Business Analyst role during this new normal

In recent months Covid-19 pandemic has shaped a new reality for all of us. In this new reality working from home, using virtual meetings and workshops have become the new normal. However, this has also given us the opportunity to adapt and improve the way we work. Consequently the practice of Business Analysis is also affected by this change. But I believe Business Analysts are best equipped for this new work environment. This is because as Business Analysts we often work with stakeholders who are physically in different locations than ours similar to this new reality.

In this article I will share with you three (3) lessons I learned from my mentors and from my own experience that helped me to become an effective Business Analyst in circumstances which are comparable to the new reality. Some of these lessons were handed down to me by my managers whom I thoroughly admire and were pivotal to my success in the roles.

Lesson #1:

Pick up the phone. In my first role as a Business Analyst I was working for Nissan US. I was working in Toronto, Canada while my key stakeholders were based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Consequently I had to rely heavily on virtual meetings, workshops and emails to elicit requirements from my stakeholders and provide walk throughs. While working for Nissan, one of the best pieces of advice I received from my then manager was to establish communication channels with my key stakeholders outside the existing structured virtual meetings by calling them. I followed my manager’s advice and started calling my stakeholders when I needed to elicit more requirements or request further clarifications on business needs. This helped me remove blockers in my work faster by seeking information from my stakeholders in a more timely manner. In addition over time the various calls with my stakeholders helped me to develop a better empathy for my stakeholders and understand their business needs better. I came to realize verbal communication is an essential tool for Business Analysts and it becomes more essential when our stakeholders are not in the same physical location as us similar to our current work environment.

Lesson #2:

Use pauses, and paraphrases. Two of the key challenges I encountered when I started participating in virtual meetings, calls and walkthroughs were the following:
  1. To ensure I gave my stakeholders sufficient opportunities to ask questions, raise concerns and provide feedback.
  2. To ensure my understanding of a feedback, concern or a business need is aligned with theirs.
I often noticed team members would speak at length during meetings without providing key stakeholders the opportunity to share their feedback and thoughts. I quickly learned that one great way to make sure stakeholders have the required opportunity to provide feedback is to incorporate pauses and actively ask for feedback during meetings and walkthroughs. And based on my personal experience the best way to ensure that our understanding of our stakeholders’ comments and feedback are on the same wavelength as theirs is by paraphrasing their comments and feedback in our own language. Even though these practices may seem simple however they can significantly lend to the effectiveness as a Business Analyst specially in today’s world of working from home and social distancing.

Lesson #3

Document effectively: Use tables, diagrams and examples effectively.
When we work with stakeholders who are located in a different location than ours, communication using documentations becomes more important. This is because our stakeholders can’t simply go across the aisle to our desk to ask for clarifications. Instead they rely heavily on the clarity of the documentations we provide. Hence as a Business Analyst we need to document requirements and specifications as clearly as possible in the new normal. I received numerous recommendations on good documentation practice over the years from my managers and mentors. However I found the following three (3) recommendations most impactful from my own experience: 

  1. Use tables wherever applicable. Tables allow us to provide structure to information and readers are more susceptible to understand structured information.
  2. Use examples. This is a holy grail when it comes to explaining complicated information.
  3. Use diagrams and screen shots. As people say, a picture says a thousand words. On the same thread, diagrams and screen shots can provide more context and information to the reader to help them better understand information.
To top that all it is also strongly advisable to break down requirements in digestible chunks. This helps the stakeholders to understand the requirements easily.

In summary as Business Analysts many of us may be better equipped to adapt to the new reality of work. However I hope the above lessons will also empower others who are adapting to working from home, virtual meetings and workshops during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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