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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oh The Joys of Communication OR Lack Thereof

Communication is 90% or more of a business analyst job in my opinion, but great communication skills is not only the responsibility of just the the business analyst but also the project team as whole.  In order to have a cohesive and collaborative team communication has to be tight.  How the project team communicates with each other is key.  However, when the time comes for trainings, such as communication, is offered I consistently see these types of trainings or courses not heavily attended when up against topics like agile, business rules, or business architecture to name a few.  Don't get me wrong I'm not taking away from any of those courses because we need to keep up with what is going on in the industry and learn those things; however, we can never forget the fundamentals.  

One of the skills a business analyst needs to have (this is not optional) is great communication.  We communicate all day long to gather requirements and consult.  This is not a skill that can be lacking and not a skill that can be easily forgotten to sharpen as opportunities arise to do so.  It's an important skill that will either make you or break you as a business analyst as well as make or break your project. Whether you do face to face meetings or virtual meetings you have to be an effective communicator not only to articulate your needs but to also capture the needs of your stakeholders.

However, it's not only the business analyst who is responsible for strengthening these skills but all those on the project team.  This is a skill we all need.  As I've had the pleasure of being the project management field for over 15+ years wearing multiple hats there are some common communication pitfalls that should be avoided:

  • When on a conference call or in person, let the person speaking finish their thoughts/statements before making a statement.  I have found that on conference calls people have a tendency to just cut other people off while they are speaking.  The message you are conveying to the person speaking is that what he/she saying is not important.  Though that may not be your intent that is how it can perceived.  It can also set a precedence with that person to not speak up if he/she cannot finish their thoughts.  That is not what you want because if the team is to be cohesive and collaborative everyone's opinion counts.
  • Never start a sentence with, "You Need To...".  This automatically puts the other person on the defensive.  You can get your point across by maybe saying, "Maybe we should try" or even "I think we should take this approach because of "X"". 
  • When in person and you are speaking to someone watch your body language.  Your body helps to convey your message so though your message may be positive your body language can turn that positive message to a negative really quickly.
  • Be flexible in switching up your communication style (some types of communication styles are: aggressive, passive, assertive).  Not everyone can be approached the same way.  Get to learn your audience and determine their likes and dislikes and adjust your communication style.  This takes the skill of building relationships which is not something everyone is comfortable with but to be a successful business analyst you have to be comfortable with forming and building relationships.
  • Get to know your communication style.  Know thyself.  It's important that you know who you are and how you communicate to fully understand how to communicate with others.
I interact with people all day long and one of the most frustrating things I have found is that people are not considerate of others and how their actions impact others. Take a minute and think about what you say before you say it and the consequences of what you say. Communication is key on any project team, and life in general. The majority of the misunderstandings come about because people don't think about the message they are conveying and how they are conveying it.

As business analysts do all you can do to effectively communicate.  It's important.  When courses are offered around communication or other soft skills take them because if you have learned one thing from that course it's worth it.  All of it will make you a stronger and well rounded BA.

Best Regards,
Paula Bell

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The BLI Concept™ - The Well Rounded BA

I am pleased to announce a new concept I will be working on this year, the BLI Concept™.

I have been in many different industries during this wonderful work of business analysis and I have been part of very successful projects, not so successful projects, very successful business analysts and not so successful business analysts.  I am the type of person who likes to constantly learn.  With that I do a lot of observing and self-introspection.   I always try to learn from every meeting I conduct, every requirement walk through I’m a part, all requirement documents I have created, etc...

I have found that as a business analyst there are certain skills that are needed to be successful, as I’m sure many of you have found as well, it’s more than just knowing the concepts of business analysis.  To be successful as a business analyst you must understand the concepts but more importantly you have to understand where and how to apply those concepts.  In order to do that you have to understand how to leader with or without influence as well as how to interact with the individuals on our project team.  It sounds logical and simple but it truly is not that simple as I’ve seen many business analyst not be successful because at least one if not more of these skills were lacking.

The BLI Concept™ is a concept that will help business analyst bring the hard skills and soft skills together to become that more rounded and successful Business Analyst.  BLI stands for business analysis, leadership and interpersonal skills. I have found that when all of these items are present you can be very successful as a business analyst.  Whether you are new to business analysis, doing business analysis for a while or even a leader in business analysis it is important to ensure that there is a balance between the hard and soft skills because it is that balance and mixture that will make you a success business analyst.
Look for more information on this concept as I continue to write my blog over the weeks.  Some of the things that will be discussed as I begin to bring forth this concept are as follows:

·         Business Analysis
o   What is this thing called “Business Analysis?”
o   What are the hard skills of a business analyst?
o   When to utilize the fundamentals of business analysis
·         Leadership Skills
o   What is the definition of Leadership?
o   What are the characteristics of a Leader
o   What are the skills that a leader should possess
o   Why development should be a focus when in leadership positions?
o   How do Leadership and Business Analysis relate

§  Why is Leadership Important to Business Analysis?
·         Interpersonal Skills
o   What are Interpersonal Skills?
o   What are the Types of Interpersonal Skills?
o   How do Interpersonal Skills and Business Analysis relate?
§  Why are they important to business analysis?

I’m very excited to develop this concept and I welcome your feedback and thoughts as I begin to develop this.

Paula Bell

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Post of 2012 - Great 2012 To Come!

I'm excited about what 2012 is going to bring. Last year was a great foundational year for Paula A Bell Consulting, LLC. I consider 2012 a continuation of building a strong foundation. I have some new ideas and some real specific goals I want to achieve throughout the year. This year I'm excited as this company is multi-faceted and all my services will be tapped into. I have a couple of weddings to direct, quite a few people to mentor, speaking engagements, articles to write as well as a concept that I would like to bring forth through blogging and potentially a book. One of my main goals is to consistently blog.

I took some time at the end of 2011 to reflect on all the things that occurred in 2011. 2011 was a year of a lot of changes, life altering events and to be totally honest chaos. I was EXTREMELY stressed and just not happy overall. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what was causing the stress but it was impacting my health, emotions, physical and spiritual well being. The last 1 week and a alf I took off from work and I found that I wasn't happy because I wasn't happy with me. Meaning, I just wasn't feeling good in where I was at because I felt like my life was out of control with so many changes. I did self introspection and got my life organized, even down to my earrings. The family and i started working out again and have lost 4 lbs in the last two weeks, as well as eating healthier. I listed out 12 priorities for this year and will only focus on those 12 priorities. My motto this year is to eliminate people and things that are causing unnecessary stress. I had a lot of that in 2011 that seeped in that I didn't even realize.

So look for great things in 2012. As I'm feeling good and very focused this year.

Great things to come in 2012 for everyone!

Paula Bell