Why technical writers make great business analysts

Sue Woolley
by Sue Woolley

I have recently been reviewing (not reading – it is over 500 pages!) the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK V3) and the ANZ Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBoK) to see what similarities and differences there are in the two skill sets. I was very surprised to find that the answer is, not many!

There are differences in the tool sets needed, and most BAs will need an IT background in order to evaluate and recommend solutions to business problems. But the core skill sets and personal attributes are very alike.

What does a business analyst do most of? Writing! And what do technical writers do best? Writing! A business analyst typically has to produce lots of written artefacts during the course of a project, including:

  • documents for business analysis, stakeholder engagement, governance and information management approaches
  • business process analysis (“as is” and “to be” states)
  • technical requirements specifications
  • business requirements
  • solution recommendation and options.

Obviously a business analyst has to plan, elicit requirements, monitor and evaluate in addition to the actual physical writing. But so does a technical writer. I think there is a common misconception that we tech writers just “craft the words”.

Interestingly, the only reference to written communication skills in the BABOK is about half a page in the Underlying Competencies section. This seems to me to be a very serious omission.

I maintain that if you can find an experienced technical writer, you will be able to train them up to be an excellent business analyst very quickly. And the advantage is, all the written artefacts will be clear, concise, targeted for the reader and in plain English. Bonus!!!!

Another bonus, if the project budget gets stretched towards the end of the project, you already have a technical writer on the team who can write outstanding user documentation and training materials. Double bonus!

Next time I’ll explore the skill sets in more detail, and show where they overlap and where the gaps are.

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