In this episode, Elizabeth Larson helps us along the path going from order taker to trusted advisor and helps us to avoid some of the common pitfalls.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • Why new Business Analysts are often seen as order takers
  • How to build trust within your organization
  • The three components of the Influencing Formula
  • The right questions to ask to be seen as a trusted advisor
  • Common pitfalls to avoid on your way to becoming a trusted advisor

Show Notes

We don’t want to be seen as order takers.  We want to be seen and sought out as trusted advisors.

For beginning Business Analysts, it’s common to be viewed as an order taker.  Without the skills and experience it’s difficult to do otherwise.

We need to quickly build our capabilities and realize that our role is to help the organization and provide recommendations.  Your role is not necessarily to make decisions but to advise the customer so that they can make the right decisions.

Trusted advisors define the business need and recommend solutions that provide value to the organization.  Order takers have a difficult time with this because they are often given a solution to implement, which they accept and implement.

When given a solution, a trusted advisor will stop and ensure that we’ve defined the business problem we’re trying to solve or business opportunity we’re trying to seize.  They can then explore the current state and determine if the proposed solution is the best option.


The Influencing Formula

To go from order taker to trusted advisor, we need to build trust.  We can start by building credibility, doing our homework, and truly understanding the current state in the organization and business environment.

You can also build trust by meeting your customers and end users where they work and actually performing some of the tasks that they do. This gives you a better understanding of how they use the current systems and what their pain points are.

The most difficult part of going from order taker to trusted advisor is having the courage to speak up. And recommend the right thing to the organization.  People may not like hearing what you have to say and we need to have the courage to state our case anyway.

Another key to becoming a trusted advisor is influence.  You need to be able to advise your organization and influence them to make the right decisions.  Trust, courage, and influence are all interrelated.


Questioning Like an Advisor

Order takers usually ask questions related to the features and functionality of the solution.  While those types of questions are important, we need to understand the big picture first.

Ask ‘why’ in a way that builds trust.  When provided with a solution to implement, ask questions to get a better understanding of the underlying problem or opportunity that the solution will address.  Also ask questions to understand how your project fits into the overall business objectives.

Asking the right questions helps you to identify the business need and pain points associated with the current process.  All of this allows you to advise the organization on the right solution.


Pitfalls Along the Path

Along your journey from order taker to trusted advisors, there are some pitfall you need to avoid.

Don’t mistake your role as advisor for a decision maker.  Your role is to advise and influence, but it’s up to stakeholders and sponsors to make the final decision.  Don’t be offended or take it personally if people don’t accept or follow our advice.

Figure out a good time to reflect on why they didn’t go with your recommendation and determine if you should change your recommendation, try again, or drop it.


Listen to the full episode for more of Elizabeth’s advice on the right questions to ask and pitfalls to avoid on your way to becoming  a trusted advisor.



Your Homework

When you’re provided with a solution to implement, practice asking the right kind of questions to better understand the intent of the solution and the current environment.

Take the time to gather the facts and statistics about the current state so that you’ll be better prepared for conversations and make appropriate recommendations.

Finally, don’t ask leading questions.  Leading questions limit conversations and present a solution.  Eliminate the phrase ‘have you thought about’.  That phrase breaks trust.


Links mentioned in this episode:

Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson

CEO of Watermark Learning

Elizabeth is the CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, and influencing skills. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes keynotes and presentations on five continents. Elizabeth has co-authored four books, including the acclaimed CBAP Certification Study Guide and has been cited in CIO Magazine and PM Network, PMI’s monthly publication.

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