How to start your career as a Business Analyst
Are you exploring a different, exciting and challenging career option in the IT industry?
Or are you a testing professional who further wishes to unleash your passion for analytical problem solving and build deep business experience and technical experience? Or Are you looking out for a rewarding and lucrative career?
Then, here is the career avenue for you – Business Analysis.
What You Will Learn:
Business analysis has already gained momentum in the professional scenario. There is a strong future prospect for this career. Business analysis is a growth market. Business analysts ensure the businesses to invest their resources of manpower and money more wisely. Also, the growth roadmap for this career is very promising.
Last but not the least, if you love traveling around the globe, a career in business analysis is an apt one for you. This profile demands a lot of traveling both short terms as well as long-term based on the project requirements. BA's are supposed to visit their customers to elicitate the requirements.
A multinational IT firm with customers spread globally can really give a good exposure to a BA.
Who is a Business Analyst?
As the name itself suggests, ‘Business Analyst’ or BA analyses the business in order to help to build the software which can help the business grow rapidly, become more efficient, organized and hence, more successful.
Business Analyst's role is important in the IT industry today. In fact, a BA is a must in a team where the business requirements are to be understood and elicitated. A business analyst bridges the understanding gap between the business operations and software technology to elicitate the requirements and help to build the software.
What does a Business Analyst Entail?
What does a BA actually do? BA is the face of a Software Company when it comes to meeting the customers to collate the requirements for the desired software. He or she understands the requirements of the client (or business) and then translates them into a language that is easily understood by the technical (development) team and gets the software developed.
BA who would be liaising with the business team and software firm’s technical team needs to have a thorough knowledge of the processes in the business. He would then map them to the core software available and then identify gaps if any. He would also provide a solution to the gaps identified and ensure to build the required software for the customer.
For Example, a PQRS bank wants to buy loan management software from a software firm. The business analyst who would be liaising with the bank team and the software firm’s technical team needs to have a thorough knowledge of loan management process in the banking industry.
BA would elicitate the requirements from the bank regarding their loan management process. He would then map them to the software and then identify the gaps if any. He would also provide a solution to the gaps identified and ensures building the required software for the client or bank.
BA is required to have technical flair so that he is able to translate the business requirements for a better understanding of the technical team who would actually develop the software. And this is where being an engineer or a tester gives an added advantage.
A BA with engineering (technical) background or a testing background can really relate well to the technical team.
Responsibilities of a BA
The key responsibility of a business analyst is to collate, understand, analyze and document the customer's software requirements. He has to thoroughly analyze the software requirements from the business perspective.
There are a wide array of activities for a BA to perform which may vary from one organization to another organization. A BA works with the business to help them improvise their operation and processes. He communicates with various stakeholders to identify the problems and needs.
Some of the key responsibilities of a BA include:
- Requirement Elicitation and Analysis (Primary KRA).
- Documentation of requirements and various artifacts (Primary KRA).
- Conducting Training for external as well internal customers.
- Functional Testing.
- Closely working with the development team in making them understand the requirements and build the product (Primary KRA).
- Pre Sales Activities (Support to Business Development Team).
BA has a tremendous demand in the IT industry which makes it a lucrative career option. And, as already mentioned, a BA who has already worked in the business before has an edge over others.
How to go about Becoming a BA?
You can become a BA via the MBA route or via the Testing or Coding route as mentioned below.
Via MBA route
In today's scenario, Software development (IT) companies are catering to many domains. The domain is the business for whom the companies are building the software products or providing services. There were companies building software for the manufacturing firms, for networking, banking & financial institutions, healthcare industry and so on.
If banking & finance domain fascinates you then you may opt to specialize in finance during MBA. If manufacturing and operations domain excites you then you may go for MBA in Operations. Pursuing the right stream of specializing in MBA helps you to enter the correct domain in the IT industry.
BA can become successful only if he or she has actually worked in the business.
For Example, BA who has actually worked in a bank would be successful in his career in an IT firm for building software for banks.
However, it is not compulsory to work in business before getting into IT as a Business Analyst. But, a BA with an experience in the business always has an added advantage. With years of experience in a particular domain, you could choose to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME).
MBA degree from a reputed institution is also important. You can become a BA without engineering or equivalent technical degree (MCA etc…) but MBA degree has an added advantage to aspire for a BA role in good and reputed IT companies.
MBA plays a vital role in developing the skills which are essential for becoming a successful Business Analyst like the ability to gain business insights, communication skills, gaining domain expertise and management skills. Business Analyst has to engage with various stakeholders, customers, and developers. MBA helps him to manage time and people.
