More and more business analysts are being required to have skills in the shape of a T, which means specialized expertise in one field, coupled with diversified general skills.
To understand the significance of the T, visualize the vertical bar of the T as the depth of knowledge in a single field of expertise (finance, computer, etc.). We’re talking here about specialists, I-type individuals. Then, this bar supports transversal skills (organization, documentation, analysis, sense of priorities) that are essential for projects in several fields.
These “T” skills facilitate collaboration with other professionals for an optimal customer process. “Technology and the business world are changing so much that it needs business analysts who can have a global vision of problems, identify the critical elements to define the solution or prepare the right decisions for clients,” explains Olga Farekhi, executive director and business analyst at CGI.
According to Olga Farekhi, the T-type business analyst must be curious and empathetic, know how to ask the right questions and put themselves in their clients’ shoes. These analysts know how to communicate, collaborate and be flexible. They have a desire to understand the rules and paradigms that drive the other professions. Mrs. Farekhi recalls a recent finance project during which a finance specialist analyst was replaced, at the client’s request, because she could not visualize the entire project through several “professional glasses”.
How to develop T shaped skills
In the first place, transversal skills are developed by broadening and enriching your sources of information and knowledge, including through training. Then it is necessary to be ready to move in an organization that favours internal mobility of professionals. But the process is not yet very well developed in North America, explains Ewan Oiry, professor at the human resources organization department of the School of Management Sciences at UQAM. “Here,” he says, “specialist expertise is more a part of professional identity. Unlike in Japan, for example, where internal mobility has been encouraged for so long that it is part of the culture.” He adds that in the Land of the Rising Sun you will be asked how many jobs you have held, rather than which ones!
According to Ewan Oiry, it is therefore the responsibility of human resources departments to promote mobility of their professionals to satisfy T-type profiles. “Organizations have to adopt rules and make resources available to employees who wish to know the issues, language and constraints of the other professions with which they collaborate.”