The T-Shaped Professional: An In-Depth Look at Business Analysts

Kenneth Gray

Understanding the T-shape

A T-shaped professional is someone who has extensive knowledge of their speciality as well as broad generic knowledge of other areas. This combination of talents helps them to address challenges within their area of expertise while also effectively communicating with colleagues and stakeholders from other areas.

- The vertical bar of the 'T' represents extensive knowledge and specialisation in a particular field.

- The horizontal bar represents a breadth of knowledge in different fields, allowing for collaboration and cross-disciplinary understanding when interacting with different stakeholders. 

As someone who aims to share and grow my knowledge as a Business Analyst, being 'T-shaped' is something I currently am, but there are also areas I strive to improve on.

So what exactly does it mean to be 'T-shaped'?

T-shaped Competencies for Business Analysts

There are three main categories of competencies for a Business Analyst.

Personal Qualities, Business Knowledge and Professional techniques.

Personal qualities and Business Knowledge both belong in the horizontal section of the 'T' as they represent the broad range of skills. Whereas professional techniques sit at the vertical section of the 'T' as they represent the deep expertise and specialised skills.

Let’s look at these sections further, with some reflections on my current knowledge and skillset.

Vertical (Professional techniques)

1. Requirements Engineering:

  - Description Requirement engineering involves processes such as elicitation, analysis, and modelling to define requirements. BAs create and develop business and IT solutions from requirements, therefore this is a vital skill. 

  • This skillset is one I developed during my Business Analysis Diploma - its all about getting to the root causes of the business problems, to analyse opportunities for the business to improve, do the stakeholders 'wants' match the businesses 'needs' and recognising conflicts that need to be negotiated.

2. Stakeholder analysis and management

  - Description: This involves identifying stakeholders, evaluating their importance, analysing their perspectives, and creating strategies for managing them.

  • Understanding who stakeholders are, their importance to the project including the final solution and how to manage their expectations is a vital skill throughout a project lifecycle. This is a crucial skill I aim to continue to improve on.

3. Business Process Modelling:

  - Description: Business modelling uses conceptual models to visualise business activities. Business system models show a complete system in overview. Various methods can be used to represent a business system, such as a business activity model BAM, value chain, value stream, organisation model, or capability map.  areas for improvement. BAs should be skilled in mapping and analysing business processes, as well as understanding flows, bottlenecks, and opportunities for optimisation.

  • At the heart of every model is the customer. Which are the core activities required to deliver products and services to the customer and what value do these activities bring to the business. I aim to take a holistic view of the how these processes relate to each other and ask the questions to identify how to improve the business' process.

4. Data modelling

  - Description: Analysing the data stored and used by a business system offers critical information about how that system operates. A data model represents the information requirements of an organisation as well as the business rules inherent in the data structure.

  • To make the best judgements, As a BA. I must make educated assessments, recognise patterns, and estimate future situations utilising data.

5. Strategy Analysis

  - Description: Business analysts must understand their organisation's strategic context to align solutions with objectives and strategy, and establish necessary tactics for strategy execution.

  • During strategy analysis and definition stages of the project lifecycle, I aim to use techniques that investigate the organisation's internal and external contexts. This will give me a holistic view of the business problems with the aim of identifying the root causes.

Horizontal (Personal qualities)

1. Efficient Communication:

  - Definition: Communication is an important skill as it encompasses a wide range of skills such as building rapport, listening, influencing and building empathy.

  • I have a background in collecting and analysing data and presenting the information to others. Through this I learnt that poor communication can be the root cause of problems during discussions, why its important to communicate effectively.

2. Influencing:

  - Description: Business analysts often advise options and actions. Influence is crucial if the outcome contradicts preconceived notions or requires bold or unexpected action.

  • Successful influencing requires careful consideration and a concerted effort to understand the individuals and issues involved. Influencing effectively requires identifying stakeholders and understanding their power over decision-making. Some stakeholders, such project sponsors and managers, are easy to identify. Some are less obvious due to informal networks. I've learnt that its important to consider any personal agendas, beliefs, priorities and commercial motives as these may be deeply held and are likely to favour the position taken by stakeholders. This could cause a project to either flourish or derail so its crucial to recognise these traits early on in the project.

3. Analytical skills and critical thinking:

  - Description: Analytical skills are crucial for business analysts. It requires delving deeper to find the real issue. It requires sorting through often-conflicting data to find meaningful insights. It means not accepting the obvious and not leaping to conclusions. Analytical thinking also involves communicating analysis results to stakeholders.

  • I've learnt, no matter how annoying it may be, constantly question received wisdom by asking: Why? When? Where? How? Who? and What?

Horizontal (Business Knowledge)

1. Commercial awareness:

  - Description: All business analysts must comprehend the area and industry in which they work. This allows them to ensure that any proposed course of action or improvement alternatives correspond with their organisation's business environment.

  • As a business analysts I aim to ensure that I am sufficiently informed of the commercial realities and pressures that my organisation faces in order to focus in meeting theirs and their customers needs.

2. Subject Matter Expertise

  - Description: A subject matter expert refines domain knowledge to a lower level. Understanding a product line or service's terminology, processes, and constraints is crucial to building customer trust. It also helps to avoid assumptions and identify errors of and information gaps.

  • Business analysts frequently specialise in specific business fields and have a thorough understanding of the subject. Working in the finance sector for over 10 years has developed a domain knowledge on specific key areas in finance that include banking, investments, pensions, mortgages and insurance.

3. Business case development

- Description: Business analysts often evaluate business problem solutions and their costs and benefits. Management accountants and others evaluate business case options and analyse the financial impact on the organisation. Business analysts must understand financial issues to discuss them with other specialists and managers.

  • As a Business analysts I aim to understand costs, benefits, and investment appraisal methods like break-even analysis and discounted cash flow. Over time, I aim to learn the pros and cons of technical solutions. This is good because in future I hope to quickly eliminate expensive options and deliver value from my analysis work.

The Benefits of Being T-Shaped

- Adaptability: T-shaped BAs may easily transition between roles due to the multitude of competencies, making them excellent assets in fast-paced business contexts.

- Partnership: From understanding how to think and interact with various stakeholders to having specific techniques to help them perform their role more effectively. This depth of knowledge allows for more effective collaboration with multidisciplinary teams.

- Innovation: Having a good understand of their organisation and domain exposes BAs to many domains  to help them develop innovative thinking by combining the business knowledge and experience from different project environments.

- Career Progression: Because of their diverse skillset, T-shaped professionals frequently have more opportunities for advancement.


Being a T-shaped Business Analyst entails balancing specialisation and generalisation. In an era when adaptability is king, this holistic approach not only improves individual career possibilities but also increases the value offered to the organisation. As I aim to share and grow my knowledge and skills, maintaining a 'T-shape' as a BA will be at the core of my future successes as a Business Analyst.