Via Testing or Coding route
A skilled workmanship can never remain hidden and it tends to get identified in the crowd. There is a huge scope for a programmer or a tester to enter into the business analysis. An excellent coder or an excellent tester are high on analytical skills and tend to develop the good hold on the business with experience on the related software.
Technical resources with decades of experience in the same business domain understand the business in and out and may be better than the newly hired BA's from top management schools.
The technical background will help us to give better solutions to the gaps identified in the requirement analysis phase as the outlook of a tester and coder is different from a non-technical resource. Solutions designed by technical resources are simpler and full proof. They are better at getting the software developed and tested as they can relate well with the team.
However, for a career in BA, testing professionals or programmers need to be sure about acquiring the below skill set and qualification.
Excellent oral and written communication skills with a very good command of English Language is a must. This is highly crucial as BA’s main responsibility is communicating with various stakeholders for collating the requirements and then getting them built into a software.
Any gap in communication can lead to incorrect requirement elicitation and hence a wrong software product won’t meet the end requirements.
Those who lack this skill can improve slowly and steadily by assisting a BA in his or her written assignments, reading the documents minutely by communicating in the English language. English speaking courses may be considered for polishing the skills. This is difficult and may take some time but it is not impossible. This is a hurdle worth overcoming for the talented souls.
I have met many experienced testers and developers with high analytical skills who had only communication issues while aspiring for a BA role.
MBA or an equivalent degree makes a difference and there is no doubt about it.
A management degree from a good and reputed institution gives a total 360-degree change in your personality. The course is designed in such a way that it takes out the smarter person in you, develops managerial skills in you and develops your personality to a great extent by making you confident.
MBA is also responsible for enhancing communication skills to a certain extent as the subjects, assignments, and tests tend to improve communication skills. An MBA degree increases the chances of procuring management roles in career and higher salaries.
A tester or developer can pursue a full-time MBA course as it gives an added advantage. However, they can also do a part-time MBA. In either of the cases, it’s mandatory to get the degree from a reputed institution as an MBA degree with less or no development in your personality is less helpful in the long run.
In several top and reputed IT organizations, MBA or equivalent degree is mandatory for Business Analyst role.
Salary brackets are also different for MBA and non-MBA candidates who apply for the BA role. Thus, apart from personality development and enhancement of communication skills, MBA promises growth in terms of both compensation and grades.
I strongly believe that a person with technical background has more scope to become a successful business analyst as they have the technical skills which make life easy ahead. Coding or testing skills are tremendously helpful in getting the software built in the right way as they are aware of the shortcomings and loopholes of technology or programming.
BA with technical background always provides a better solution to the requirements. Lack of technical insights is a major problem of today’s BA who have never done coding or testing before.
What's next in Moving up the ladder?
After several years of experience in the industry, they reach a pivotal point from where they can take the next step in their career.
Business Analyst can grow in their professional paths to become Lead/Senior Business Analyst, Consultants, Product Owners or Product Managers. These are some of the cream profiles in IT world today. They are very challenging and satisfying roles too.
With time and experience, Business Analyst can help the software development companies to create world-class feature-rich products and services. BA's who want to enhance their expertise and expand their career options should go for industry-recognized certifications.
IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) offers prestigious CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional) accreditation. This certification may prove to be one of the most important steps in the career as they help in boosting the salary by almost 16% (*Source – Certification Magazine).
The IIBA identifies the core competencies, called as ‘underlying competencies’ in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABoK).
Core Competencies include:
- Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Behavioral Characteristics
- Business Knowledge
- Communication Skills
- Interaction Skills
- Software Applications
The skills that correspond to these competencies are:
- Requirements Elicitation
- [Process] Change Leadership
- Requirements Planning & management
- Stakeholder Management
- Verbal Communications and Presence
- Written Communications and Documentation
Did you know?
American employers will require 876,000 business analysis related professionals by 2020.
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, Employment Projections Program)
BA’s role is highly important in software development projects, especially during the inception of a project. Business Analyst helps to set methodology to gather or elicitate the requirements and formalize the same into the processes. At present, the role is still very immature when compared to the other professions.
As of today, professional qualifications are not much necessary but this scenario is likely to change in the coming years with the growing importance of the IIBA and CBAP accreditation.
People with technical backgrounds like coding and testing can very much aspire to become a BA. They have an added advantage to become successful in enhancing the communication skills and personality development. Business analysis is a demanding career which can be satisfying but definitely not a very easy one.
The skills that you acquire as a business analyst are very much useful in many other well-rewarded roles in project management, programme management, business architecture, and strategy.
Our upcoming tutorial will give you a step by step guide to shift your career from a Tester to a Business Analyst.
About the Author:
This informative article is written by our STH author Samita Kalla.
Are you a passionate BA? Or do you aspire to pursue your career as a BA? Feel free to express your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.