10 Skills All Business Analysts Should Possess

SQL. Agile. Business Process Models. These are just some of the skills you'll need as a business analyst.

Does a Business Analyst need to be able to juggle and breathe fire at the same time? Are Microsoft Office and Visio really that important to know? Who needs Business Process Models and SQL Queries anyways? If you can change a flat tire in 30 seconds, you’re the man for the job, right?

Let’s find out what skills a Business Analyst actually needs in order to be successful in the workplace.

First off, a Business Analyst is a person who analyzes the operation of a department or functional unit to develop a general systems solution to the problem. They generally don’t breathe fire, or patch flat tires, except on the weekends.

Business Analyst Skills

Below we’ve compiled a list of 10 necessary skills that every business analyst should possess. We broke the 10 skills up into two separate categories: Technical Skills and Personal Skills.

Technical Skills
  1. Technology
  2. Research
  3. Data Review/Statistical Analysis
  4. Financial Planning
  5. Documentation/Organization
Personal Skills
  1. Problem Solving
  2. Decision Making
  3. Managerial Skills
  4. Communication
  5. Negotiation

Now we’ll break it down into more detailed summaries of what each skill entails.

Common Business Analyst Skills Graph

Technical Skills

1. Technology: I Hope You’re Tech Savvy

Be one with technology. If you hate computers, but love noodling for catfish, now is your time to jump ship.

Extensive knowledge of the IT industry is a must for this position, and it’s essential that you stay up to date on industry developments.

Carey Schwaber, a Senior Analyst of Application Development at Forrester Research said:

The business technology analyst operates a business function or business process and actually implements changes to how that process is automated using tools like BPM solutions and rules engines. Their job is to simultaneously know how the business should best operate, and to optimize business processes, business information, and business experiences, and actually make sure those change are implemented in the software.

Having the ability to analyze the capabilities of tools and technologies in the modern era is crucial to succeeding as a business analyst.

Depending on the exact title of your position, there are specific technical computer skills and certificates that you must be comfortable with.

Some of these are:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Software Design Tools
  • SQL Queries
  • Business Process Models
  • Many other programs

Using our resume database at Zippia, we formed a graph at the bottom of this article that shows the top 20 technical skills found on successful Business Analyst resumes.

2. Research: Search and Destroy

So, if the massive amount of technical knowledge required to be a successful Business Analyst hasn’t deterred you yet, I hope you’re ready for some investigating.

You must research every corner of the Internet when beginning a new project, like you lost one of your favorite, lucky socks and you can’t stop until every inch of the house has been turned upside down.

Research is the first step in forming a final solution to your company’s problem. It’s the gathering of the information and statistical data needed to form a solution.

Using your IT and technological skills, you have to be able to gather accurate information and analyze it on a daily basis. You have to provide high quality and detailed requirements to everyone involved in the project, meaning if anyone has questions, your detailed research must be able to answer them.

Again, your company is counting on you to find the best solution to their problem, not the third best. You must be able to take the problem from your company, and conduct extensive research on it until you’ve become an expert on the issue at hand.

This is similar to the data analysis section below, but the research comes first. It allows you to figure out financial planning and assess the risks involved with potential solutions.

If your research is off, your ideas will not be heard.

No one will believe you until you’ve conducted extensive investigations on the problem, and you can prove that your solution is the most sound.

3. Data Review and Statistical Analysis: Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Your technical skills are sufficient, the research is done, and you now find yourself floating (hopefully not sinking) in a sea of numbers.

Gathering statistics and data on whatever your company’s problem is, is dandy, but analyzing the data and statistics is the super important part.

Data analysis requires you to understand gap analysis, risk assessment, financial planning, and statistical analysis.

Analyze and make sense of the statistics you’ve gathered.

This is the typical process for figuring out a successful business solution:

  1. Conduct research on problem
  2. Gather data and statistics
  3. Review research and data
  4. Interpret and analyze the data
  5. Determine the best solution for your company

Confidence in producing and reviewing data and information models is crucial. The data you gather will help you plan out the finances of your business solution as well.

Don’t let those numbers drag you down.

4. Financial Planning: Money, Money, Money

Take a sip of coffee, we’re almost done with the technical skills.

The research and data has been analyzed and conquered, and a solution to the company’s problem is visible just over the horizon.

