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Underlying Competencies for Business Analysts

Business Analysts play a pivotal role in digital transformation projects carried out by organizations. BAs are thus expected to have knowledge about key concepts of business analysis and be skilled in using different tools and techniques for eliciting, analyzing and managing requirements. In order to facilitate the five core responsibilities of business analyst and communicating requirements and in evaluating solutions, the BA is expected to have a set of competencies.  BABOK® defines 6 key groups of competencies that a BA is expected to possess. Each competency group constitutes of multiple sub competencies which are as discussed below. 1) Analytical Thinking & Problem Solving The BA must be able to understand and decipher requirements elicited and be able to devise solutions to overcome problems faced by customers. These are fundamental thinking skills where the individual works on breaking down the large problem into smaller, more manageable parts. The BA must logically reason and make judgments based on evidence and assumptions. This competency group consists of the following competencies. Creative Thinking A BA is expected to look at needs of stakeholders thinking from different perspectives and suggest unorthodox solutions. Creative thinking may be facilitated through brainstorming, mind mapping and lateral thinking. It is important for the BA to be a creative thinker as he is expected to be a change agent who facilitates innovation in an organizational context. Decision Making Decision-making ability in the context of business analysis refers to the analyst’s ability to make selection of a course of action or to be able to facilitate such a thinking process. It is a cognitive process where the BA must guide key stakeholders in making decisions by providing adequate and accurate amount of information in a format suitable for making necessary comparison of options. The BA may need to make decisions on which tools or techniques to use, which stakeholders to consult, which solution options to take and so on. Learning The BA is not expected to be ‘A master of all trades’. The BA must instead be able to listen, observe, learn and understand whatever is required to facilitate the process of providing solutions for problems and opportunities. Problem Solving Often BAs are expected to face many a problem during the lifetime of a project. A BAs role is to understand customer problems and be able to recommend suitable solutions. Problems solving requires mental skills that must be analytical as well as creative.  Systems Thinking Systems do not refer only to software systems. In system thinking, the BA is expected to consider every element in the context within scope as an interacting system when determining solution options. Hence, the software system being developed or the process being studies, stakeholders interested or impacted, interfacing systems, elements in the environment all form the context. The BA is expected to look at this bigger picture when performing his or her tasks. 2) Behavioral Characteristics Ethics A BA becomes a powerful individual within a project context, as he or she gains access to processes and information that may even be highly sensitive to a particular organization or stakeholders. The BA is thus expected to hold highest regard to the security and safety of accessing or using such information thus working with the highest level of integrity. Personal Organization BAs are often deployed to work in high-pressure environments. They are expected to liaise with multiple stakeholders, facilitating high value workshops to elicit requirements and then produce documents listing down the findings. In order to produce the requisite deliverables on time and to the expected level of quality it is imperative that a BA is self-organized and meticulous in his or her way of work. Trustworthiness Organizations and stakeholders provide access to information, systems and other high value assets sometimes even placing their entire business at risk. The BA is thus expected to uphold the trust placed on him by the stakeholders and ensure that due diligence is given in defining and devising solutions to satisfy customer needs. 3) Business Knowledge  Business Principles & Practices Business principles and practices are characteristics that are common across all organizations with a similar purpose and structure. Functions and capabilities such as HR, Finance, IT, Marketing & Sales that are needed by any organization are examples of such practices. Although not mandatory, it is good for a BA to be familiar with such practices so that they can consult and advise customers with relevant requirements. Industry Knowledge Many a competitive force shapes industries. BAs are required to understand these forces such as competitors, suppliers, buyers, substitutes etc. so that they can identify commonalities and differences that may influence business requirements. Organizational Knowledge Organizational knowledge refers to an understanding of the business architecture of the organization being analyzed. This includes understanding the business model adapted by the organization, the structure and relationships in place, people, data, technology and other aspects of the organization in place. Enterprise analysis frameworks such as ZACHMAN and POLDAT help in this case. Solution Knowledge Business analysts must attempt to relate and apply learning from other projects or programs to solve current business problems at hand without re-inventing the wheel. Hence, an understanding and familiarity of existing solutions (custom made or commercially available) gives BAs an added advantage. 4) Communication Skills Oral Communication It is important for a BA to be able to verbally express ideas, information or other matters. In addition to be able to express thoughts in a clear manner, the BA must also be able to actively listen to ensure that ideas generated by stakeholders are clearly understood. Teaching Business analysts are expected to communicate requirements to team members and provide guidance on scope. Thus they must train to be good teachers who are capable of understanding different learning capabilities of individuals and be able to adapt and customize learning material and experience accordingly. The BA must be able to cater to auditory or visual learners with appropriate use of training material. Written Communication Proper command over language in terms of vocabulary, grammar and style and use of other terms is essential to ensure that written text is correctly and adequately understood. 5) Interaction Skills Facilitation & Negotiation A key element of a BA job role is to be able to moderate group discussions and be able to enable participants to effectively articulate their thoughts and ideas. The BA must be able to define a proper process based on the audience and be able to guide the participants along the process so that the session leads to attainment of expected outcomes. Leadership & Influencing The BA’s role in defining and communicating requirements places a key leadership role in any project or group. Hence, the BA is expected to work together with the team in guiding them in terms of project scope, motivating them to reach shared goals and objectives for the team as well as the client stakeholders. The BA would be in the best position to be able to discuss sensitive and pertinent matters with the sponsor, client stakeholders, users as well as the implementation team and be able to guide them in the decision making process. Teamwork Business analysts are most often than not part of a team. It may be a project team, a team of SMEs or sometimes even as part of a client stakeholder team. The BA is expected to be having good skills in developing personal relationships, avoid conflicts and be able to work towards a common end goal. 6) Software Applications General Purpose Applications A business analyst is expected to have knowledge in applications that help carry out day-to-day project tasks. This includes MS Office suite, requirements management tools such as JIRA, communication tools such as Skype, Email client etc. Specialized Applications The BA must also be capable in using specialized tools such as document management systems, content management systems, sales force automation systems etc. which are built specifically for different purposes. This may depend on project requirements. So, if you want to become a successful BA it is necessary that you attempt to be competent in some or all of the above areas. Here're the top 5 reasons to start your career as business analyst  
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Underlying Competencies for Business Analysts

