11 Day-to-Day Hacks for a Rookie Business Analyst

After being a Business Analyst for a while one analyzes everything; so why not do meta analysis? Below is a list of 11 hacks that the rookie BA can use to maximize effectiveness. Many of these hacks may be more applicable to the Business BA than the IT BA.

  1. Involve stakeholders when writing requirements
    A must do! This is the safest way of ensuring that you do not meet opposition when your recommendations are made. Your system may fail to be accepted because key decision makers feel as if they were not involved in the planning process.

  2. If possible, delay submitting your work after completion
    BA's are often under pressure to meet tight deadlines and may therefore rush to complete their work. This may lead to errors being made (errors being made too often may be career limiting!). Minimize your error rate by taking time to double check your work or having a coworker review for you. If you're exhausted, rest or take a break before reviewing your work.

  3. Anticipate questions your audience may have about your figures and answer them before submission
    No matter how brilliant your analysis, you will not be effective if you fail to convince your audience of your position. Preparedness is the key to responding confidently and one way of doing this is to put yourself in the position of your audience and ask: What question would I have after viewing this presentation/analysis?

  4. Always have explanatory notes around figures that are outliers
    Outliers cause accountable executives to become nervous and defensive especially if it shows that their performance is below expectations. Avoid this by inserting notations giving context for your figures and be ready to provide additional clarification.

  5. Use macros in MS excel to shorten your work
    MS Excel is still the most widely used tool for number crunching across organizations today. When faced with repetitive tasks using the application e.g. on a daily basis, it is most efficient to use macros to automate these tasks and save yourself from spending unneccessary time and effort.

  6. Observe the habits and preferences of your boss
    Let's face it, your boss is a human being and as such will have biases and preferences about everything. Take time to observe these and use this knowledge when doing your job; this will enhance the chances of your work being received favourably.

  7. Always conduct sanity checks on figures received by others
    BA's often receive figures from persons in other areas of their company which they use in their work. In order to avoid potential errors in your own work, don't assume that the person sending you information is an expert. Always conduct cursory checks to see if the information seems reasonable even if you are not totally familiar with it.

  8. Add value by telling a story with your figures
    When providing figures to your boss, you can demonstrate your value and knowledge by describing trends and patterns in relation to the figures which you have observed over time. This helps them in their decision making and will ensure you differentiate yourself from the ordinary number crunchers!

  9. Defend figures and analysis by explaining methodology/ giving context and not using emotive arguments
    Work submitted by the BA usually comes under scrutiny from superiors. Don't get defensive when your work is critiqued as this may not work out in your favour. Instead, explain what you were hoping to achieve and why you did things in a certain way.

  10. Where possible use academic publications to support your point of view
    In most disciplines, academic publications include empirical data to prove theories and are subject to the review of leading minds in the area. If their work supports your point of view, referencing it can give your position tremendous credibility.

  11. Use statistical analysis to support your work
    Similar to the point above; this will give you credibility by showing that your position is an informed one.