How To Create A Powerful Business Analysis Career Plan

May 27, 2022

Have you ever been stuck in a supermarket queue - wondering whether to switch?

You're stuck there, and you're scanning the other queues to see if you can get through faster. You're not in a rush but you just don't want to hang around.
So you make a run for it, and make the switch. And you watch the other queue as it comes to a standstill while the cashier's battling with something.
You pat yourself on the back - it could have backfired, but you made an instinctive move.

So if you get stuck at any moment in your career, there’s always an option to go quicker. So what’s the best way to make the instinctive move?

In this article what we’ll cover is:

  1. How to evaluate what you’ve already done in your career (and why that’s essential)
  2. How to identify what type of skills you need to be a successful Business Analyst
  3. Why the "Life As A Business Analyst Report" is a good place to start for designing your 1-page career plan

Evaluate What You’ve Already Done (And Why That’s Essential)

When I speak to people about unconscious competence, they often equate it with being, well, unconscious. In reality what it means is you have a set of skills which you’ve developed over time that you use without even thinking. For example you could ride a bike whilst eating a sandwich.

But the problem with unconscious competence is that it’s so automatic, you don’t realise your own mountain of value.

When people come to me for help with business analysis training, the first question I ask is not “Do you know anything about business analysis?”. What I want to know is “what are your past achievements and what changes have you helped organisations make?”

So the first step is to unpack your “mountain of value” - in this are hidden gems which will reveal that you’re closer to becoming a business analyst than you realise.

Identify The Skills You Need To Be A Successful Business Analyst

Ask 10 hiring managers what Business Analysis skills they look for and they’ll give 10 different answers. But underlying this is a core set of non-negotiable skills which I call as the ‘universal principles’.

I fit these skills into 3 categories:
  1. Caring like it were your own business
  2. Thinking like a technologist
  3. Acting like a consultant

This gives you a flavour of what’s needed to be successful, and how I like to summarise this is that:

A Business Analyst:

… can co-ordinate business and technology stakeholders

… in a highly efficient, structured and rigorous way

… that enables real business problems to be solved.

On our programmes, we use a skills framework to go deeper into this (though if you ask me what’s most important - it’s impeccable communication skills).

Why The "Life As A Business Analyst Report" Is A Good Place To Start

Starting (and growing) a Business Analysis career can be very overwhelming, and as someone recently said to me, for an apprentice it’s powerful to learn through other’s experiences. 

Not only that but you need a structure for your plan which provides a framework for how to prepare, how to secure a role and how to excel in the position.

Once you’ve read this report, then you can put together your 1-page career plan (we’ll send you this complementary copy when you get the report) - and there’s nothing more satisfying for a Business Analyst than having a concise, clear one page (that kills off the overwhelm monster).

But Do I Have What It Takes To Be A Good BA?

This is an often asked question, and it mostly comes up because of a lack of understanding of what a business analyst does. 

So you need two things:
  1. A clear definition of a business analyst role so you know what you would be doing
  2. A skills framework that breaks down the role into the vital skills needed - done in such a way that helps you score whether you have the level of skill right now.

And then you would simply need to focus in on those skills development areas, as well as the sheer willingness to communicate well - and voila! You have what it takes to be a good BA!

Be Careful Not To Confuse Business Analysis With Business Analytics

A common confusion which derails planning is where people conclude that to be a business analyst they need to know all about data analysis (and perhaps even data science).

It’s one thing to analyse data for a business, and it’s another thing to help the business understand it’s problems, structure their thinking for them and help them put in place solutions - and those solutions could certainly be related to data. Or systems. Or processes.

You as a Business Analyst will be doing the latter. So the next time you see Python, SQL or anything like this on a Business Analyst job profile it should be a red flag to you that the lines are blurred.

How The Right Mindset Can Bring A Career Plan To Life

Sarah started out as a KYC analyst in a large UK bank - but she wanted something more. With her subject expertise she landed a BA role on a complex project I was on.

Apart from her incredible ability to communicate in a clear and structured way, she was so confident and determined to learn that within a short space of time, I saw her move from a junior BA to a senior BA in a contract role.

She believed in herself, and she knew what she wanted - and with that achieved her ‘wanting more’.

Lets Recap

  • Making a decision to get unstuck is always a wise move but it needs a plan
  • When putting together a Business Analysis career plan you need to start with valuing what you’ve done up until now
  • If you properly unpack your ‘mountain of value’ you’ll be surprised at what you have within
  • You then need to evaluate yourself against the skills that every successful business analyst has
  • And most important of all is having an impeccable set of communication skills
  • Going through the “Life As A Business Analyst Report” will help you think about your career plan by seeing how others’ BA careers have played out
  • But never doubt that you couldn’t be a good BA - because everyone has the inherent ability
  • Misunderstanding what Business Analysts are is a common mistake that sidetracks you into getting confused with other roles (such as Data Analysts)
  • And the most important transformation to fast track a Business Analysis career is your mindset of self belief

Once you hop out of that queue you just can’t help feeling smug

It’s only after you make that leap that you can really see how you were stuck, and if you’d have stayed there it would have just been painful.

And that feeling of personal pride in having made a wise decision does wonders to build confidence and self-belief.

Here's what to do now

James Compton is the Director of Professional Development for the IIBA. He is a Business Analyst Consultant and Trainer with over 20 years experience, and is on a mission to raise the profile of Business Analysts as highly valued members of any good project team.