World-class Business Analyst?

World-class Business Analyst?

By Tim Lister

Last month, Rick Harris of DTE; Jim Highsmith, author of Adaptive Software Development; and I found ourselves in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Rick asked Jim and me what would be the skills, characteristics, and talents of the perfect business analyst. What a great question! I was especially pleased that he did not limit it to just a discussion of tools of the trade, but opened it up to any dimension we found pertinent. Here is the product of our labor:

Communication and Collaboration

  • Establish a close working relationship with the business community (go native).
  • Demonstrate fundamental consulting and communication skills: listening, writing, presentation, abstraction, and negotiation.
  • Comfortably operate with all levels of leadership.
  • Provide subject matter expertise for business domain and processes, current business and system challenges, industry trends, and common practices.
  • Serve as the focal point for knowledge transfer between the business unit and the delivery team on the context and requirements for the solution.


  • Elicit requirements using a variety of techniques to articulate the user needs and desired system capabilities.
  • Decompose requirements into derived functional, informational, performing, constraining, and subjective requirements.
  • Validate requirements for quality attributes, such as clarity, conciseness, correctness, completeness, testability, and traceability.
  • Identify areas of high complexity or risk.
  • Understand opportunities for reuse of existing IT assets.
  • Be curious about business domains and be proactive in identifying areas for improvement.


  • Translate requirements into models (control, data, and process) and specifications to reflect and confirm understanding of the requirements.
  • Identify and reduce ambiguity for the business unit and delivery team.
  • Document complex business logic and business rules using appropriate tools.
  • Apply best practices to ensure optimal user experience.
  • Apply best practices to estimate size and cost of solution.
  • Characterize the business value of the proposed solution.

Teamwork and Collaboration

  • Build relationships and influence with all stakeholders to ensure a successful project outcome.
  • Manage and prioritize requirements to ensure that scope is consistent with expectations.
  • Effectively manage the change control process.
  • Strike the optimal balance of documentation verses verbal communication with the delivery team.
    Promote prototyping and iterative development to address high complexity and risk.
  • Defer low value requirements to reduce solution cost.
  • Drive decision making to keep the project moving quickly.


  • Ensure appropriate process, standards, tools, and practices are implemented within the project engagements.
  • Support system test activities to ensure fitness of use for the business partner.

By definition, nobody is the perfect analyst, but I believe it is truly worthwhile to talk about that Perfect 10. It gives us a measuring stick for ourselves and for our staff. It gives us pointers to where to work on improvement. It tries to define the world-class analyst.

Tim Lister is an author as well as an expert instructor and consultant. He teaches “Mastering the Requirements Process” and “Requirements Modeling”, as well as “Managing Software Risk” and “Leading Successful Software Projects”.

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