Few skills are more important to the Business Analyst than effective communication skills. No matter how insightful your analysis is, or ingenious and effective your proposed solutions are; if you cannot effectively communicate your information you will not get the key stakeholder support you need and the parties responsible for implementing your solutions will not deliver nearly as effective an implementation as they otherwise could. A BA who cannot communicate well is not nearly as effective as they otherwise could be.
BA communication takes many forms, but can basically be broken down into 2 types:
- Person to person communication that takes place during interviews, elicitation sessions, project discussions, management updates, and a myriad of other interpersonal communications.
- Group communication, including presentations, discussion facilitation, project team meetings, training sessions, and others.
But communication skills aren’t just about how you put out information, it is also about how you receive information. The ability to not interrupt as an SME is providing information so as to cause them to lose their train of thought or giving the impression that you really aren’t that interested in what they say is critical. As is the ability to understand what is being communicated, but not said.
And writing skills are another major need. If you are “business systems analyst” type of BA, effectively written (or drawn) requirements are the #1 drivers of your solution being effective, on time, and on budget.
The business analyst job is one of the few I can think of where all aspects of communication are vitally important. Verbal, non-verbal, written, graphical, and emotional. If the BA is a facilitator of change, communication is the means through which change is achieved.
Some specific communication skills that are important to a business analyst include:
- Descriptive Writing
- Facilitation Skills
- Presentation Skills
- Speaking from experience, improving communication skills has been one of the hardest things I have done in my career. And there is still lots of room to improve. Actively solicit feedback from your project team members, co-workers, and managers on the tone your communication style conveys and how to improve it. Don’t be offended, and take the feedback to heart. Realize that different people will perceive the same communication in different ways.
- There are more resources on the web for helping your communication skills than I can list. Just Google “effective communication skills“. If you have any that are more BA-specific, please let me know via email or comment and I will add them.