I do not want to get stuck in a narrow focus where skills cannot be transferred outside of the company or into another IT role.
how do I gain marketable or transferable business analyst skills?
Speaking a specific dialect of Chinese is great if you never leave the country, and the only people you speak to understand it.
Likewise, learning about your specific industry, or domain, is necessary to do your current job, but if you are looking to develop marketable skills to further your career as a business analyst, you must also also add skills that are transferable to any organization.
To do this, you will want to learn best practices in for instance, Requirements Management/Requirements Engineering and also practice general business analysis skills which you can transfer to any business analyst job.
To discover these transferable skills, look at the overall picture of what a business analyst does, whether he is working for a small company, a large organization, or for a specific domain.
You will also want to familiarize yourself with terminology and tools used by a business analyst so you don’t feel as though you are learning a foreign language on an interview, or once you are hired to do a business analyst’s job.
The specifics of each project will differ, but the business analyst will use a similar process to reach a result. To ensure that your business analyst skills are transferable, you will want to be familiar with the terms used in business analysis as well as the tools, techniques or solutions available to the business analyst profession.
Becoming a business analyst involves analyzing, researching or providing feasible solutions through Requirements Elicitation, Requirements Analysis and Requirements Specification, and Requirements Validation, all of which are tied together by a business analyst through effective communication skills.
Business Analyst Communication Skills
Being able to communicate well is one of the most important skills a business analyst can possess, and it is 100% transferable to any other business analyst position.
The business analyst’s communication skills encompass a great deal of sub-skills including being able to listen, facilitate, negotiate, and resolve conflicts.
It also includes verbal and written communication skills. If either is left out, it will be difficult to come to any solution.
Business Analyst Elicitation Skills
The elicitation phase of a project is when you gather information you need to know about the project.
To do this well, you will need to use your communication skills of listening and facilitating.
Business Analysis and Specification Skills
This involves problem-solving towards an acceptable solution. If you have the skills to communicate, and conduct the elicitation steps well, analyzing solutions or requirements will come a natural next step in the process.
However, there are specific skills used in the analysis phase to help determine the best solutions or during your Requirements Enginneering. Some of the terminology and work involved in the Requirements phase may include:
Business Requirements – Also called Scope Statements or Feature Lists. These are guidelines that provides boundaries, from the business’s perspective, of the scope of what needs to get done.
Functional Requirements – As the name implies, this document will list all of the details of how a software is expected to function.
Use Cases – Simply put, this is the description of the process between a user, also called an actor, and the software written or used to help solve a problem (the software becomes useful to the user).
User Acceptance Tests (UAT) – A software program will be put to a test for the users to determine whether or not it solves the problem and how easy or difficult it is to work.
Data Models and Mapping – This provides a detailed analysis that shows how the data should flow through a system.
Diagramming – Putting the work flow into a visual that makes it easily understood.
Unified Modeling Language (UML) – Used to explain the design and the requirements of software, it is good for a business analyst to at least be familiar with the basics of UML.
Solution Assessment & Validation – This is the final step where the business analyst ensures the solution will work in practical day-to-day business use. Among other methods, this can involve demos, and User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
When you have gained the transferable skills associated with the basic steps, it’s also a good idea to be familiar with software development methodologies and tools that a business analyst uses.
The extent to which you use this knowledge will depend on individual organizations, but you should at least be familiar with terms such as Rational Unified Processes (RUP), Waterfall and Agile methods.
Tools used by business analysts differ from place to place, but you should, at the very least, be proficient in word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software.
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint is the current preferred method. Also be aware that there are numerous tools out there designed to help a business analyst with his job in each step, but they will not do the job for you.
You must first know the basic skills, and then the tools will serve to streamline your work.