A Business Analyst is someone who analyzes an organization or business domain (real or hypothetical) and documents its business or processes or systems, assessing the business model or its integration with technology.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) describes the role as "a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals."
The role of a System Analyst can also be defined as a bridge between the business problems and the technology solutions. Here business problems can be anything about business systems, for example the model, process, or method. The technology solutions can be the use of technology architecture, tools, or software application. So System Analysts are required to analyze, transform and ultimately resolve the business problems with the help of technology.
Areas of business analysis
There are at least four tiers of business analysis:
- Strategic planning — to identify the organization's business needs
- Business model analysis — to define the organization's policies and market approaches
- Process design — to standardize the organization’s workflows
- Systems analysis — the interpretation of business rules and requirements for technical systems (generally within IT)
The Business Analyst is someone who is a part of the business operation and works with Information Technology to improve the quality of the services being delivered, sometimes assisting in Integration and Testing of new solutions.
The BA may also support the development of training material, participates in the implementation, and provides post-implementation support. This may involve the development of project plans and often requires project management skills.
- Business requirements, i.e. business plan, KPI, project plan...
- Functional requirements, i.e. data models, technical specifications, use case scenarios, work instructions, reports...
- Non-Functional requirements
- As-Is processes, i.e. flowcharts
- To-Be processes, i.e. flowcharts
- Business case, a strategic plan containing shareholders’ risk and return
The BA records requirements in some form of requirements management tool, whether a simple spreadsheet or a complex application. Within the systems development life cycle, the business analyst typically performs a liaison function between the business side of an enterprise and the providers of IT services.
There is no defined way to become a business analyst. Often the BA has a technical background, whether having worked as a programmer or engineer, or completing a Computer Science degree. Others may move into a BA role from a business role – their status as a subject matter expert and their analytical skills make them suitable for the role.
A BA does not always work in IT-related projects, as BA skills are often required in marketing and financial roles as well.
Over time, expectations of the skills and expertise from a BA are taking a more structured form. A growing number of traditional educational establishments (like universities) have now started offering formal BA certifications.
The International Institute of Business Analysis offers a couple of certifications –
- Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) – aimed at individuals with already having extensive BA experience. For CBAP® exam, IIBA requires 7500 hours of hands-on experience, 900 hours in four of its commended six knowledge areas, minimum 21 hours of Professional Development in the past four years, two references meeting specific criteria, and a signed Code of Conduct. IIBA says its "CBAP® recipients are the elite, senior members of the BA community."
- Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®) – targeted for practitioners "who want to be recognized for their expertise and skills by earning formal recognition." Willing candidates need to sit for an exam after fulfilling certain pre-requisites categorically similar to the requirements asked for CBAP (but to a significantly lower stretch). For examples, 3750 hours of hands-on experience, 900 hours in two of the six knowledge areas or 500 hours in four of the six knowledge areas.
Other certifications currently on offer include –
- The University of California, Davis Extension offers an online Business Analysis Certificate Program that prepares students for the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) and Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™ (CCBA™) examinations
- The University of California Irvine Extension offers Business Analyst Certificate Program which asks for completion of all required courses and a minimum of 2.5 units of elective courses
- UC Berkeley Extension is offering Certificate Program in Business Analysis which consist of 10 units of four core courses all of which are delivered Online
- Northwestern University has a Business Analyst Certificate program which currently has four core courses and one elective course
- University of Minnesota offers Business Analysis Certificate after completing 54 hours of its five core courses and 6 hours from any one of its three available elective courses
- University of Delaware's Division of Professional and Continuing Studies is providing Business Analyst Certificate which can be completed in three months
- Swinburne University of Technology offers a Business Analysis and Modelling course
- QA provides a moderately wide range of BA courses including a Diploma and courses on very specific skills of a BA. They also have partnering experience with large organisations (for instance, British American Tobacco)
- UK based BCS Professional Certification (formerly ISEB/The Chartered Institute for IT) offers a range of Foundation-Practitioner-Higher-Expert level BA courses which include an International Diploma in Business Analysis
- Business Analyst Solutions provides regular schedule of BA training courses (including a Fundamental BA course), and training and exams to prepare individuals to achieve the BCS Diploma in Business Analysis (ISEB)
- Project Management Institute, Inc. offers PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) certification
Advice for similar other programs might be found Online. For example, Open Universities Australia has a Career Advice page for Business Analysts (ICT).
IIBA is also working to facilitiate development of professional courses by partnering with academic institutions under its Recognition Programs.
Although it's still not common for employers to ask for formal BA certifications, individuals who aspire to have a rewarding career in BA may consider gaining specialised skills. Relevant, Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) highlights on its webpage that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of business analysis jobs is predicted to increase 19 percent by 2022. Accordingly, it predicts there would be "a growing need for professionals skilled in effective requirements management."
Also of relevant importance, in certain industry—for example, Finance or Health—employers ask for specific industry-related expertise or certifications. And, certain technical expertise such as knowledge of SQL or Project/Program Management (PRINCE2, PMP) are often asked for, too.
BAs work in different industries such as finance, banking, insurance, telecoms, utilities, software services and so on. Due to working on projects at a fairly high level of abstraction, BAs can switch between industries.
The business domain subject areas BAs may work in include workflow, billing, mediation, provisioning and customer relationship management. The telecom industry has mapped these functional areas in their Telecommunications Operational Map (eTOM) model, Banking in the Information Framework (IFW) and Emergency agencies in the Prevention Preparation Response and Recovery model (PPRR).
Finally, Business Analysts do not have a predefined and fixed role, as they can take a shape in operations scaling, sales planning, strategy devising or even in developmental process.
- Business process reengineering
- Change management analyst
- Information technology
- International Institute of Business Analysis
- Systems Architect
- Systems analyst
- Use case
- UC Davis Extension's online Business Analysis Certificate Program
- IIBA's CCBA® Certification
- IIBA's CBAP® Certification
- How to apply for CBAP®
- CBAP® Handbook
- A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) Online
- University of California Irvine Extension's BA Certificate Program
- UC Berkeley Extension's Certificate Program in Business Analysis
- Northwestern University's BA Certificate program
- University of Minnesota's BA certificate
- University of Delaware's Division of Professional and Continuing Studies' BA Certificate
- Swinburne University of Technology's Business Analysis and Modelling course
- Business Analysis Training Courses from QA
- BCS Professional Certification for BA (formerly ISEB/The Chartered Institute for IT)
- Business Analysis Training Courses from Business Analyst Solutions
- PMI Professional in Business Analysis Certification (PMI-PBA)
- Open Universities Australia's Career Advice page for Business Analysts (ICT)
- Business analysis and the project lifecycle in practice – a briefing study guide