How do I become a Business Analyst?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I have encountered ever since I have started mentoring business analysts. Before exploring ‘how’, one should ask ‘why do I want to become a business analyst?’ Is it just because every talented individual want to do it, or you want better opportunity, or for better salary. In my opinion, if you have the necessary skills and business analysis is something you would love doing, only than you shall be a successful business analyst.
The purpose of this paper is to provide practical guidance on skills that you need to acquire to become a business analyst.
This paper also highlights certain myths on this subject.
First thing you must understand is irrespective of your background or role (technical or non-technical) you can become a business analyst. Through research it is found that people from various walks of life (experienced graduates, engineers as well as fresh MBAs) have become business analyst.
"What all matters is your will and commitment towards your goal."
To become a business analyst, you need to
1. Improve your communication skills
‘You can’t be business analyst if you can’t express yourself’.
The role of business analyst mandates excellent communication skills including spoken, and written, and much more. A business analyst is expected to effectively express ideas, information and have ability to make oneself understood. S/he should also demonstrate good vocabulary, excellent listening and presentation skills.
Demonstrating such skills starts from your resume and gets noticed in your job interviews. So, if you think that you are lacking in any of these aspects, you should consider seeking professional help and improve.
2. Acquire business knowledge
‘You are wasting everyone’s time if you do not understand what they are talking’.
The role of business analyst also requires understanding the business domain and industry (banking, insurance, telecom etc), and/or solutions (CRM, ERP, COTS products etc) in which s/he is expected to be working or desire to be working. A generalist business analyst may be expected to work in multiple domains but s/he is still expected to have the ability to talk to specialists from that business domain and industry. A specialist business analyst is expected to have thorough knowledge either in the business domain and industry (many times referred as Domain Consultants) or in solutions (many times referred as Functional Consultants).
The amount of experience and knowledge required in a business domain, industry or solution varies across recruiting organisations depending on their project or client requirements.
3. Learn Business Analysis Techniques
‘What value will you deliver (as a business analyst) if you can’t define problem, synthesise solution and communicate it to make everyone understand it’.
A Business Analyst is required to not only identify solution to the (newly) identified business need but also has to identify opportunities for improvements in the existing solutions (involving people, process, or technology) so that it continues to meet the changing business requirements. A business analyst needs to understand people’s concerns and capture their requirements to address their business problems. In order to do these tasks, s/he has to capture requirements from all stakeholder perspectives and make sure that all stakeholders have common understanding of requirements.
In order to achieve this goal, Business Analyst has to choose appropriate model(s) to describe requirements from different perspectives. Model(s) abstract and simplify reality, depict different viewpoints such that they become useful for analysis. No single model can describe all viewpoints (or no single business analysis technique is all encompassing). Hence, we require multiple modelling/ specification techniques to completely analyse, document and communicate requirements. The specified and modelled requirements using appropriate business analysis techniques are used further for analysis, design and implementation of the solution.
These skills are required irrespective of the business analyst role (generalist vs. specialised) or the business analysis approach (waterfall vs. agile). Most of the organisation where you would seek role as a business analyst would expect a person with good knowledge on these techniques depending on their client or project requirements. These techniques can be learnt through training from an experienced mentor.
4. Enhance your Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
‘You can’t be termed as “the analyst” if you don’t have analytical and problems solving skills’.
Skills such as creative thinking, learning, problem solving, decision analysis, ability to see the big picture etc are all required to be an analyst.
Some of these skills cannot be taught but can be consciously enhanced over period of time by improving your verbal/non-verbal (analytical) reasoning skills, quantitative aptitude, solving puzzles, participating in debates and group discussions etc. These skills will help you not only during your job interviews but also while working as a business analyst.
5. Improve your Interaction Skills
‘It is not only analysis but also about leading and working with people’.
A business analyst is also expected to have good facilitation, negotiation, and leadership skills and at the same s/he is also expected to be a good team player.
You may refer self-help books and articles on leadership, team work, facilitation and negotiations. In your job interviews, you may also be evaluated against these qualities.
1. To become a Business analyst, you must have a technical (engineering) background
Business Analysis work is (and should be) independent of technology. BAs are not required to have in-depth knowledge or experience in programming, database, networking, etc. It is wrong to expect technical skills out of BAs. It is nice to have technical background as it will help a BA to talk to development team but not must have unless the work is that of a Systems Analyst (who has some overlap with BA roles and responsibilities).
2. To become a Business analyst, you must have an MBA qualification
It is not MBA degree but the skills which are generally found in an MBA helps him/her to become a business analyst. You are expected to have good communication, presentation, interaction, analytical and problem solving skills for the role of business analyst. A non-MBA too can become a business analyst if s/he has all the needed skills.
3. To become a Business analyst, you must know various business analysis modelling tools
As a business analyst, you should first focus on appropriate business analysis techniques and than on modelling tools. Modelling tools may improve your productivity and efficiency but cannot replace your expertise. After mastering various techniques, you will be in position to compare and select appropriate modelling tools based on your requirements.
Glossary of terms used in this article
CRM is the abbreviation for Customer Relationship Management. It entails all aspects of interaction that a company has with its customer, whether it is sales or service-related. It involves using technology to organise, automate, and synchronise sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.
ERP is the abbreviation for Enterprise Resource Planning, a system that is used to manage and coordinate all the resources, information, and functions of a business.
COTS is the abbreviation for Commercial off-the-shelf, are the pre-built software or products that are commercially available usually from a 3rd party vendor, and are alternatives to the in-house developments.
[This article was originally published on Modern Analyst by Trividh Patel, CBAP on Mar 05, 2014]