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Underlying Competencies for Business Analysts

Business Analysts play a pivotal role in digital transformation projects carried out by organizations. BAs are thus expected to have knowledge about key concepts of business analysis and be skilled in using different tools and techniques for eliciting, analyzing and managing requirements. In order to facilitate the five core responsibilities of business analyst and communicating requirements and in evaluating solutions, the BA is expected to have a set of competencies. 

BABOK® defines 6 key groups of competencies that a BA is expected to possess. Each competency group constitutes of multiple sub competencies which are as discussed below.

1) Analytical Thinking & Problem Solving
The BA must be able to understand and decipher requirements elicited and be able to devise solutions to overcome problems faced by customers. These are fundamental thinking skills where the individual works on breaking down the large problem into smaller, more manageable parts. The BA must logically reason and make judgments based on evidence and assumptions. This competency group consists of the following competencies.

Creative Thinking
A BA is expected to look at needs of stakeholders thinking from different perspectives and suggest unorthodox solutions. Creative thinking may be facilitated through brainstorming, mind mapping and lateral thinking. It is important for the BA to be a creative thinker as he is expected to be a change agent who facilitates innovation in an organizational context.

Decision Making
Decision-making ability in the context of business analysis refers to the analyst’s ability to make selection of a course of action or to be able to facilitate such a thinking process. It is a cognitive process where the BA must guide key stakeholders in making decisions by providing adequate and accurate amount of information in a format suitable for making necessary comparison of options. The BA may need to make decisions on which tools or techniques to use, which stakeholders to consult, which solution options to take and so on.

Learning
The BA is not expected to be ‘A master of all trades’. The BA must instead be able to listen, observe, learn and understand whatever is required to facilitate the process of providing solutions for problems and opportunities.

Problem Solving
Often BAs are expected to face many a problem during the lifetime of a project. A BAs role is to understand customer problems and be able to recommend suitable solutions. Problems solving requires mental skills that must be analytical as well as creative. 

Systems Thinking
Systems do not refer only to software systems. In system thinking, the BA is expected to consider every element in the context within scope as an interacting system when determining solution options. Hence, the software system being developed or the process being studies, stakeholders interested or impacted, interfacing systems, elements in the environment all form the context. The BA is expected to look at this bigger picture when performing his or her tasks.

2) Behavioral Characteristics

Ethics
A BA becomes a powerful individual within a project context, as he or she gains access to processes and information that may even be highly sensitive to a particular organization or stakeholders. The BA is thus expected to hold highest regard to the security and safety of accessing or using such information thus working with the highest level of integrity.

Personal Organization
BAs are often deployed to work in high-pressure environments. They are expected to liaise with multiple stakeholders, facilitating high value workshops to elicit requirements and then produce documents listing down the findings. In order to produce the requisite deliverables on time and to the expected level of quality it is imperative that a BA is self-organized and meticulous in his or her way of work.

