It’s one of the most searched for jobs in America right now according to Forbes. And it was on Glassdoor’s list of top jobs in America in 2015. But the term “business analyst” is broad in relation to industries these professionals operate in, and it’s confusing with the different job titles associated with the role. Is it the same as a business consultant or management consultant? How about a management analyst or systems analyst? Step one is knowing what the role entails.
Understand the Role
Analysts leverage their skills towards a specific field, or domain, such as the insurance, health, or finance sectors. In all cases, they work with managers, IT, and relevant stakeholders to develop systems and solutions that drive the company forward. Various issues force a company to make adjustments. Inefficient systems, outdated policies, and unsuitable equipment are examples. A business analyst must spot barriers to progress and competitiveness and suggest ways to overcome them. As part of this, they:
- Evaluate company data to identify areas of weakness
- Recommend changes and improvements based on data modeling methods
- Assess feasibility and impact of changes
- Document findings and present them to stakeholders
- Validate and verify requirements
- Increase efficiency and productivity
Acquire and Leverage Skills
The next step is to analyze your skills and compare it with those that are essential for the job. The position calls for these soft skills, transferable skills, and hard skills:
- Analytical skills - Identify and understand the real problems facing a company. These are not always obvious.
- Critical thinking and evaluation skills - Listen to stakeholders and ask the right questions to determine needs. Then critically evaluate those needs to ensure they address underlying problems.
- Problem-solving skills - Facilitate understanding of problems affecting a project and enable all stakeholders to achieve mutual agreement on solutions.
- Research skills - Analyze documents, observe procedures, and interview relevant parties to pinpoint core issues.
- Written and verbal communication skills - Meetings, interviews, and discussions help a business analyst understand company requirements. This could be face-to-face or in a virtual setting. Clear and concise writing skills are necessary to document and share findings and action plans.
- Interpersonal skills - Disagreements always occur over prioritizing steps forward. And implementing change isn’t possible if teams don’t cooperate. So interpersonal skills are non-negotiable!
- Organizational skills - Analysts pour over volumes of data. They must prioritize tasks and be efficient with time and resource allocation. Good organizational skills mean they communicate important information to the right people.
- Technical skills - On paper, IT skills aren’t essential to the job besides basics like Microsoft Office proficiency. But since it’s such a broad field, business analysts often do more than you’d expect. That’s why a list of technical skills accompanies most job listings. These may include SQL, Oracle, .NET, C#, and many others.
Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in business administration or related areas. Popular majors include:
- Computer science
- Information Technology
- Information systems
- Management Information Systems
A bachelor’s degree will allow you to secure an entry-level position as a business analyst. After building up work experience, certification strengthens your position.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) offers Certification of Competency in Business AnalysisTM (CCBA®) and Certified Business Analysis ProfessionalTM (CBAP® programs.
The Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) certifies at basic, experienced, and management levels. A minimum of 3 years’ experience is necessary for the basic course.
The Chartered Institute for IT offers Foundation, Practitioner, Professional, and Consultant and Expert certificates.
While a bachelor’s degree is standard for entry-level positions, hirers often want a graduate degree too. Relevant master’s degrees include:
- Master of Science in Business Analytics (MS-BA)
- Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Many industry professionals and developers become a business analyst for new career challenges. They have valuable expertise and skills, and they can boost their portfolios through certification. If you’re working towards entering the field, apply for internships while you’re at college. Then gain experience through an entry-level position. You’ll work with a team of consultants or senior analysts, and you can expand your knowledge and skills.
New job seekers or those interested in a career change should gain relevant qualifications and leverage skills to take up the role. Expand career opportunities through networking with LinkedIn analyst groups and by joining IIBA® Chapters. It’s a popular job nowadays, and demand for business analysts is forecast to continue.
This article has since been updated by Laurence Bradford.