What is a business analyst?
A business analyst is a key player in facilitating successful business change initiatives.
Business analysts (also known as a BA) help to define business problems via in-depth investigation and gathering of technical and non-technical information. Once the issue is clearly understood, they outline detailed requirements for a solution and ensure the delivered solution meets those business requirements. They are most often engaged to work on IT and business transformation projects, but can also be deployed onto projects in other departments too.
BAs are usually engaged from the outset of a project and play an advisory role to senior managers and exec teams. They help to bridge the gap between IT and the wider business and many business analysts work as contractors engaged on specific projects.
Depending on the scope of the business analyst roles, they can also be known as technical business analysts, business systems analyst or process business analysts.
Business analysts responsibilities
Duties of a business analyst may vary depending on the type of organisation or industry they are working in, however there will be some commonalities across roles:
- Gathering, validating and documenting business requirements.
- Analysing commercial data such as budgets, sales results and forecasts
- Modelling business processes and identifying opportunities for process improvements.
- Identifying issues, risks and benefits of existing and proposed solutions and outlining business impacts.
- Creating functional specifications for solutions.
- Estimating costs and identifying business savings.
- Simplifying information and deciphering technical jargon so it is easily understood by the whole team.
- Implementing and testing of solutions.
- Supporting business transition and helping to establish change.
7 essential skills of a business analyst
The following are some of the specific skills a business analyst needs in order to be successful:
- Effective stakeholder engagement
- Business analysts are likely to deal with stakeholders at all levels of an organisation right up to the CEO
- Critical thinking
- The ability to understand and analyze problems and find solutions
- Problem solving
- The ability to think creatively and work collaboratively with teams to solve business challenges
- Decision making
- The ability to make decisions around things such as requirement prioritisation, scope, assessing viability of solutions etc
- Good listener & communicator
- Requirement gathering is a key part of the role so the ability to ask the right questions and correctly understand the information received is essential
- Documentation and writing skills
- Business analysts will find themselves creating documents such as use cases and business requirement documents
- Confident presenter
- The ability to present findings and recommendations to senior leaders and to manage stakeholder meetings
What qualifications does a business analyst need?
Whilst a university degree is not essential to becoming a business analyst, many will hold a Bachelor degree in an area such as business, finance or information technology. Postgraduate study options such as a Master of Business Administration are also available for those looking for further their knowledge.
Strong business understanding and commercial acumen is essential, and most projects today also require strong technical knowledge, in particular related to system integrations.
Joining the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) is beneficial, as is having a good understanding of the business analysis concepts and techniques outlined in the globally recognised International Institute of Business Analysis BABOK Guide.
What does a typical business analyst career path look like?
Business analyst career paths can be extremely varied depending on your area of interested and expertise. Business analysts typically progress to become a senior business analyst within a few years. From here they may become a business architect, a product owner or even move into project management or a role in IT. The more experience you have, the larger and more complex the projects you can be assigned to work on.
Who does a business analyst typically report to?
Business analysts often report into a project manager or a program manager, although some may also report directly to the senior executive team or the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
How much does a business analyst earn?
Depending on their level of experience and seniority, project managers can earn between AUD70k-140k per year in a permanent role, or AUD400-1200 per day as a contractor.