The Business Analyst Toolkit – Interpersonal Skills

In addition to the analytical and technical skills that we need to bring to the table, interpersonal skills are absolutely vital to the business analyst's work.

When it comes to understanding the present state we need to think about how stakeholders view this issue. Is it important to them? Is it a contentious topic, something in which there is vested interest on many sides? If so, we could potentially be stepping into a mine field here of different ideas and different agendas, and we need to keep that in mind, so that we can extract information from our sources as objectively as possible and try and create a solution around which consensus can be built, so that a solution can eventually be implemented. To do so , we have to first understand HOW stakeholders might be impacted by this issue, and to what degree they are impacted. Furthermore, is this a positive or a negative impact?

We also need to think about how much support exists for progress to be made in any capacity whatsoever. It could be that this is a relatively low level priority for most people within the organization. If we think it should be of a higher priority, than the onus will be on us to lobby, to some extent, to influence and to build support for a solution to take place.  To do so we'll need to be able to provide convincing evidence that can help to rally others to our cause. We have to think about what cultural factors might relate to this issue as well.

Based on your organizations norms there may be certain different ways of doing things in place that might be very difficult to impact or influence, even if they are one of the underlying causes of the issue or preventing us from taking advantage of an opportunity. More positively, there might be certain traits of the organization or personalities within it that can allow us to very aggressively tackle this problem or to go after that opportunity in a big way.  Understanding these cultural factors give us an idea of what's possible and practical given the other people that we have to work with.  Finally, think again about that impact of the political climate within the organization.

This needs to be kept in mind when understanding the present state and what might shift or change what the responses might be as we move from here to some future state.

In that future we need to think about what will be different, better or worse, and what skills and knowledge will have been created within the organization? Here we can help to develop the skills of some of these stakeholders, perhaps make their workplace a more fun or desirable place to be in, which can lead to better talent in the future. We might make people more satisfied with their jobs, helping us to retain them in the long term or we can help to reduce frustrations that lead to higher levels of productivity.  All of these can be positive outcomes for the organization and relate directly to the personal context of the problems or opportunities we might be analyzing.

In determining how to get there there are a number of questions we should ask.

First, what communication methods are most effective and efficient when dealing with different stakeholders?

How can we help to convey our message and extract information from them that can be valuable? Often times focus groups or different moderated sessions might be used in order to gather more information about the needs of the organization. In these cases there may be arguments, disagreements about what is wrong or what the best path forward might be.

How do we defuse these and help to ensure that the focus remains on finding a solution that's best for everyone?

What kind of influence must be used, can be used, and by whom, and on whom?

Do we have the authority from a formal sense to require stakeholders to speak with us or provide us with information?

In many cases we might not, which means we need to be persuasive.

We need to find ways to make them believe, understand and buy into the value of what it is we're seeking to accomplish. After all, everyone perceives their own time as very valuable, and if you need some of someone else's the onus is on you to convince them that it's worth their time to give you some of theirs.

Finally, what kind of team environments must be managed within business analysis?

This is true both during the analysis process when multiple individuals might work together, and when it comes to the sort of solutions that we might propose. We need to understand the project environments that might be practical, possible, and likely to succeed within our organization, so that our recommendation scan be effective.

Key tools and skills that are extremely useful in this regard include a wide variety of communication skills, such as conflict resolution,  an awareness of cultural differences,  decision making skills,

facilitation, where we help to facilitate discussions between others, leadership, as well as negotiating skills, political awareness of the landscape around us and the type of responses we might expect from different stakeholders and why, and presentation skills that can allow us to share this information that we've been able to gather.