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Psychology of Business Analysis

sheryllampert Blog, Business Transformation

I have no background in psychology but I do find myself acting the role of cubicle therapist. Although not explicit in the job description of a Business Analyst, it’s implied. Both roles require a great deal of analyzing human behavior. Some core competencies associated with the study of psychology and business analysis are listed below:

Psychologist                 Business Analyst

Analysis Skills                                                                        Analysis Skills
Research Skills                                                                      Research Skills
 Facilitation                                                                               Facilitation
  Written and Verbal Communication                                  Written and Verbal Communication
      Problem Solving                                                                     Problem Solving
    Interpersonal Skills                                                             Interpersonal Skills
Listening Skills                                                                      Listening Skills
    Observation Skills                                                                 Observation Skills

Many of the soft skills of a business analyst that makes him/her successful is the ability to listen and elicit information from the business users. With that, building a trusting relationship that allows the user to feel comfortable sharing information is important. To take that one step further, we must also be able to interpret informal conversations into requirements. I’m not saying we should interpret a story about how someone’s yard is not as green this year into some requirement about how the system in question should automagically generate a series of reports based on how the user angles his chair; but listening to complaints and even work efficiency fantasies can result in some useful requirements gathering. Although not appropriate in all work environments, I’ve done some very successful requirements gathering sessions in the kitchen, on the elevator, and at happy hour. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has solved business problems over a block of 3 year aged Vermont cheddar.

Other competencies that are not too different from a psychiatrist include Facilitation and Negotiation. It’s inevitable that people can get emotional. In most projects we are faced with conflict and differing views. Being able to successfully play the role of moderator as well helps us to keep business users focused and still maintaining a level of trust.
I don’t want to underestimate that technical skills and knowledge that are needed for both roles, but I believe that technical skills can be learned, knowledge can be obtained, but the soft skills a person may possess makes a good business analyst. This is why a good business analyst must always Listen. Understand. Achieve.

About the Author

Sheryl Lampert is a consultant at Statera with more than 10 years of experience implementing technology solutions. When not at work, she’s planning her next mountaineering trip in the Colorado Rockies or dreaming of higher mountain expeditions overseas.