Software development company BBD recently hosted an International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) event in Cape Town. The event was fully subscribed and attended by analysts from various companies and vertical markets.

The IIBA is an independent, non-profit organisation serving professional business analysts worldwide. It promotes the profession of business analysis and supports its analyst members in their daily work.

The topic for the evening was What Should be in a Business Analysis Toolkit. Says William September, executive and business systems analyst at BBD, “A topic of this nature always elicits healthy debates and the participants shared their views and experiences in a group setting. The fact that analysts and project managers from various industries and sectors attended added richness and variety to the opinions expressed.”

The attendees agreed there was no right or wrong toolbox for business analysts. The tools required depend on the business as well as the vertical market you’re serving. In general, however, all attendees said an analyst will always need a flowchart or diagramming tool, a note-taking app like OneNote, as well as mind mapping and wire framing software.

“The most significant outcome of the evening was that everyone agreed that soft skills were far more important that the particular software or hardware you had in your toolbox,” adds September. “We all agreed that the most important attributes of an analyst are communication and diplomacy, as well as the ability to be a facilitator and negotiator. And of course, we all need the ability to think analytically.”

One question that created some debate was whether domain knowledge was a necessity, or whether analysts with the prerequisite attributes could learn “on the job”. September says there were good opinions offered on both sides of the argument with no final consensus.

“Supporting associations like the IIBA is part of BBD’s effort to get South Africa’s business analyst community talking and sharing ideas, with the goal of improving the industry as a whole,” says September. “It’s by sharing knowledge and best practices that we all improve, and by implication, are able to deliver a better service our companies and customers.”