In the realm of business analysis, technical skills such as data analytics, project management, and proficiency in tools like SQL and Excel are highly valued. These hard skills provide the foundation for a successful business analyst. However, as the business world evolves, there’s a growing understanding that equally as important, if not more so, are the soft skills for a business analyst. Often overlooked, these ‘soft’ skills encompass a range of personal attributes, communication abilities, and social finesse that can differentiate a good business analyst from a great one. This article will delve into the most valuable soft skills for business analysts, drawing on our experience, academic research, and real-world case studies.
6 Most Valuable Soft Skills for Business Analysts
1. Communication Skills
Effective communication is paramount in the role of a business analyst. Analysts often act as intermediaries between various stakeholders, such as IT professionals, management, and external vendors. They need to articulate complex ideas, present findings, and translate technical jargon into a language everyone can understand. As per a study published in the “International Journal of Information, Business and Management” (2018), it was found that communication skills were rated as one of the top three critical competencies for business analysts1.
- Active Listening: Business analysts need to listen to different perspectives to understand and analyze business requirements accurately. This aspect of communication allows analysts to ask clarifying questions and ensure they have a clear understanding of the situation before they start formulating solutions.
- Presentation Skills: Business analysts often have to present their findings to various stakeholders. Therefore, the ability to communicate information clearly, concisely, and persuasively is essential.
- Written Communication: Given the digital age we live in, written communication, whether through emails, reports, or documentation, is an important part of a business analyst’s daily routine.
2. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze situations, consider multiple perspectives, and make logical, informed decisions. It involves evaluating facts, questioning assumptions, and determining the best course of action. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the top 10 skills needed in the workplace in 20202.
In the context of business analysis, critical thinking is necessary when identifying business needs, formulating solutions, and making recommendations. Business analysts need to think critically to:
- Identify and understand problems: They need to look beyond the surface to understand the root cause of a problem.
- Evaluate information from different sources: They need to analyze and synthesize information from various sources and stakeholders.
- Make informed decisions: Business analysts need to assess the pros and cons of different solutions and make recommendations based on the best possible outcome.
3. Problem-Solving Skills
Due to our practical knowledge and extensive review of research literature, problem-solving skills stand out as a cornerstone of a business analyst’s soft skills set. As their primary role often involves identifying business problems and crafting effective solutions, a business analyst is often considered a problem-solver by default.
- Analytical skills: Business analysts need to analyze data, processes, and systems to understand what’s working, what isn’t, and why.
- Creativity and Innovation: While analytical skills are important, business analysts also need to think creatively to come up with innovative solutions that might not be immediately apparent.
- Decision-Making: Business analysts need to weigh the pros and cons of different solutions and make recommendations based on their analysis.
4. Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills, are the skills we use to interact and communicate with other people. A study published in “Behaviour & Information Technology” (2018) emphasized the significant role interpersonal skills play in the success of business analysts3.
- Collaboration and Teamwork: Business analysts often work in team environments and need to cooperate with various stakeholders to accomplish their objectives.
- Negotiation and Persuasion: They must negotiate with stakeholders to reach a consensus on requirements, and persuade them to adopt their recommended solutions.
- Leadership: Even if not in a formal leadership role, business analysts often need to lead project teams, facilitate meetings, and ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of others. Daniel Goleman, a leading researcher in the field, proposed that EI includes five key elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills4.
In a business analyst’s role, EI is essential for several reasons. First, self-awareness and self-regulation help analysts manage their reactions, especially in high-stress situations or when dealing with difficult stakeholders. Motivation, on the other hand, can fuel their passion for problem-solving and drive for results. Empathy allows them to understand the needs and concerns of stakeholders, while social skills aid in building rapport and fostering collaborative relationships.
The business environment is dynamic and constantly changing. Business analysts, therefore, need to be adaptable to respond to these changes and continue delivering value. This includes learning new tools and methodologies, adapting to changes in project scope, or adjusting to new business strategies.
A survey conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that adaptability and flexibility are among the top three skills recruiters look for in business analysts5.
Conclusion on Soft Skills for Business Analysts
The essence of a business analyst’s role revolves around the amalgamation of technical proficiency and a sophisticated set of soft skills. Whether it’s the ability to communicate effectively, think critically, solve problems, work well with others, or adapt to change, these soft skills for business analysts can significantly enhance their effectiveness and overall success in their role.
Drawing on our experience and the academic studies we’ve highlighted, we hope that this comprehensive exploration of the soft skills for business analysts provides valuable insights for those aiming to thrive in this field. Remember, while technical skills may get you the job, it’s often the soft skills that will help you excel and make a significant impact in your role as a business analyst.
- Akhilesh, K.B. (2018). Critical Competencies for Effective Business Analysts. International Journal of Information, Business and Management, 10(2), 30-43.
- World Economic Forum. (2020). The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Geneva: World Economic Forum.
- Paechter, B. (2018). The role of interpersonal skills in the success of business analysts. Behaviour & Information Technology, 37(7), 730-743.
- Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
- Project Management Institute. (2017). Pulse of the Profession: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the high cost of low performance. Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute.