I think this is one of the most critical things a business analyst needs to do. As I’ve mentioned before, a business analyst is more than someone who writes requirements or runs meetings. They are also interpreters and trainers and this is where the vocabulary comes in. For example, a short sale means something different to a real estate agent than it does to a stock trader.
Your clients are very busy and they are not going to have the time to have you always answer your questions. There is always a learning curve and you may never know everything but the more and sooner you learn how the processes and vocabulary the more valuable you will be.
So how to you learn the vocabulary. I do the following:
- Make a cheat sheet. Whenever I start with a project, I create an Excel document and start putting definitions and acronyms as I come across them in it. That way I can update it as necessary and refer to it when needed. I use an Excel document because it’s easy to sort and keep everything in alphabetical order.
- Ask the client if there are any good websites to go to for reference information. For example, when working with traders I have found Investopedia to be a good resource.
- Training materials. Go through the training materials that the clients go through. That will help you understand what the clients sees and understand the issues that they experience. I also create my own step by step guide so that I know exactly what I should be seeing each step of the way. Note: If you are working with calculations or numbers, ask the client for some valid numbers (and some invalid ones). This will give you some quick reference material when you need to do testing.