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What Does a Business Analyst Do and How to Become?

 / August 31, 2020

If you once cooperate with a development team, you definitely hear about a job called “business analyst,” usually abbreviated to BA. Jay Michael, a business analyst at Colfax, described his main responsibility as “a bridge between business systems from the end-user to functional implementation of technical solutions,” when he was asked about what exactly he did. It seemingly sounds straightforward, but in fact quite confusing to many outsiders. 

What does a business analyst do? (Source: Medium)

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Simply, business analysts can be seen as a mediator or ambassadors to connect business needs with IT resources. Accordingly, successful analysts are versatile team players who have played various parts such as effective communicators, great facilitators, or precise analysts in order to understand different business functions such as finance, operations, or technology. If you decide to switch to BA or still have any queries as to “what does a business analyst do?”, the article is the right place. 

1. Job Description

Luka Skracic, a Denmark-based business analyst for Keylane, shared with Elabor8 that employees like him were not confined to only one certain activity or task. Effectively, they have to wear many hats as their duties often vary on different projects. Wandering job search websites, however, I summarize some main responsibilities performed by business analysts as follows:

  • work with the client business to identify inefficiencies in their operations and processes before discussing the possibilities for improvements  
  • interact with the business stakeholders to understand their technical and functional needs
  • gather, document, and analyze business needs
  • recommend technical solutions that can be implemented by new technology or better alternatives to existing systems
  • design and modify business systems or IT systems 
  • test the system and help in quality assurance, debugging of new software or enhancements to existing software
  • create system documentation and manuals for users

Among the mentioned activities, determining the technical and functional needs of clients should be prioritized, according to Bob Gregory, a professor of business analyst and management program at Bellevue University. BAs then act as conduits to translate such demands to developers. So they will work with various stakeholders such as clients, project managers, and technical teams to design optimal solutions and ensure systems are aligned with the business requirements. BAs are often involved in many projects simultaneously if they are on a small scale.

Despite their importance, the real tech world sometimes describes a slightly different scenario: Kelly Emo, director of product, solutions, and technical marketing for application testing at HPE Software, said that in several IT teams, business analysts are not assigned to support the development of some in-house apps, temporary apps for sales promotions or mobile marketing apps.   

Also, according to Luka Skracic, not until you are entitled “business analyst” that you can perform “business analyst” behaviors. In many simple projects, data analysts, process analysts, or user experience experts still can do what BAs often do. 

2. Education and Certifications

A business analyst is comparatively a new area and requires a broad understanding of various disciplines. So no universities or colleges now run business analysis degree courses.  

Those who want to pursue this career need either a strong business background or technical expertise that can be acquired through working experience or degree courses. For example, graduates can apply for the BA position at Cisco Systems as long as they hold related qualifications in Finance, Math, or Information Systems. Some firms like Hollstadt & Associates require no degrees, but at least 5 years of working with data models and reporting packages, whereas others like Designveloper prefer applicants with any bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience in IT, system analysis, and many more.  

what does a business analyst do

In case you want to improve your competitive advantage, you should earn certifications tailored by such organizations as IIBA, PMI, IREB, and IQBBA. CIO Tech News listed the top seven certifications for business analysis you should consider to advance your career. The most noticeably are CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional) and CCBA (Certification of Competency in Business Analysis) of IBBA.

However, no matter which qualifications candidates hold, training sessions are still provided for the newly recruited. 

3. Required Skills

All occupations require a variety of soft skills, and business analyst is not an exception. These include:

  • verbal and written communication skills;
  • problem-solving skills;
  • analytical thinking and researching skills;
  • consultative and interpersonal skills;
  • organizational skills;
  • be detail-oriented;

and so forth.

FURTHER READING:
1. Business Analyst Career Path: What You Should Know
2. Important Business Analyst Skills to Growth your Career
3. Business Analyst Job Description Guide

4. How to Become a Business Analyst 

Answering the question of “what does a business analyst do?” can partly help newcomers to successfully become future business analysts. 

In the 2011 interview on Bridging The Gap – an online platform for business analysts, Eric, a new graduate at the University of Denver, shared that entry-level business analyst positions were “almost nonexistent” at that time. So many of his classmates had to find other IT-related jobs before jumping to this BA area. Eric himself applied for an IT auditing position as well. So if you are a beginner like Eric, you may start from some junior jobs (e.g. industry/ domain specialists, developers, or quality assurance employees). After a few years, you can choose to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) before moving up to higher positions as IT business analyst, senior business analyst, or product manager.

what does a business analyst do

However, due to the growing popularity of the job, now you can easily seek a junior business analyst position that even requires no experience. As said that BAs can play many roles, and their career path tends to vary, depending much on their future intentions. David Foote, president of Foote Partners LLC, said, “there are career tracks that zigzag back and forth between IT and business.” This means an entry-level business analyst can choose to become a project manager, then an IT manager, then a process manager, and then back to process leader or owner.

But, what if you do not want to start the BA job at the junior level?

If you decide to switch from your current job, HR consultant or whatever, to BA, the idea of starting everything again is not appealing. Many successfully used their transferable skills which they built in past roles to prove themself suitable for BA positions.

Laura Brandenburg, a founder of Bridging The Gap, revealed the secrets behind her successful transition from a QA engineer to a BA. Accordingly, she advised all beginners to qualify themselves with career or academic backgrounds for specific BA jobs. It means:

  • if you have a technical background like Laura, you can choose BA positions that include IT-related responsibilities or system analysis.
  • if you have expertise in some business sides such as accounting, human resources, or customer service, you should choose BA positions that work mostly on business app development in that area. For example, to migrate from finance to IT departments, you can apply for BA roles that assist in finance app projects, and share samples of your work that will be helpful to those IT products. 

What does a business analyst do?” can be sometimes hard to answer, because different projects will engage BAs in a variety of activities and responsibilities which even can overlap those of other occupations. So, it is vital for those who would like a start with this job to know exactly their strengths and choose the most suitable BA roles.

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