Work with business analysts
Most of the people I interviewed had opportunities to work with business analysts prior to becoming one. Leverage any opportunity you have to observe business analysts or partner with them on a team. As you build relationships, let them know about your career goals. This could create an opportunity to shadow them or help them with a business analysis task.
Define a new process.
And don’t overlook those consultants! If your company hires outside consultants for a software or process improvement project, it may be that any variety of business analysis tasks will be accomplished. Put yourself in a position to contribute or at least observe what they are doing.
You can nearly always learn something from consultants as they have experiences from across multiple organizations to share. Typically there is no harm in building these relationships. Doing so could create a variety of learning opportunities. Go to lunch, linger after meetings, or catch them at the water cooler. Ask about their process. Get their perspective on the project and organization.
Run a meeting
Facilitating meetings is one of the most basic skills a business analyst must have. The more experience you have running meetings, facilitating discussions, and publishing meeting notes, the more BA-like experiences you will accumulate. Look for these opportunities within your department, on crossfunctional teams, or for special committees.
Take notes at a meeting
Even if there are not many opportunities to run a meeting, there could be opportunities to take notes. It can be a challenge to facilitate a meeting and get all the notes down on paper. Find a meeting where notes would be helpful (not just paperwork, but provide some value to the team). Offer to become the scribe. It’s doubtful that anyone will challenge you for this responsibility. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your listening skills improve when you take this on.
REFRAMING YOUR CURRENT TASKS
Some jobs may not provide the flexibility required for you to volunteer for new tasks, but that does not necessarily mean that there are no opportunities for you to gain business analysis experiences. Look for opportunities to reframe your current work as business analysis work.
The most critical skill you can refine and develop with respect to elicitation is listening. Listening means comprehending what you are hearing and letting the stakeholder know you have understood them. You can practice this skill using a technique called paraphrasing. After listening to someone speak on a topic say “Let me be sure I understand you, if I can put what you just said in my own words….” You’ll get immediate feedback on how well you understood and you can use this technique repeatedly to improve your listening skills
As you improve your listening skills, you will begin to notice disconnects in conversations. Practice reframing what each person is saying to help them all understand each other better
Practice asking questions
Whether or not you are responsible for facilitating a discussion, a well-placed question can serve to reframe the discussion and help others communicate. Ask questions when you believe something isn’t clear or if people appear to be talking past one another.