Resilience and the Softer Side of Business Analysis
Business analysis is a wide and varied discipline that relies on the practitioner's honing and developing skills in a number of areas.
Laura Brandenburg recently described more than a dozen skills in her article “What Business Analyst Skills Are Important for a New BA?”. In Laura’s article, she mentions a number of technical skills, but she also highlights some of the softer behavioral skills that we analysts need.
It’s certainly true that on bigger projects and when working in more political environments, softer skills such as stakeholder management, networking, and conflict resolution become even more important. However, there is one important business analysis attribute that is rarely talked about—resilience.
As business analysts, we’re often balancing the conflicting needs of stakeholders. We might help our business team to understand the root problem they are trying to solve, and in doing so we might help them avoid being blindsided by the solution illusion, where they fall in love with an IT solution without fully understanding their requirements or business needs.
However, when playing this role, we often have to actively challenge our stakeholders. Of course, we’ll do so with respect and rapport, but we are often the discipline that points out the elephant in the room or challenges implicit assumptions. This is a core part of our role, and we should feel empowered to create the permission to ask challenging questions. However, asking difficult questions might make us somewhat unpopular.
Sometimes middle managers may fear land-grab and actively shelter information from their superiors. Our analysis efforts might uncover this hidden information, which puts the middle managers in a very sticky position. Accordingly, we might find that certain stakeholders go out of their way to discredit us or make our lives uncomfortable.
This is the sad reality of corporate politics. It would be easy to become compliant and just toe the line, but doing so would significantly increase risk on projects. As analysts, it’s essential that we provide healthy challenge and don’t become subservient scribes.
Providing we challenge with rapport from a position of genuine curiosity and providing we maintain an ethical and transparent standpoint, this challenge can only be of benefit to the project and organization. We can help ensure that our projects deliver the business and customer value that our organizations need and expect.
However, we need to accept that there will be times when we’ll need a thick skin to stand up to the flack that others might throw our way. A resilient attitude becomes essential!