The next step is financial planning. You have to take the numbers and research you’ve conducted and plan out exactly how much everything is going to cost.

Financial planning is the task of determining how a business will afford to achieve its strategic goals and objectives. Usually, a financial plan is created immediately after the vision and objectives have been set. This comes after the research and data analysis.

This is extremely important when forming a successful business solution.

The goal is to help your company and the clients profit. If your financial plan isn’t accurate you could cost the company and/or the client money. That won’t make you very many friends.

You should know:

  • How much your course of action will cost the company at each step of the process.
  • How much each step in the course of action will cost the client.
  • How beneficial your solution is to everyone involved.
  • Exactly how much will the company/client benefit?

5. Documentation/Organization: Record Everything

You survived and made it to the last technical skill.

Organization and constant documentation will only make your life easier as a Business Analyst.

Documentation is the process of writing down and recording everything you do during the creation and implementation of your business solution.

Stay organized and document every detail from start to finish.

If you’re organized and your documentation is clear and concise, it will make your job easier. You will be able to seamlessly explain each step of your project to others.

The easiest way to ensure thateveryone understands your plan of action is to show others exactly what’s happening. Show them your recordings and documentation since you’ve begun researching the company’s problem.

You should be able to explain every single step of your process (from research to finished solution) to a variety of people as well. Organized documentation will help you communicate technical concepts to non-technical employees. Everyone needs to understand your plan.

Don’t leave those solid writing skills at home.

Your documentation must be clear to others as well as yourself. Show them your research and data; don’t just tell them about it.

Personal Skills

6. Problem Solving: Stay Ready

The ability to properly frame and structure a problem is 75 percent of the effort to discern a solution.
- Ron Bonig, CIO of the George Washington University.

Your job is to develop solutions to problems the business is encountering (obviously). You will encounter random and frequent changes while coming up with your own business solutions. Thus, you must be ready to continuously adapt and resolve problems.

Be flex-daptable. I know, that’s not a real word, but you get the point. Flexibility and adaptability in the workplace are a must.

You need to:

  • Fully understand the company’s problem(s)
  • Outline parameters
  • Determine all of the potential solutions
  • Quickly react and solve new problems

Business Analysts need to create a common understanding of the problem, the potential solutions, and determine the extent of the project.

You will also need to assist co-workers in solving technical challenges, especially when they involve negotiation between multiple business or technical stakeholders.

Be a fierce eradicator of problems, and a brilliant creator of solutions.

7. Decision Making: Don’t Be Hasty!

Slow down, cowboy.

The company is counting on you to produce the number one solution to their problem, or the most beneficial. They don’t want the second best solution because you overlooked a sect of data, or rushed somewhere in your process of acquiring a solution.

You consult management and advise developers. The decisions you make have huge ramifications for the company.

After assessing the situation, receiving input from co-workers, researching, and analyzing the data, selecting a decisive plan of action is the next step.

No one is going to hold your hand. You must make your own decisions throughout the process. Don’t be hasty in making those decisions, however.

Before leading the company to a solution or a plan of action, you must:

  • Analyze multiple choices
  • Ask probing questions
  • Attack the problem from every angle
  • Discover all potential solutions
  • Decide on the best solution

They are counting on your decisions to be calculated, precise, and to fully solve their problems.

8. Managerial Skills: Boss Up

Put your face paint on, you’re going to war. Okay, not really, but you need to be a leader in the workplace.

When you make a decision, decide on a course of action, or think you have a solution to a problem, you are embarking on a project. It is your project and you are the boss.

You must:

  • Plan it out
  • Divvy up responsibilities between co-workers
  • Forecast budgets
  • Keep everyone on task
  • Ensure that each step of the project is happening on time
  • Direct other staff members accordingly throughout the process

You have to communicate effectively, be responsible for others, and ensure that your project is being carried out exactly as you see fit.

Be a coach to other staff and provide technical leadership. It’s your project and your solution.

You should also be prepared to supervise projects of varying sizes.

9. Communication: Spread Those Wings, You Social Butterfly

I hope you thoroughly enjoy communicating with other people, because business analysts spend a lot of their time interacting with clients, managers, users, developers, and co-workers.

The success of a project depends on how clearly you communicate details like:

  • Project requirements
  • Financial reports
  • Requested changes
  • Testing results

A business analyst must have fluent spoken language and written communication skills, and an uncanny ability to simply and successfully communicate ideas to others in the workplace.

