In 1979, Oracle released the world’s first commercial RDBMS software. It was called Oracle V2.0.
What was so special about that?
There was no V1.0. By directly releasing a second version, Oracle created the perception that it’s an established product. Customers, who would have otherwise been skeptical of a new product, happily bought it.
The lesson here: Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder and CEO at the time, understood the simple yet subtle nuances of how humans make choices. In short, he had soft skills.
“Soft skills” are a set of qualities that include common sense, the ability to deal with people, as well as a positive flexible attitude.
A standard set of soft skills – such as courtesy, integrity, work ethic – are expected of all professionals in a work setting. However, here are three soft skills that I find, based on experience, particularly necessary for a business analyst/consulting professional:
1. The Ability to Present
A large part of a consultant’s job involves presenting their team’s ability to a client, the client’s requirement to other stakeholders, and constantly communicating between different parties in a project. The meaning of presentation is not restricted to running a PowerPoint or showcasing your product. They must be able to use different mediums for different purposes (e.g. Word for detailed requirements, Excel for RTM, PowerPoint for a final project update, etc.), and cultivate the wisdom to choose the best possible medium for each purpose and for each audience.
2. The Ability to Negotiate/Sell
Negotiating/selling does not refer to its traditional meaning as in a sales process. The consultant constantly negotiates with a client on what features to include in a product (think MoSCoW), sells the PM/developer on executing a complex request from the client, etc. This skill, though hardly noticed or acknowledged, has been a key ingredient for success in most career paths.
3. The Ability to Assume Informal and/or Situational Leadership
While the consultant is typically an intermediary, he/she is accountable for properly capturing the inputs for a product, feeding them to the right people using the right language, and ensuring the output meets the client’s expectation. This often calls for taking charge of the development team’s issues (a proxy PM role), addressing a client’s grievances (a proxy account executive), making decisions on behalf of the client (a proxy product owner), and so on. Most of the time, these proxy roles, as the name indicates, are assumed informally or situationally.
Simple, but comprehensively experimented, these three tips can prove to elevate you to the zenith of your career.