Companies gather data and they use this collected data to make business decisions, and this, in turn, allows them to become more efficient and to remain competitive. In order to do this effectively, businesses turn to business analysts to guide them during this time.
Business analysts analyze and evaluate the current environment of a business, and in doing so, they look for challenges the organization is facing and they find solutions. In addition to this, business analysts identify new business opportunities and define areas for improvement.
In today's article, we will talk about the role of a business analyst, a business analyst's responsibilities and duties, and the main requirements for this role.
What Is the Role of a Business Analyst?
According to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to the stakeholders. And a business analyst or BA is an agent of change who guides companies towards better processes, structure, products, and technologies.
To better understand a business analyst role, let's take a look at a real-world example.
Suppose an airline decides to update its reservation system. A BA would start the process of updating this system by asking a lot of questions.
Questions like, “What are the main issues with the existing system?”, “What features are missing or need to be upgraded in the current system?”, “Is it technically feasible to upgrade the current system?”, “What things should remain unchanged?”, “What is the client’s priority?” and “What advantages will the new system have?”
At the same time, a BA evaluates the financial data and observes current business processes.
After gathering and reviewing all necessary information, a BA prepares business requirement documents and shares them with the stakeholders. Then they work closely with a team to ensure the successful development and implementation of the new system. In addition to this, a BA also analyzes user feedback and makes adjustments to the requirements if need be.
So, the primary job responsibility of a business analyst is to communicate with various stakeholders and analyze organization’s needs and requirements for changes, be it changes in work processes, company structure, or information systems.
A BA understands where an organization wants to be, and then devises detailed plans of how to get there. With the help of a BA, organizations can ensure that their business objectives are clear, and they can avoid unnecessary changes to the requirements, reduce project costs and improve the quality of final products.
What Are the Main Duties and Responsibilities of a Business Analyst?
The daily duties and responsibilities of these professionals vary depending on their industry, company, and project. However, business analyst job description typically notes the following duties and responsibilities:
- Evaluating the current processes in a company and uncovering areas for improvement.
- Developing optimization strategies.
- Researching the latest tech trends in order to modernize the current systems.
- Requirements analysis.
- Assessing financial data, analyzing employment reports, onsite observations, and documenting processes.
- Finding the root causes of problems and looking into possible solutions.
- Presenting findings to decision-makers using diagrams, roadmaps, charts, and other data modeling techniques.
- Collaborating with a team, monitoring project performance, providing guidance, and ensuring that the final product meets all of its requirements.
- Performing some user acceptance testing, and gathering feedback from everyone involved in the project to ensure that changes are working as planned.
What Qualifications and Skills Are Needed To Become A Business Analyst?
To perform all the tasks mentioned above, a professional needs a particular combination of skills, business acumen, and technical knowledge. Let's take a look at what kind of education, certifications, personal qualities, and skills employers seek when hiring a business analyst.
To work in a business analyst’s role individuals usually need a bachelor's degree in business administration, accounting, finance, statistics, or a related field. Some employers, however, may prefer to hire a candidate with a master's degree in business analytics.
In addition to this, there are a lot of bootcamps, training programs, and courses, both in-person and online, where you can learn all the necessary skills to start a career as a business analyst. Some of these courses only last a few days, and others run for weeks or even months. You can choose the right program depending on your preferred learning style and how much time you have available to study.
In addition to education, business analysts must have a certain set of hard and soft skills.
The most important soft skills include:
- Problem-solving skills. A business analyst’s primary responsibility is to develop solutions to solve an organization’s problems. That is why the ability to identify an issue and then come up with traditional and creative ways to solve the problem is vital for each BA.
- Analytical and conceptual thinking skills. A business analyst must be able to process a large amount of data and grasp abstract concepts. They need to collect, deconstruct, categorize, and prioritize information to find the best possible solution for the problem at hand.
- Communication skills. A business analyst is responsible for establishing a bridge between various stakeholders, so the ability to communicate effectively is crucial for this role.
- Organizational skills. Proficiency in time management, tasks prioritization, and strategic planning is the key to being successful in a business analyst role.
- Being detail-oriented. A major part of a business analyst's job is analyzing data, reviewing documents, and conducting business modeling. It is, therefore, essential that a BA strives for a high level of accuracy in their work. Errors and missing details can leaf to major problems.
A business analyst’s hard skills and technical knowledge vary significantly depending on the industry and organization. However, as a BA’s job revolves around collecting and sorting data, creating graphs and charts, preparing visualizations to present the findings, familiarity with the following tools is often expected:
- Microsoft Excel
- Google Analytics
- Python or R programming language
Professionals who want to advance their career further may consider earning one of the business analyst certificates noted below to confirm that they have the skills and knowledge to perform their job effectively.
Here is a brief list of some of the most popular certification programs:
- The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offers three different levels of certification.
- The Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA) is designed for less experienced business analysts, and when an individual completes this course they will have a foundational knowledge of business analysis practices.
- Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA) demonstrates that the individuals holding this certification have the necessary competencies of a professional BA who has 2-3 years worth of experience in the field.
- The Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) recognizes the expertise of a seasoned business analyst, who typically has over five years of work experience in the field.
- In addition to this, the IIBA has specialized certification programs that focus on a particular business analysis aspect, such as cybersecurity, data analytics, or agile.
- The International Qualifications Board for Business Analysts (IQBBA) provides two types of certificates:
- Certified Foundation Level Business Analyst (CFLBA).
- Certified Advanced Level Business Analyst (CALBA).
- The Project Management Institute offers PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PBA) certification. A professional must possess a bachelor's degree and must have at least 36 months of work experience to earn this certificate. Alternatively, they can have a secondary degree, and at least 60 months of experience. In addition, completing 35 contact hours of education in business analysis is required.
- The International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) also has a certification program. As requirements gathering and analysis is an integral part of a business analyst job, many employers highly value their certificates. Professionals can choose between three levels: foundation, advanced and expert.
Relevant certification gives business analysts an advantage in the job market and increases their earning potential.
Interview Questions Related To The Business Analyst Role
Whether you are an experienced business analyst, or a graduate searching for your first job, it is always a good idea to prepare answers to the most common business analyst interview questions before going to an interview.
As noted above, what qualifications, skills, and knowledge you may need will likely vary from company to company, therefore, interview questions may also be different. However, there are some questions that you are likely to hear in most interviews.
We can divide these questions into three groups:
Questions regarding your knowledge of business analysis foundations
By asking you these questions a hiring manager is examining your overall understanding of primary business analysis concepts, techniques, and best practices.
Questions like the ones listed below are often asked:
- What is the role of a business analyst in an organization?
- What are the key strengths of a business analyst?
- How do you typically approach a project?
- What techniques do you use to analyze business processes?
- What are the most important tools for a business analyst?
- Which documents do business analysts use and prepare?
- What types of requirements do you know about?
Questions regarding your technical skills
Your answers to these questions are supposed to prove that you have the right hard skills to perform the daily tasks of a business analyst.
Questions like the ones listed below are often asked:
- What types of diagrams do you prefer to use?
- What does SRS/BRD/RTM stand for?
- Do you have experience working with SQL queries?
- What is UML modeling?
- What data visualization tools have you used?
- What steps do you need to follow to design a use case?
Questions regarding your soft skills
When asking these questions, a hiring manager is trying to assess your interpersonal, communication, and collaboration skills.
Questions like the ones listed below are often asked:
- How would you work with a difficult stakeholder?
- How do you stay up-to-date on general business knowledge and trends?
- How do you handle changes to requirements?
- How do you explain complex and technical information to non-technical stakeholders?
- How do you handle situations when there are disagreements between stakeholders about a project’s priorities?
- How would you get a client to take a different course of action?
- How do you deal with critical feedback?
You will feel much more confident during a conversation with a potential employer by preparing and rehearsing your answers to such questions in advance.
What Makes a Good Business Analyst?
Good business analysts help companies adapt more easily to any changes and help them to achieve their business goals faster. That is why employers value their work so much.
So, what should an aspiring specialist focus on in order to become a highly respected professional in the field?
Here is a list of five habits and qualities that all successful business analysts have in common:
Good business analysts constantly grow their toolbox of skills
Experienced business analysts know that each company and each project is different. So much so, they don’t rely on the same tools and techniques every time. Instead, they work hard to build and grow their skill set so that they can remain competitive.
Good business analysts ask the right questions
Business analysts need to comprehend an organization’s business needs, goals, and challenges in order to do their job well. And this cannot be achieved without asking the right questions.
"What are you currently doing to solve this issue?", "What did you try in the past?", "What do you want to change?" and "What do you want to remain the same?" - these are only a few questions that a business analyst should ask at the start of a project. They must ask questions so that they can gather all the necessary information before continuing with their work.
Good business analysts possess excellent communication skills
Good business analysts can turn a client’s vague idea into a clear and complete requirement that teams can work on and create. In order to do this efficiently, they must excel in communication skills, including writing, active listening, and presentation.
Good business analysts understand how important prioritization is
Money, time and resources are often limited, therefore, great business analysts need to prioritize tasks carefully, so that they can get the most out of their resources. Clients, project managers, team members typically have their own idea about what tasks are important on a project, however, it is the job of a business analyst to determine what will actually deliver the maximum value to the client.
Good business analysts think strategically
Experienced business analysts can see the bigger picture. They constantly look for areas to improve or where they can optimize processes. And they continuously ask questions about how the particular work will help an organization reach its business objectives.
Becoming a business analyst is an excellent career choice that provides a lot of great opportunities for professional growth and financial stability. According to Glassdoor data, the average salary of a business analyst in the United States is $77,218. Plus, there is a high demand for qualified professionals in this field across many industries: software development, finance, insurance, retail, transportation, pharmaceuticals, for example.