There Isn’t Really A Set Business Analyst Career Path
I feel I should point this out up front. There isn’t really a set path to becoming a business analyst. There aren’t any (that I know of) degrees in becoming a business analyst. Sure, there may be junior business analyst roles out there, but you still need some knowledge and probably some experience to be able to be a successful business analyst.
If you speak to business analysts you know through work or other connections, you’ll probably find that they started in one of two methods:
· Started in a technical role (e.g. development) and moved into business analysis
· Started in a business role (e.g. a business user or manager) and moved into business analysis
When I began business analysis, I was originally a software developer that moved into a more analysis role. This doesn’t always need to be the case – you could work in networking or testing and make a similar move. I would think that most of my readers, who are IT professionals, would make the move from technical to BA, rather than from business user to BA.
How To Move From Development Into Business Analyst
Ok, so assuming you’re in a software development position (or a similar IT role, such as testing, networking, support, etc), and you want to move into business analysis. What do you need to know? What are your biggest questions and what should you do first?
Well, the role of a business analyst, as mentioned in a recent article, is to determine business requirements to solve a business need, and translate them into technical details that the IT teams can work with. You may have been involved in this before, from the IT side, or you might not have. No problem if you haven’t.
You should aim to develop the skills you need in for a business analysis role, such as:
· Communication skills (speaking with people, asking questions, phone calls)
· Determining requirements based on discussions with users
· Writing documents that can be understood by business users
· Industry knowledge
Communication Skills for a Business Analyst
A large part of a business analyst’s role is communication. They would spent a lot of time speaking with clients, team members, project managers, team leaders and other stakeholders for a project. Communication skills get better with time, but it’s a good idea to practice yours, work on them, determine what your weaknesses are and improve on those as well. Areas such as listening, asking the right questions, speaking to people on the phone, group discussions and negotiation all form a part of the communication skills that you’ll need.
Requirements Gathering Is An Important Skill
Learning how to gather requirements is something you’ll need to know if you want to become a business analyst. Being able to speak with users, determine what their problems and issues are with current processes, and document them in a way they can be matched to a requirement of a system is something that takes practice and experience.
Essentially, a requirement, or business requirement, is something that a software or system needs to be able to do to achieve what it is being built for. For example, I’m writing this post in Microsoft Word – one of the requirements for building that software is that it needs to save files in a certain format. If it couldn’t save files, it wouldn’t be a successful piece of software.
Determining priority of requirements is important as well – this would be retrieved from the users that you speak to. To use the Microsoft Word example again, the spell check feature is a requirement, but maybe not a high priority one – the program will still work without it.
Industry Knowledge Is Great For Business Analysis
Knowledge of the industry that you work in is a great way to help your business analysis career. Sure, building an IT system may just involve getting requirements and making something from them, but to get those requirements it helps to know about the industry that the business is in. If the company is in the finance industry, and if you have knowledge of bank transactions and loan processes, it could come in handy for determining requirements. Users have this experience, where IT people don’t usually know a lot about the industries if they’re starting as a business analyst.
It will help you get better, more accurate requirements and improve the overall quality of the product.
In conclusion, if you’re in an IT role and looking for how to become a business analyst, I believe that working on the skills that business analysts need, (such as communication, requirements gathering and industry knowledge) will be a great way to step into a career as a business analyst.