As mentioned above, sometimes you will have to explain complicated technical ideas and concepts to employees that aren’t as tech savvy as yourself.

Having the ability to communicate with all types of people is essential.

Jim Shepherd, Senior Vice President of Research at AMR Research, said, "You're looking for someone who can translate between the technology folks within IT—and sometimes the external consultants and software vendors—and the businesspeople. They often don't speak the same language.They both have their own jargon."

You might have the best solution to your company’s problem, but what does that matter if you can’t successfully communicate it to everyone?

10. Negotiation: The Convincer

A business analyst is the middleman between different varieties of people.

Clients, developers, users, management, and IT all have varying personalities, ideas, and skill sets.

You have to successfully communicate between all of these personalities, and then please all of them at the same time.

You must maintain professional relationships while finding mutual solutions between different kinds of people.

In order to do this, you will have to persuade people to view things differently. You will have to convince them to consider other alternatives, and ultimately get everyone to agree how to implement your solution.

Achieving a profitable outcome for the company and a working solution for the client takes a lot of negotiating and changing of minds.

Once again, you had better be a people person.

Summary

Whew! How about that ride in? We have now counted through and explained each of the 10 skills we deemed necessary to be a successful Business Analyst.

By now you’ve realized that a successful Business Analyst has quite the skill set. You have to be an excellent socializer and communicator, while also remaining a technologically gifted wizard. We wish you good luck on all of your future projects.

Here are the 10 skills one more time:

  1. Technology
  2. Research
  3. Data Analysis/Review
  4. Financial Planning
  5. Documentation
  6. Problem Solving
  7. Decision Making
  8. Managerial Skills
  9. Communication
  10. Negotiation

And as mentioned in the very first Technology section, we used our extensive resume database at Zippia to compile a list of the top skills found on successful Business Analyst resumes. Here's the result.

Detailed List Of The Most Common Business Analyst Skills

RankSkill% of All Resumes
1Business Process Models25.66%
2SQL Server20.74%
3Microsoft Visio19.37%
4Financial16.36%
5Test Cases15.81%
6Test Plans15.58%
7UAT14.46%
8Data Warehouse14.43%
9JAD14.04%
10Application Development13.85%
11User Acceptance13.22%
12UML13.07%
13Web11.97%
14Activity Diagrams11.85%
15QA11.29%
16SME10.30%
17Functional Requirements10.08%
18Windows XP9.23%
19Gathering Requirements8.47%
20Sdlc8.46%
21Sharepoint8.11%
22RUP7.61%
23ERP7.49%
24Rational Requisite Pro7.05%
25User Interface6.96%
26Subject Matter Experts6.95%
27Suite6.86%
28Business Rules6.36%
29Functional Specifications6.27%
30Sequence Diagrams6.22%
31Requirements Traceability Matrix6.14%
32Test Scripts6.12%
33System Requirements6.11%
34EDI6.07%
35Project Plan6.01%
36Management System5.51%
37Data Analysis5.48%
38User Requirements4.93%
39Business Analysis4.61%
40Business Requirement Document4.50%
41XML4.39%
42Scrum4.06%
43Html3.94%
44Rational Clear Quest3.89%
45Test Scenarios3.85%
46Business Units3.65%
47Hipaa3.63%
48User Stories3.45%
49Development Life3.44%
50As-Is3.33%
51CRM3.32%
52Technical Specifications3.24%
53To-Be3.19%
54Project Scope3.17%
55Unix3.15%
56ETL2.99%
57New System2.94%
58Waterfall2.68%
59HP Quality2.64%
60Technical Requirements2.57%
61Medicaid2.53%
62Data Flow Diagrams2.48%
63FRD2.39%
64Business Partners2.35%
65GUI2.31%
66DB22.24%
67Pl/Sql2.20%
68Jira1.99%
69SRS1.97%
70User Interviews1.92%
71Test Data1.89%
72Toad1.84%
73System Enhancements1.83%
74J2Ee1.65%
75FRS1.54%

How To Become A Business Analyst

About Zippia

Zippia is the career expert site, where recent college graduates can study the pathways of previous graduates to learn about which career routes they want to pursue. Career job data can be found on https://www.zippia.com/colleges-and-majors/.