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Many business analysts learn on the job- it is difficult to enter the field having already mastered the entire skill set. I have learned that being “coachable” is just as important as learning how to be the “coach” for a customer. During a recent training session at ArgonDigital, we focused on the soft skills imperative to successful consulting. Business analysts must be able to create and foster relationships with customers. The interactions between analyst and customer have different dynamics than a typical professional relationship. Any budding relationship a consultant creates with a customer must rooted in a quintessential feature.

Trust is the foundation, and results from a variety of interaction types. Walking the line between “advisor,” “expert,” and “coach” requires attention to the minutiae of each interaction. Trust is earned, not freely given, and a consultant must be aware of this. How, specifically, does one earn trust? Let’s start at an important point: a consultant is not the employee of their customer’s company. While in elicitation sessions, a consultant must be cognizant of the existence of underlying sensitivities among the company. It is not the consultant’s job to participate in the company’s politics. It is important to note here that because there are may be prejudice against the project before you have the chance to present, you should not take any harsh criticisms personally. To avoid being on the other side of this issue- criticizing a part of the product/project that a member of your client’s team may have vested interested in- delineating between positions and interests will help.

Positions are the problems behind company politics. A person’s position represents the “how” of obtaining a goal or writing a BRD. Interests, on the other hand, are representative of the end goal or product. These represent the “what you want to do.”  Questioning the position of a person can come across as insulting- not a good way to earn trust. When you hold elicitation sessions with customers, asking questions about the interests of the company will led to more discussion on alternative positions. The more you understand the company’s  “what you want to do,” the easier it will be to gain the customer’s trust.

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