Business & Management
Career insights: Become a Business Analyst
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Have you ever thought about becoming a Business Analyst? If you excel at dealing with issues, enjoy thinking of ‘outside of the box’ solutions, and communicate well with others, a career as a business analyst could be for you. Sometimes referred to as a BA, Business Analysts help companies understand change and create new strategies for dealing with every new challenge.
Nearly every industry employs Business Analysts, from financial services and retail to IT and telecommunications. From entry-level roles as a junior business analyst to senior management positions, Business Analysts support organisational changes. Some BAs focus on specific aspects of a business, such as overseeing the introduction of a new IT system. Others are more general and support the entire organisation.
To put it simply, business analysts work on solving problems. According to Lawrence Darvill, the owner of Assist Knowledge Development consultancy, BAs “make sense of the mess. They see where the issues and opportunities arise, and then consider the best approach to steer things towards a resolution.” Does this sound like a career path you’d be interested in pursuing? Read ahead to learn how to become a Business Analyst.
Business Analyst explained
Business Analysts are responsible for much of a company’s success, working directly with employees and connecting with external stakeholders. This role requires a high level of professionalism, divergent thinking, and technical savvy.
As a Business Analyst, you’ll straddle the line between business and IT, bridging the gap between the two and improving bottom line results. You’ll utilise data analysis to help your company improve every aspect of their services, software, and products.
Business Analyst quick facts:[ii]
- It’s a full-time gig - Most Business Analysts (87%) work full-time hours of at least 40 hours per week.
- Extensive experience isn’t mandatory – 64% of Business Analysts have less than 10 years’ experience.
- It’s a gender-balanced career path – 52% of Business Analysts are women, and 48% are men.
- Education is (nearly) a must – Most Business Analysts are educated to a BA level (45%), while 35% hold a master’s degree.
- It’s a youthful profession – 34% of Business Analysts are between 26 and 35.
- It has longevity – 24% of Business Analysts have been with their employer for over a decade.
What is a Business Analyst?
The Business Analyst role is varied and diverse. It’s flexible from business to business, and encompasses different responsibilities in different industries.[iii] Your duties as a BA will also depend on your seniority, skillset, and the field in which you work.
Business Analysts are employed in an advisory capacity. They advise companies on changes they can make and strategies they can employ to meet new challenges. BAs facilitate collaborations and support their colleagues in different departments to develop me solutions.
When a firm identifies a problem, their Business Analysts investigate the situation. They work with all stakeholders and consult with Human Resources so that they understand all aspects of the issue. They then formulate applicable solutions that work for everyone involved, improving profitability and boosting morale.
Business Analysts are also known as:
- Product managers
- Change analysts
- Systems analyst
- Requirements engineers
- Enterprise analysts
- Business architects
Skills and Personal Qualities Needed to be a Business Analyst
In order to excel as a Business Analyst, you’ll need a number of skills and personal qualities. If you undertake training or education, you’ll gain many of these valuable skills along the way. Other proficiencies can be gained from further education, training, and continued on the job experience.
Some employers will also want to see certification of your applicable skills, issued by a recognised professional body. These include The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) and the International Institute of Business Analysis UK (IIBA). If you want to expand your BA knowledge, consider working towards the Foundation Certificate offered by The Chartered Institute for IT. This will help you gain a foothold in the industry and learn more about the field.
Skills Required for Business Analysts
- Analytics – Understanding past business performance in order to gain insight into successes and failures, using this analysis to plan future strategies.
- Attention to detail – As a Business Analyst, you must cross every T and dot every I. You’ll need a firm grasp on all vital information.
- Communication Skills – Clear and concise communication is a must. You need to be able to communicate effectively with all members of your team.
- Requirements Engineering – Assessing engineering designs and defining, documenting, and maintaining their requirements.
- Meetings Facilitation – You must be able to plan and execute effective meetings, keeping them to time and ensuring they meet their aims.
- Project Management – You’ll be required to plan and oversee large projects, delivering them on time and on budget.
- IT savvy – Not only do you need to be on top of current IT, but you also need a commitment to your continued adoption of updates, products, and technology.
- Processes Modelling – The ability to compile a set of instructions that help a user navigate a series of activities from start to finish in order to meet business needs.[iv]
- Costs Benefit Analysis – Systematically estimate the business’s strengths and weaknesses to determine the best approach to overcoming weaknesses and strengthening the bottom line.
- Stakeholder Analysis – Identifying the people and groups and determining their levels of influence and interest in each project.
Personal Attributes Required for Business Analysts
Before you invest in the education and training necessary to become a Business Analyst, take some time to figure out if your personal attributes align with this career
- Interpersonal skills – The ability to relate to and communicate effectively with people across different culture and class lines.
- Leadership – Setting a good example and inspiring others to want to work with you and for a common goal.
- Organisation – Your organisational skills need to be above reproach. This ensures that you stay on top of your commitments and deadlines.
- Problem-solving – Can you ‘think outside the box’ and come to creative and innovative solutions?
- Teamwork – While it can be tempting to want to do all of the work yourself, you’ll need to delegate work to your team to ensure deadlines are met.
- Time management – Business Analysts must meet strict deadlines. Can you manage your time effectively?
- Oral and written communication skills – You must be able to both speak and write clearly so that you can communicate complex ideas.
- Analytical thinking – In order to be a good Business Analyst, it helps if you are a naturally analytical thinker.
Are Business Analysts in demand?
