as I heard after finishing my work. Interestingly, when I started, nobody warned me that previous attempts failed. I was developing the systems that were important for users, because they were necessary for their everyday work, but not comfortable to use. In such projects, my role was to support the business in identifying the problems and then effectively implement the changes. I cooperated both on the customer and supplier side.
So far, all my project successes have a common denominator – empathy and open communication. In this very order and, in my opinion, in an inseparable combination.
Does the analyst have to be empathic?
Empathy allows me to enter the customer’s shoes. And not one stakeholder, but any person who is in any way involved in the project. Empathy tells me who is affected by the change in the organization. Even if it seems small, it can actually be the key to the success of the whole project. It is empathy that helps me understand the relationships between people in the organization and identify allies for a successful implementation. The ability to know someone’s point of view, to feel their problems and concerns, has a significant impact on the course and the final result of each project. It is this deeper insight that allows for proper prioritization of requirements.
Open communication is important at every stage of an IT initiative. From the first meetings where the idea and goal of the project are created, through the collection of detailed requirements, to the stage of increased support after the transition to the implementation stage. I do not have to convince anyone about the key role of a business analyst in project communication. You will also read about it here: Building relations with customers and the CRM.
Empathy and communication – always together
Why do I consider empathy and communication a complementary and inseparable combination?
One of the indicators of the project’s success, apart from the financial benefits or the timely implementation, is the effect of the introduced changes. How were they adopted? Ideally, if they are actually adopted by the organization, employees use the new solution on a daily basis and as such, this brings measurable business benefits. Then, people involved in the processes that have been optimized come to a similar conclusion quite quickly. They wonder how they could have worked before without the facilities. But how to achieve such an effect? Is it possible to do something to achieve a high adaptation of the new solution?
A business analyst – the one who reads in your mind
In my opinion, the key to success is communication. And it is not only about defining needs and solutions properly, clear and understandable documentation, legible training materials, or great presentations. It is about adapting the communication to the recipient in the project; his or her situation, role in the project and in the organization, tasks, needs, and expectations. And ideally, to the preferred way of assimilating information.
This places really high demands on the analyst in terms of soft skills. It is not enough to be able to clearly write, illustrate, or orally explain the problem. You still have to be aware of your own favorite style of communication and be able to recognize the style used by the project participants, in fact, each of them individually. This allows you to adjust the message to the individual recipients. If we use empathy during live meetings or online interactions, we will be able to correct the manner and content of the messages in real-time.
Communication, empathy, proactivity, and technical items at the end
When I am looking for training for business analysts, I usually find purely technical offers, such as UML (Unified Modeling Language), BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation), standards in business analysis, with or without certification. Soft competencies are underestimated, omitted. Meanwhile, if we ask project stakeholders what are their most important expectations from a business analyst, it turns out that:
- First of all – excellent communication
- Secondly – understanding needs (empathy)
- Thirdly – proactivity
These three desired features are complemented by technical and substantive knowledge.
This causes some kind of cognitive dissonance. Why is it so difficult for an analyst to develop soft skills when they are desired by customers? Or maybe empathy and communication are not crucial?
I insist that they are an important distinguishing feature of a business analyst’s workshop or persona, especially for seniors. Why and how empathy and communication influence the success of a business analyst in IT projects – this is a separate topic. I will show specific examples of successful initiatives.
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- Business Analyst, Team Manager
I have been working on business analysis for many years. My passion for process optimization, breaking down problems into smaller components, was the result of interest in mathematics, especially logic. The customer and relation orientation allow the effective implementation of projects, also complex ones. I am eager to share my knowledge by inspiring the team to develop the competencies necessary in the work of a business analyst.