Trustworthiness
Organizations and stakeholders provide access to information, systems and other high value assets sometimes even placing their entire business at risk. The BA is thus expected to uphold the trust placed on him by the stakeholders and ensure that due diligence is given in defining and devising solutions to satisfy customer needs.

3) Business Knowledge 

Business Principles & Practices
Business principles and practices are characteristics that are common across all organizations with a similar purpose and structure. Functions and capabilities such as HR, Finance, IT, Marketing & Sales that are needed by any organization are examples of such practices. Although not mandatory, it is good for a BA to be familiar with such practices so that they can consult and advise customers with relevant requirements.

Industry Knowledge
Many a competitive force shapes industries. BAs are required to understand these forces such as competitors, suppliers, buyers, substitutes etc. so that they can identify commonalities and differences that may influence business requirements.

Organizational Knowledge
Organizational knowledge refers to an understanding of the business architecture of the organization being analyzed. This includes understanding the business model adapted by the organization, the structure and relationships in place, people, data, technology and other aspects of the organization in place. Enterprise analysis frameworks such as ZACHMAN and POLDAT help in this case.

Solution Knowledge
Business analysts must attempt to relate and apply learning from other projects or programs to solve current business problems at hand without re-inventing the wheel. Hence, an understanding and familiarity of existing solutions (custom made or commercially available) gives BAs an added advantage.

4) Communication Skills

Oral Communication
It is important for a BA to be able to verbally express ideas, information or other matters. In addition to be able to express thoughts in a clear manner, the BA must also be able to actively listen to ensure that ideas generated by stakeholders are clearly understood.

Teaching
Business analysts are expected to communicate requirements to team members and provide guidance on scope. Thus they must train to be good teachers who are capable of understanding different learning capabilities of individuals and be able to adapt and customize learning material and experience accordingly. The BA must be able to cater to auditory or visual learners with appropriate use of training material.

Written Communication
Proper command over language in terms of vocabulary, grammar and style and use of other terms is essential to ensure that written text is correctly and adequately understood.

5) Interaction Skills

Facilitation & Negotiation
A key element of a BA job role is to be able to moderate group discussions and be able to enable participants to effectively articulate their thoughts and ideas. The BA must be able to define a proper process based on the audience and be able to guide the participants along the process so that the session leads to attainment of expected outcomes.

Leadership & Influencing
The BA’s role in defining and communicating requirements places a key leadership role in any project or group. Hence, the BA is expected to work together with the team in guiding them in terms of project scope, motivating them to reach shared goals and objectives for the team as well as the client stakeholders. The BA would be in the best position to be able to discuss sensitive and pertinent matters with the sponsor, client stakeholders, users as well as the implementation team and be able to guide them in the decision making process.

Teamwork
Business analysts are most often than not part of a team. It may be a project team, a team of SMEs or sometimes even as part of a client stakeholder team. The BA is expected to be having good skills in developing personal relationships, avoid conflicts and be able to work towards a common end goal.

6) Software Applications

General Purpose Applications
A business analyst is expected to have knowledge in applications that help carry out day-to-day project tasks. This includes MS Office suite, requirements management tools such as JIRA, communication tools such as Skype, Email client etc.

Specialized Applications
The BA must also be capable in using specialized tools such as document management systems, content management systems, sales force automation systems etc. which are built specifically for different purposes. This may depend on project requirements.

So, if you want to become a successful BA it is necessary that you attempt to be competent in some or all of the above areas. Here're the top 5 reasons to start your career as business analyst
 

Rumesh

Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin

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10 Useful Tips For Cracking The CBAP Exam

The Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) course is one of the most sought-after certifications in the corporate world. It’s a certification for senior business analysts and is something that is being taken up by professionals worldwide. Apart from work experience you also need to show expertise and experience in at least four of the following six knowledge areas—Requirements Planning & Management, Enterprise Analysis, Requirements Analysis and Documentation, Requirements Elicitation, Solution Assessment and Validation, Requirements Communication, and Business Analysis Fundamentals. Preparing for the CBAP certification exam can be a daunting task and here there are few tips to help you clear the exam: Set An Action Plan Having an action plan is important, no matter what exam you’re preparing for. Get hold of the study materials and decide on how many months or week you need to prepare for the exam. Take into account if you’ve some important project running in your office. Setting a goal and trying your best to achieve it can go a long way in helping to get started on with the journey. A 3-month preparation time is more or less enough for CBAP exam. You can also register for the exam well ahead of time as to commit yourself for an extensive preparation. Collect Your Resources Resources and study guides are essential, so make sure you have them all. BABOK or Business Analysis Body of Knowledge is the Bible of people preparing for CBAP exam. However, it can be a bit too much for starters. It’s better if you look for books and guides that give you a clear understanding of the basics of business analysis in an easier way. There are quite a few in the market and look for ones that offer stories and hypothetical scenarios. Read reviews before choosing one. BABOK—The Quintessential Guide No matter which guide you start with, you’d have to eventually end up with BABOK. Preparing for the CBAP exam is incomplete without going through BABOK by heart. Make sure to read every single thing in the book to link all the knowledge you gained from all the other study materials. Demonstrate Your Knowledge While memorizing the terms given in BABOK is more than a necessity, being able to apply those concepts is also very important when it comes to success. In the CBAP exam, you’ll come across numerous situational scenarios and a clear understanding of the language and usage of the six knowledge areas is critical. You need to align your business analysis experience and skills with the exam questions to succeed. Have A Clear Understanding Of The Concepts Simply glancing over chapters will do more harm than good to your preparation. In order to pass, you need to have a proper understanding of the ideas and concept and apply them to whatever context you’re presented with in the exam hall. Don’t hurry while giving answers—read and think carefully before attempting each question. Know A-Z About Knowledge Areas Regardless of which study guide you follow, all have one common recommendation—know all the knowledge areas and the tasks related to them well. Knowing the input, output, and the associated technique is equally important. You also need to learn how to link them to the tasks during application. Make sure you’re well-versed with all the terms before the D-day. Use Flash Cards It’s natural to find it difficult to retain some of the definitions and terms. Take help from flash cards which offer the definition of each and every term in each of the knowledge areas. This is a fun way to memorize the terms and you can make these cards for yourself or purchase a ready-made deck. Practice Is The Key No matter how much you prepare, everything looks different when you actually sit for the exam. No matter how your action plan was, make sure to practicing writing as many mock question papers as possible. Get A CBAP Simulator A great way to test your knowledge is by getting a CBAP simulator. It contains important questions and you would have a fair idea as what all to prepare from BABOK and prevent the risk of skipping through something that is important. Consider Training Getting a formal training always help and can help you to prepare faster and also in a streamlined manner. Last minutes tips and ideas can always help you in cracking the exam. Last but not the least, make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before the exam. Don’t try re-reading the BABOK overnight as the CBAP is a three-hour long exam and you need to have a clear and focused mind in order to score well.
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I myself purchased an online exam simulator offered by Watermark learning and did over 2000 questions. Exam simulators are structured in such a manner that you can first do questions relevant to a particular knowledge area (and that too you can attempt multiple times) before you try an actual simulation exam. Make sure you select a time slot where you can spend 4 hours when doing a practice test. This will also give an idea about your timing. Now it is time to do your 3rd pass of the BABOK® guide. I read each knowledge area of the BABOK® and then read the related content from my study guide and immediately answered the questions related to the knowledge area. I repeated this for all 6 knowledge areas. Once this was done, I immediately took 2 practice exams. This gave me a clear idea about where I stood (Which was actually quite good in my case). Two weeks before the exam, I read the BABOK® along with the study guide one last time and did one last simulation exam. Taking the Exam The exam constitutes of 200 MCQ questions to be completed within a 4 hours time period. On the exam day, make sure you arrive at the examination center at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start. I wrote the exam in Singapore, which is an alien country to me coming from Sri Lanka. I made sure that I found the exam center on the day prior to the exam just to make sure that I am there on time on the exam day. On the day prior to the exam, I only went through my short notes and flashcards (which actually had all the knowledge areas, key concepts from the BABOK®). You will not be allowed to take anything inside the exam center; not your purse, watch, handkerchief, mobile phone, stationary and not even a bottle of water. You will be provided with a writing pad, a marker and an eraser to take down notes. The center staff will do the necessary paperwork, check you in and allocate your test computer. The initial part of the exam is to verify some personal information followed by a few steps to familiarize you with the testing tool. Make use of that time to take down any notes on the writing pad. I myself noted down all the knowledge areas and key concepts along with the acronyms just so that I am equipped and ready to confidently answer the questions. Take your time to read the questions carefully, mark and skip difficult questions without wasting time. The testing tool allows you to always come back and review your answers. Once you submit the test, you will get another questionnaire about your testing experience. At the end you will immediately get to know whether you have got through or not. CBAP certification was helpful in broadening the knowledge and giving us insights on how to optimize performance of business analysis activities. Remember! You have two attempts. But always try to get through in your first go. All the very best for your CBAP® exams!!
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