If you’re looking for a career with a lot of long-term growth and skyrocketing demand, look no further.[v] Business Analysts are in hot demand in the US, UK, Asia, and Europe, offering you plenty of opportunities both at home and abroad. This will be especially true as the world recovers from the recession brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Business Analysts assess and then map information flows in a business, and then adapt and translate them into usable technology and communications strategies. Since Business Analysts have a dual role that encompasses business and IT, their expertise is more needed than ever as companies struggle to overcome the recession.
How to Become a Business Analyst
If you’ve read this far and think that a career as a Business Analyst is a good fit, it’s time to start gathering the necessary experience and qualifications.
Do you Need a Degree to Become a Business Analyst?
Strictly speaking, you do not need a degree to become a business analyst. However, you should keep in mind that Business Analyst positions are in high demand. You’ll have a much better chance of landing your dream role if you have a degree.
Some of the best degrees for Business Analyst roles include:[vi]
- Business Information Systems
- Business Computing Systems
- Computer Science
- Management Information Systems
Degrees in other social science and IT subjects, including economics, sociology, communications, and marketing, are all also acceptable. Just make sure you highlight past projects and roles in which you’ve demonstrated strong analytical skills.
Expand upon your management experience and transferable skills. These include teamwork, leadership skills, data analysis, and an ability to work well in groups. Your transferable skills can be demonstrated by work experience, educational achievements, and real-life experience, such as travelling and charity work.
What should you do if you have a degree in a non-IT discipline, such as history, politics, or anthropology? Consider studying for a master’s degree in a relevant subject matter, such as those highlighted above.
As a Business Analyst, you can expect to earn a starting salary of between £21,000 and £31,000 per year.[vii] Once you have earned around five years of experience in your role, you’ll likely begin earning between £32,000 and £38,000 per year. With more than five years of experience, you’ll start earning between £39,000 to £50,000 per year, and above.
Of course, these are just guidelines. If you work for a multinational corporation or Blue chip company, you could earn a lot more. It’s not uncommon for Business Analysts from big city firms to earn more than six figures. This rate can increase even more if you include stock options in your compensation package, or you earn bonuses tied to successful outcomes. Many companies also offer attractive additional perks and benefits, such as daily meal allowances, gym memberships, subsidised travel, and free swag.
While you can take on a permanent Business Analyst role with a company, you could also consider working on a freelance basis. After you have gained some experience working for an organisation, you can offer your services on a consultancy basis. Most freelance UK Business Analysts charge between £350 - £500 per day.
Requirements - What’s Expected of an Analyst?
Business Analysts are held to high standards, as they are considered experts in their field and a vital part of the company’s success. BAs assess, manage, and plan for the future, working on specific projects as well as structural changes to the entire organisation.
You must first gain a thorough understanding of the organisation. You’ll likely understand the workings of the business better than anyone, even more than the CEO. Once you know the organisation and its strengths and weaknesses, you can develop customised software and practical solutions that cater to these concerns. You’ll regularly meet with both external and internal stakeholders to keep them abreast of the organisation’s goals and progress.
You’ll be expected to liaise between departments, and between the organisation and the external clients and suppliers. At times, you’ll be required to explain how IT and data modelling can support the company’s goals and create new opportunities. One of the most challenging parts of your role might be communicating complex technical solutions. You’ll need to do this in lay terms so that you can get buy-in from senior management and shareholders.
Business Analysts must produce reports and written documentation that clearly supports your methods and demonstrate your findings. In some cases, you may be called to present these reports to shareholders and justify your choices.
Finally, you will also need to set up contingency plans so that your vital work can continue in the case of your termination or other unforeseen circumstances.
Business Analyst Prospects
As you work as a junior Business Analyst, you’ll gain plenty of valuable experience that can help you excel in other roles and industries. The more projects you work on and exposure you get, the more your prospects will improve. You can decide if you want to drill down into a speciality or remain a generalist. No matter which option you choose, there is a lot of room to grow and advance as a BA.
For many business analysts, a typical career trajectory is:
Junior Business Analyst > Business Analyst > Senior Business Analyst > Lead Business Analyst
However, your past experience as a Business Analyst can also provide a launchpad into project management or business architecture. General management roles and CEO positions are also within your grasp, as well as private consulting roles – which can pay extremely handsomely.
What makes a good business analyst?
Everyone wants to do well in their job. So, how can you be a good Business Analyst?[viii] Most importantly, you need to dedicate time and energy into getting to know your industry from the inside out.
- Start with education - Start your career with a strong underpinning in education, from online business management courses all the way up to a master’s degree in business. By learning the foundations of your industry and understanding the rationale behind business best practices, you’ll be set up for success.
- Embrace change – Any good business analyst needs to be willing to embrace change. Rather than reacting with doom and gloom when a new update or tech product is launched, you need to be upbeat and eager to lead the way. Keep your skills up to date by adopting new technologies and staying on top of trends in your industry.
- Stay in the loop – To ensure you are always on the cutting edge, you need to network with peers and experts in your field. Attend conferences, log into webinars, keep up to date with trade publications, and partner with a mentor and/or a mentee. All of these actions will help you become a leader in your industry.
- Focus on a work/life balance – Many savvy business people struggle with the urge to work long hours, and they can feel pressured by superiors and colleagues to sacrifice their evenings and weekends. Don’t fall into this trap – make sure you prioritise your wellbeing and take time for relaxation, hobbies, holidays, and time with family. You might feel like you’re ‘slacking off,’ but you’re actually strengthening your efficacy and mental capacity.
Is a Career as a Business Analyst Right for You?
In summary, Business Analyst experience can open many doors in your career. You’ll gain the knowledge, connections, and real-world experience to become a fantastic leader. You can make lasting and meaningful change in your company and beyond. Start working on your qualifications today.
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