What is a business analyst (BA)?
What is a business analyst?
In general, a business analyst (or BA) is central to helping an organisation meet its key goals. Business analysts normally work on projects.
Their role involves:
- Understanding the current organisational situation;
- Identifying future needs;
- Defining solutions which will meet those needs.
Many business analysts develop their careers by attending a business analyst course, either to learn some initial business analyst skills, or to further develop existing business analysis skills. These courses typically teach a wide variety of different business analysis tools and techniques.
What do business analysts do?
A business analyst is an advisor. He or she advises business decision makers about potential changes or improvements to business IT systems and processes which align with the needs of the business.
A large part of what a business analyst does involves identifying and evaluating options for improvements to business systems, and helping business users define and elaborate their business needs so that they can be turned into a new business process, product or system which helps the organisation meets its business goals.
Responsibilities of a business analyst
These are the main tasks of a business analyst:
- Investigate business systems – this involves looking at the current organisational structures, business IT systems and current business processes;
- Evaluate actions – this is done to identify potential improvements to current business systems and processes. This involves assessing staff development needs so that they align with any proposed process redesign or IT systems;
- Elaborating business requirements - this is done by working closely with users of the proposed or modified business systems or processes;
- Documenting business requirements - for the IT systems support;
- Writing business cases for projects - this involves weighing up the benefits against the costs, risks and timescales for a project.
Senior business analyst role
More senior business analysts can be involved in other areas as well, including:
- Strategic implementation – working closely with senior management to help define the most appropriate business IS systems and processes which help meet the organisation’s strategic business needs;
- Business case production – defining a robust business case to justify the investment. This is often done with experts from finance;
- Benefits realisation – this is where he or she is involved in post-project reviews which measure the achievement of benefits;
- Specification of IT requirements – this is done using standard industry modelling techniques such as data modelling or use case modelling.
Business analyst focus
A business analyst will often focus on certain key areas, including:
- Understanding root causes not symptoms – this is important if business problems are to be resolved in ways which meet business needs;
- Business improvement not IT change – the focus must always be on business improvement and whether existing systems can best support those improvements;
- Options not solutions – a business analyst must challenge current orthodoxy and pre-conceived ideas and to identify alternatives for meeting business needs;
- Prioritising requirements – helping business users understand that not all their requirements can be met within the constraints of time and budget which is allowed. Therefore, requirement must be prioritised so that the most important ones are delivered;
- The entire business change lifecycle – business analysts should not just focus on the requirements phase of a project, but also on the effective development, testing and deployment of IT systems. They should also be involved in post-project benefits reviews;
- Negotiation not avoidance – there will inevitably be conflicting view and requirements between stakeholders. It is the responsibility of the business analyst to negotiate these conflicts so that business needs are met.
Other names for business analysts
A business analyst is often referred to as a BA, but they can also be known by other names too, including:
- Business systems analyst;
- Requirements engineer;
- Business architect;
- Enterprise analyst;
- Product manager;
- Systems analyst;
- Process analyst;
- Product owner.
Business analyst skills
Some of the skills you will need as a business analyst include the following:
|Personal qualities||Business knowledge||Professional techniques|
Attention to detail;
Business case development;
Subject matter expertise;
Principles of IT;
Business case development;
Business analyst qualifications
Having a qualification in business analysis will help you stand out from the crowd. It helps to equip you with the knowledge and techniques in business analysis.
There are UK accreditation bodies that provide certification in business analysis and agile business analysis. Business analyst courses can be expensive, but you can expect a return on your investment.
Business analyst salary
According to glassdoor.co.uk, the average salary of a business analyst is over £38k per year. This depends upon your qualifications and experience.
Can you be a business analyst?
If you have the skills, the knowledge and experience, you could be a business analyst. If you tick all the boxes in the list, it is worth thinking about it.
If you are considering a change in your career path, check our guide to business analysis careers.