I love helping people accelerate their careers with career coaching. In this post, as part of our three-part series, I want to share some top tips on how to advance your career in business analysis.

Read our earlier posts on How To Land an IT Business Analyst Role and What Do Business Analysts Actually Do?.

#1 Be the Organisational Guru

Be the person who always knows who to talk to and what questions to ask.

Top BAs understand exactly how an organisation works. Not only do they know all the stakeholder groups, and have built solid relationships at the coal-face and management levels, but they understand their goals and pain-points. They can call in favours to get things done. They can game internal processes and take skilfully judged short-cuts.

  • Always talk and meet face to face – never email or call, when you can walk over and talk to someone. It makes a world of difference in building rapport.
  • Seek opportunities to meet informally with stakeholders outside of project-based interactions. Get them talking by asking open-ended questions and being a good listener. Find out what’s important to them and what their challenges are.
  • Study the org chart and learn about each group’s function, processes, systems and what performance standards they’re measured against – how can you help them achieve their goals?
  • Learn and adhere to internal processes, until they get in your way. Don’t shoot the messenger – yes, we know that raising a ticket in system X and filling out a web-form to get group A to allocate a person from group B to tick a box in system Y seems like a waste of your precious time, but criticising your contact is unlikely to win you any friends or get your work done any quicker. It’s that way for a reason. When you truly understand all the moving parts and people involved, a well-considered, respectfully presented proposal to change a process will be received well, and earn you some great recognition.

#2) Specialise

Senior BAs have a core skill set and foundational knowledge that can be applied to every role, but Senior BAs are also specialists. Specialists are seldom out of work. Think technology domains (e.g. cloud computing, CRMs, application development) and fields such as ITSM, security compliance, or HR. Think industries like telecommunications, insurance or banking and finance.

Have a plan to develop the years of experience that you need to become a specialist.

Taking a calculated sideways or backward step to align to the industry, field or technology domain that you want to specialise in, is often what is required.

Don’t overlook the usefulness of existing specialisations to get you where you want to be. OK, so you’re sick of working in the Insurance sector on Document Management System projects – find a DMS role in a new sector, or find a new and exciting technology domain in the Insurance sector. Either way, you can leverage your years of experience to make a move in the right direction.

#3) Become a Methodology Champion

A good BA can make life better for everyone… From architects to developers, to project managers and product managers, the best BAs optimise methodology to give people what they need, when they need it.

Improve systems, templates, standards, and processes, and measure performance against a baseline. Nothing looks more impressive in a CV than describing real measurable performance gains in team output, quality (defect rates), sales or customer experience. Be sure to engage respectfully and work with any groups or individuals that “own” your project delivery methodology, tools, processes, and standards.

Taking the initiative and delivering improvements (in addition to your normal work) will earn you kudos and valuable experience and achievements to add to your CV and LinkedIn profile.

Look for ideas online, learn about best-practices, attend meet-ups and connect with other top BAs in your field. Trial and test ideas, and always measure your before and after results.

#4) Certify

As mentioned in our previous post, the most reputable certification track is from the IIBA. Your years of experience will help you attain certification levels such as CBAP. Be sure to schedule professional development (required for certification) – if you’re a contractor, prioritise training and development, after all, you’re selling a product (you!) and you’re responsible for developing and marketing that product – take control. Contractors who are proactive about professional development are far more attractive on paper than those who don’t bother.

You can include certifications that are in progress in your CV (just be honest about your progress!) – this helps with CV and LinkedIn search optimisation.

#5) Become a Leader

Landing a top BA role requires demonstrated leadership. Your CV and LinkedIn profile has to show a track record of leading teams, being accountable for outcomes, mentoring and coaching junior team members, strategy, planning and delivering against business objectives, not just completing project work.

If you haven’t led others, develop a strategy to gain that experience. Offer to mentor graduates or junior BAs. When planning projects, propose that you team with a junior BA – it’s a win-win scenario. You gain the experience, the company saves money and develops employee skills.

If you have the experience, make it clear on your CV and LinkedIn profile how many years of experience you have leading people, what was achieved and who you coached and mentored. Highlight contributions to project planning, strategy, delivery methodology and achieving business outcomes such as revenue growth, customer experience or cost savings.

For more career coaching advice on how to succeed as an IT BA, check out How To Land an IT Business Analyst Role and What Do Business Analysts Actually Do?.

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