What Is a Business Analyst?
A business analyst spends his or her time analyzing the needs of a business. As needs are identified, the analyst will generally create solutions to meet these needs as well as take into account any issues that could arise. The analyst will create solutions for these issues as well. In addition to analyzing and creating solutions, a business analyst is responsible for communicating any findings to the relevant stakeholders.
One of the easiest ways to understand the role of a business analyst is to compare it to the role of an architect. If you are going to build a house, you will, of course, want to consult an architect. This architect will develop blueprints and give you suggestions as to the most effective and efficient ways to have your house created. A business analyst does just this, except instead of building a house, the analyst is building a business.
Many times, a business analyst does not actually perform any of the work he or she includes within the business development blueprint. Instead, IT workers will perform the tasks. The analyst’s responsibility is to understand the business’s needs and create a way to meet them. The actual implementation of these solutions is typically carried out by other workers.
A Closer Look at the Responsibilities of a Business Analyst
There is often a lot of confusion around the job duties of a business analyst. The truth is, though, a business analyst performs a wide range of responsibilities, with each analyst tailoring his or her services to the exact needs of the employer. Here is a closer look at what a business analyst does.
Facilitate Solutions and Delegate to Appropriate Workers
Businesses face problems every day. A business analyst analyzes these problems and creates solutions so that they don’t happen again. Much of the time, business analysts are in direct contact with relevant stakeholders, listening to their concerns and determining requirements that need to be met. Stakeholders often have concerns that are extremely simple to address, while others take much time and analyzing to resolve. The business analyst determines which concerns have the highest priority and creates blueprints to assure stakeholders that these issues can be addressed. Sometimes, the business analyst will be responsible for passing down the blueprints to the appropriate workers who can bring them to life. Other times, however, the analyst will simply deliver the solutions to the stakeholders and the delegation will be handled by someone else.
Perform a Wide Variety of Activities
Understanding the role of a business analyst is also a bit difficult because this professional performs such a wide variety of activities. One week the analyst might be analyzing an employer’s needs, followed then by two months of eliciting pertinent information from stakeholders. It is important to note that analysts design projects and it is the stage of the project that determines which activities the analyst will be performing. Some of the more common activities that all business analysts will perform include:
- Defining a business case
- Communicating with stakeholders
- Pinpointing model requirements
- Validating solutions
- Managing projects
- Assisting with project development
- Performing quality testing
Serve as Information Conduits
Almost any project that a business analyst works on will involve communicating with stakeholders. These stakeholders will include everyone from board members to supervisors to end users and even vendors. Each stakeholder, of course, will have different needs as well as various points of knowledge relating to the business. A business analyst will collect all of this knowledge and perform analyses to determine how all of the stakeholders’ needs can be met most efficiently and effectively. The analyst will also relay important information to various stakeholders who normally don’t communicate with one another.
How to Become a Business Analyst?
Business analysts tend to work on a contract basis, meaning they are freelancers. They usually work for more than one company; however, when facing extremely complex business needs, an analyst may choose to work for a single company for an extended period of time. As a business analyst, you can either market yourself and find work or you can work for a business consulting firm. Regardless of your career path as a business analyst, you will travel often and work long hours. To become a business analyst, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, though, there are several disciplines you can major in:
- Business administration
- Business management
- Computer and information science
If preferred, you can earn a certificate validating your title as a business analyst; however, some employers don’t view this type of certification as formal education. It is important that while earning a degree you take on internships. You will need at least three to five years of experience before you can land a position as a business analyst. Ideally, you will want your internships to be in the same industry that you want to work in. For example, if you want to become a business analyst for automotive companies, then your internships should provide you with experience in this same industry.
Once you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, you will want to look for entry-level positions, such as an HR manager or information technology consultant. These entry positions will also add to the experience you are able to acquire to obtain the position of a business analyst. After earning your bachelor’s degree, you will also have the option to further your education and acquire your master’s. Earning an advanced degree is highly-encouraged because it will give you an advantage when applying for employment and marketing yourself to clients. Earning your master’s degree can usually be accomplished in as little as two years. In fact, many schools have accelerated programs that allow you to complete all of your coursework in as little as 12 months.
What Are the Various Roles that Business Analyst Take On?
According to the IIBA’s BABOK v2 draft, a “Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and recommend solutions that enable organizations to achieve its goals.”
This definition makes it clear that a business analyst is going to be performing a wide variety of tasks. It is not uncommon for a business analyst to work under a different title. In fact, some of the most common titles and roles that business analysts work under include:
- IT business analyst
- Data analyst
- Data scientist
- Requirements engineer
- Functional architect
- Business systems analyst
- Usability/UX analyst
Which Skills Are the Most Important for Business Analyst?
There are many skills that must be mastered in order to become a successful business analyst. Core skills that are necessary regardless of the industry an analyst is working in include:
- Problem-solving skills
- Analytical thinking
- Critical thinking
- Communication skills
Other pertinent skills that are essential to the role of a business analyst are:
- Documentation and specification skills
- Visual modeling
- Facilitation and elicitation skills
- Self-management skills
- Time management
- Relationship-building skills
- Technical skills
- Methodology skills
- Industry and domain experience
How Much Do Business Analysts Make?
Your salary as a business analyst is going to be quite high. On average, those working in this role earn at least $70,000 a year. Starting out, however, you may only make around $50,000 a year. Still yet, this is good money to be earning straight out of college. Those with several years of experience often make close to $100,000 a year.
If problem-solving and analytical thinking come naturally to you, then the role of a business analyst will likely be a good fit for your career. Becoming this type of analyst typically takes four to seven years of formal education and several years of experience.