Business Analyst (BA) jobs are exciting, challenging, flexible, and can be with excellent benefits. A business analyst role can be crucial for business success, and that’s why this career is increasingly in demand, especially in today’s world of technology.
But if we say that a business analyst is important because of the developments in technology, does that mean that a business analyst job is actually an IT job?
IT is a part, and a path in a business analyst career, but they are not the same. A Business Analyst job enables businesses to articulate their needs, anticipate problems in the organization, and offer solutions. Those solutions often but not always include an IT segment, which is just one part of business analyst responsibilities.
A career path of business analyst offers a nice, wide selection of branches that can suit your preferences and strongest skills. An IT business analyst is just one of them. For a better understanding of BA jobs, and differences between different pathways, keep reading.
What Do Business Analysts Really Do? And Why it Isn’t an IT Job?
A Business Analyst helps the organization to stay competitive in the market by following trends, reading data, and keeping a close look at the internal and external factors that could impact the company’s performance.
The IT department and technological development and solutions are important, but only one factor that will impact the overall performance of the company. That’s why the general BA role includes some, but it’s not limited to the IT role.
Although the role of the BA will vary depending on the industry/company, the primary goals are always the same:
· To understand that needs and goals of the company
· To be able to analyze the market, company (and stakeholders) needs, and balance them with the best possible strategies and solutions
· To anticipate problems, propose and drive changes
· To communicate and facilitate changes through the whole organization and all its departments.
Business analysts research, evaluate, and plan. The strategies and changes they recommend have to be according to the needs, accepted, and approved by stakeholders. So, a BA job includes a lot of communication and people handling, and it goes beyond technical suggestions and solutions.
Business Analyst basically has to make sure that everyone and everything moves towards the same, common goal. Obviously, that requires strong analytical skills, strategic planning, and advanced communication skills.
So, what are the key requirements to be a good business analyst?
- To be a liaison between departments, peers, stakeholders, clients. The BA needs to communicate and provide insights about the shared interest.
- Business development – to produce a clear plan and strategies according to internal and external research and analysis. The tasks include scheduling meetings with clients and stakeholders, negotiations in order to figure out the best possible ways to implement changes.
- To have an understanding of the business and all its departments (the requirements will include formal education and/or experience in the industry and similar companies as a guarantee that you have a general understanding of a workflow)
- Execution – the ability to see the changes through. Assisting in the process of implementing changes, testing, quick detection of errors, and being able to modify and provide improved solutions.
- Brand management – the critical part of a BA’s work is maintaining the image of the brand. While leading the company through the changes, you will have to work closely with the marketing department, help them develop strategies and design for keeping or strengthening brand image.
- Reporting and documentation. Strong writing and reporting skills are a must for any BA role because all your recommendations and decisions have to be justified by evidence, found in research data and numbers, and transformed in understandable language for peers, stakeholders, and clients.
These are all “must-have” skills for a good business analyst. Furthermore, we can talk about different paths (or focuses) of different BAs just to underline those confusing differences between different types of Business Analysts.
How Many Technical Skills a Good Business Analyst Has to Have?
Ok, so we agreed that a business analyst is not an IT job and that you do not have to be an IT expert to be a good business analyst. On the other hand, technology systems and operations are an essential part of almost any business today.
So how much actual knowledge and technical experience is needed for a good BA?
First of all, there is a big difference between technical understanding and technical skills. This means you can be an excellent BA, even on IT projects, even if you have zero experience in programming and code writing.
What you need for performing the tasks properly is a general understanding of software systems.
I am guessing that your formal education for this career path will prepare you with a basic understanding of modern technology. If you want to advance in the career of Business Analyst, you must stay up to date with the developments in the industry.
Do not get overwhelmed and scared by many job openings where superb technology knowledge is recommended. If you are not applying for an IT position where coding and writing program languages are a must, do not hesitate to apply with good understanding (and no programming skills).
Here is a list of essential skills you have to be familiar to be able to operate as a good BA:
- – Microsoft Office
- – Microsoft Visio
- – SQL Queries
- – Business Process Models
- – Software Design Tools
There are many more programs that could be useful, but it is important to remember that in order to be able to provide a good solution for the business, you only need to know how something works and why, so you can make sound decisions. You are not required to do it yourself!
How Many Types Of Business Analysts Are There?
There are many different types of BA, who are focusing on the different parts of processes within the business to ensure the best possible results. Depending on the industry, different companies will look for a BA with specific experience and knowledge.
Here are some of the most common Business Analyst jobs:
1. IT business analyst. The IT business analyst will take part in the development, design, or modifications of the existing system or Software system.
This role can be a permanent one, where the BA is always monitoring the whole technological department. Often, the companies will hire the IT BA as a consultant – to analyze, suggest changes, and stay on while the modifications take place.
2. Data business analyst. The data analyst will follow and read numbers and data and use critical thinking to write reports to the decision-makers who will then accordingly make possible changes.
Data BA is mostly a research role but requires an ability to understand the research and also to put it in words (reports) that everyone else can understand.
There are different titles for the position of a data analyst, like Marketing Analyst, Sales Analyst, Operational Analyst, and many more.
3. Functional business analyst. Functional BA is specialized in a specific line of business, technology, or industry domain. The functional BA will use their expertise to propose the best possible practices in the field.
4. Report business analyst is the person who will design a system and metrics of reporting, which will further be used for decision making. That system has to transform the raw data so that management can use them easily in the decision-making process. Data extraction and transformation are the main part of this role and usually include software development for performing those tasks.
How Do Business Analysts Add Value to Business?
There are still companies that operate without business analysts and believe that the BA is an unnecessary add-on cost.
We’ve talked about the duties and responsibilities of a BA. Still, one might argue that all those duties are covered by different people and managers within the company.
So how do Business Analysts add value to the organization?
The main responsibility of a Business Analyst is to add value, by lowering the costs and increasing the return of investment (ROI)
There is a list of ways this can be achieved, and here are some of the main benefits of having a BA:
· Overseeing project success. A BA role can be crucial when it comes to choosing and implementing the most productive projects for the company.
You will have a Project Manager that will be in charge of some project, who will take care of project implementation, necessary steps, and deadlines. But the BA role is different.
A Business Analyst will work alongside the Project Manager making sure that the project is cost-efficient and that the whole project is, at all times, going in the right direction according to the company’s needs and goals.
The BA will also choose the best projects for the organization and change or discard those that are not adding value.
· BA will lower costs. BA is an “outsider” or someone who isn’t attached to a specific department/project but who is looking into the overall company’s numbers, solutions, and goals.
BA will analyze current solutions, anticipate problems, and pay close attention to reworks (which are always the cause of extra expenses). They will recommend and introduce better and more cost-efficient solutions.
· Cooperation with the stakeholders. Quite often, the time is wasted, and rework occurs because of non-clear communication, which leads to errors in requirements.
The BA makes sure that everyone is on the same page from the very beginning. It is his role to schedule meetings with stakeholders, clients, and everyone involved in the process to agree on, and clearly explain the requirements.
· A Business Analyst increases the ROI of the company. Return on Investment is calculated by dividing benefits with the costs of investment. All the BA roles we mentioned (and many more) are serving to do just that: lower the costs, find the best cost-efficient solutions, prevent problems (which would add costs), and as a result, you have an increase in ROI.