Posted by tac_admin, October 12, 2012

Being Clueless Can Make You a Great Business Analyst

I always say that the BA job gives a person a lot of flexibility. The business analyst skill set transfers to any industry; once you have mastered the BA skills they can be used in any industry.

This has given me the opportunity to work in many different industries – financial, banking, cable, warehouse management, and power delivery (utilities).

My clients are sometimes nervous or scared about applying for jobs in an industry they don’t have experience working in. I coach them on how to answer questions about that in the interview process; how to position themselves as a valuable resource to the company even though the don’t have industry knowledge. (If you need help with this, click here to sign up for laser coaching).

They get the job and then what (98% of the people I coach for interview prep get the job)? Now they have a job in an industry they don’t know so what happens next? They learn the industry.

But how do they do that? By asking questions…and taking notes, lots of notes.

I’ll give you an example of a personal experience. When I started working at an electric company I had no clue about anything related to electricity – except that I needed it do laundry, watch TV, get on the internet, turn on a lamp, etc.

I was assigned to my first project after being on the job for one week. I held my first requirements session and I was nervous because I didn’t know anything about the topic we were covering. But I walked in to the meeting showing confidence. I started out explaining what the objective of the meeting was, explained the use of the parking lot, and went over the agenda for the day.

I asked one question of one of the SMEs in the room: Tell me what you do today when you install a solar panel in the field.

What did I do? I wrote down practically everything he said. When he used an acronym I asked him to tell me what it stood for. When he finished explaining the process, I went back through my notes and asked questions like “why do you do that at this point in the process?” What do you do with the data you’re collecting when you do the install?” How do you get that data to the person you send it to, do you send it by email? Transmit it from a device? Fax it? Take it to the office?

I can tell you I now know everything there is to know about installing solar panels – all the way from inventory management to replacement and retiring of that equipment. So after one requirements session in my second week at that company, I could then check off one area of the industry that I knew. Was there a lot more to learn? Absolutely, but that’s how you learn it. Start asking questions and take notes. It’s not possible to remember everything someone says, especially when you are learning something new.

Why is it important to know how solar panels are installed? It’s important to understand how business is conducted in that organization. This will help you understand why they have the requirements they have and how to assist with determining the best solution for your customers. You will build trust with your business partners when they see you truly “get” what they do – including the pain points in their processes that you can help make better for them.

How does this make you a great BA? It’s human nature to make assumptions based on things you know. When you are stepping into an area you are clueless about, you will naturally ask more questions because you are learning. As a BA, asking questions is one of the most important things you do in your job. Questions make people dig deeper and give better answers with more information. If you have been in your industry for a while and you find that you have been missing requirements, take a step back and act as if you are new to the industry. Start asking more questions, make no assumptions, and get your business partners to get down to the nitty gritty details.


5 responses to “Being Clueless Can Make You a Great Business Analyst”

  1. Hello

    Would you be interested in presenting a webinar on the Mentoring skills or the BA career? I am creating the 2013 webinar lineup over the next few weeks and would like to invite you to present.

    You can reach me at

    Thank you
    Maureen McVey, CBAP
    Head of Learning and Development

    • Teresa Bennett says:

      Hi Maureen – I sent you an email letting you know I would love to present a webinar for the IIBA on either of these subjects.

  2. […] questions to broaden discussion and clarification. Put yourself in the position of being “clueless” about the process you’re discussing so that others will correct you and explain the options, […]

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