How to Become a Great Business Analyst
A business analyst’s job is to evaluate a business’s processes and systems, understand how those evolve over time, and present technological solutions to improve the organization. To do this, business analyst’s need to possess knowledge of both the specific business as well as the industry trends and practices. A key role of a business analyst is to communicate plans between the company teams and the external stakeholders. In this way, a business analyst is frequently considered the link between the business and IT departments.
In essence, business analysts are the people who provide the insights that drive change in a company. That change can be of a higher magnitude, such as large scale organizational or policy changes. However, the changes can also be more narrow and focus on relatively smaller advancements such as finding opportunities for cutting costs. Whatever the scope of the change, they should help increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability, as well as help the company find further opportunities for growth.
What does a business analyst do?
A business analyst needs to possess both soft skills and hard skills. For one, they must have an analytical thinking and problem-solving mindset! it is not a cookie-cutter job as each project needs a different approach and a different solution. It’s not just about how much you know, but how well you can implement and use what you know. The job requires a nuanced and resourceful approach to work through challenging situations. On the other hand, people skills matter just as much – a large chunk of an analyst’s time is spent gathering and delivering information to and from all the stakeholders.
Here are some of the duties a business analyst would have:
- Gaining a deep understanding of the business’s workings and goals. A business analyst needs to know exactly what a business does and how it does it in order to get onto the path of improving the business.
- Creating data-driven development. This means a business analyst will enforce change based on insights gleaned from a detailed business analysis that outlines the problems, opportunities, and solutions for business improvement.
- Tracking and validating solutions through the help of user acceptance testing. This is done to ensure that the solutions are in line with the client’s requirements.
This is an oversimplified description of the functions and responsibilities a business analyst would have. In reality, a business analyst’s day-to-day would look different depending on the company, the industry, or even a specific product. Therefore, every company will have a unique set of requirements for hiring a business analyst. Click here to find out what those are for Redvike!
Becoming a great IT business analyst
We talked about the basic skills and competencies a business analyst should have, now let’s talk about how to get there. What do you have to do to become a great business analyst?
Learn business analysis fundamentals
Very often, the people who go into business analysis have a Bachelor degree in Finance, Accounting, Business Administration, etc. However, in actuality, graduates from any field can go into Business Analysis, and it can even prove to be an advantage. For example, if you work as a Business Analyst at a software company, it would be immensely helpful if you had a degree in Software Engineering or other related fields which give you a good grasp of the technical side of the business.
That being said, no amount of technical knowledge can make up for the lack of business acumen and know-how of business-analysis-specific subject matter. Therefore, if you want to be a business analyst, you need to first get to know the basics. As we mentioned, every business analysis job is different, requiring a wide variety of different skills. In the software development business, some of them would be:
- Business analysis tools like Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, Visio, Project etc.
- Visual modelling concepts and methods for graphic representation of systems in order to analyze, improve, and automate business processes.
- Documentation and writing skills to create clear and concise documentation of functional requirements, business cases, wireframes, and more.
- Elicitation techniques and skills for communicating project requirements to stakeholders.
- Requirements specification process and prioritizing requirements.
- Software Development Life Cycle knowledge
- Knowledge and proficiency in agile project management
If some of the above-listed skills are missing from your resume, it is advisable to further your education, either through a Business Analytics Master’s programme, online business analysis courses, or courses on specific subjects you might be lacking in (for example, insufficient Microsoft Excel proficiency). A business analysis course of study will cover a wide range of critical job functions, and ideally also provide some practical experience.
Learn data analysis
Data is the holy grail of business analytics. Although data analysis is not the only thing a business analyst does, it is certainly the key to effective and positive business development. The entire concept around business analysis rests on the ability to analyze data – so it is certainly an area that a business analyst should be proficient in. Data analysis is especially important in today’s day and age – we collect so much information every single second, and without data analysis, it would be nigh on useless.
By using data analytics tools and methods it is possible to measure and assess metrics that indicate a business’s operating costs, traffic, performance, sales, etc. Subsequently, a business analyst’s job is interpreting those assessments and making recommendations for strategic development. While sometimes in-depth data analysis know-how may not be required if there is also a dedicated Data Analyst at the company, very often the business analyst will be the one doing their own data analysis. If you would also like to get more acquainted with Data Analysis, some of the things you would have to master are:
- SQL and relational databases – to access, retrieve, manipulate, and analyze data. You would require a working knowledge of software like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL database, Oracle DB, etc.
- Programming languages – most often Python or similar. Programming skills are helpful for solving complex problems and performing faster data analysis.
- Data visualization tools like Tableau, PowerBI, QlikView, etc. – to help create reports and dashboards, as well as forecast data and make crucial business decisions.
Master good communication practices
Every business analyst needs to have excellent communication skills: they need to be able to engage in open and clear communication with both clients and colleagues. We know that inadequate communication practices can significantly slow down or even impede a project, so business analysts absolutely must be good communicators in order to be able to understand what a client wants or needs or what a colleague could be trying to explain. Along those lines, – don’t be afraid of asking questions! Even if you are intimidated by a superior or a client, never be afraid to ask for clarifications. A simple misunderstanding can create delays and costs to your project.
Significant points to also include here are good public speaking and presentation skills in order to convey the necessary information in an unambiguous and coherent way. While some people are born fearless public speakers and communicators, many are not as comfortable. Communicating on a daily basis is part of the job, as are a myriad of presentations for clients and colleagues alike, so you would have to work on improving those practices. If communication does not come easy to you, you will have to push yourself to get that valuable experience:
- At university, don’t shy away from projects which require you to present your findings in front of your whole class.
- Join Toastmasters – a communication and public speaking club!
- Practice active listening – yes, listening is just as important as speaking.
- Don’t avoid talking on the phone.
Work on projects and work-cases
A business analyst without experience is not really a business analyst. Only having an education isn’t going to cut it. But no worries, there are many ways in which you can get relevant experience that will help hone your skills and land you the job you want! Some of the things you can do are:
- University course projects and use-cases
- Internship during/right after your studies
- Internship/Part-time job with a startup
- Business Analysis training programs
- Ask to be included on relevant projects at the company you work at currently
Never stop learning
Even after landing your Business Analyst position, the learning shouldn’t stop. You should always be thinking about how to improve what you are doing. After all, if you don’t improve over time, how can your stakeholders expect you to improve their business in the long-term? So how can you “upgrade” yourself?
- Read books on relevant topics
- Take courses in the areas you may be lacking
- Learn new tools
- Educate yourself on new industry developments
- Purspue a business analysis certification
Looking for a business analyst position?
Becoming a great business analyst takes years of hard work and a lot of determination and enthusiasm. If that’s the career path that you want to take, then we’ve got an offer for you!
Redvike is a boutique software development company that specializes in web and mobile development for startups and enterprises. We are looking for a new Junior Business Analyst to support the process of collecting and verifying business requirements in close cooperation with our development team.
If you are someone who knows the basics of business analysis, is ambitious, and willing to learn new things – well then you’re exactly the type of candidate we are looking for! Check out our Junior Business Analyst position to see if it is in line with your capabilities and your interests. We are looking forward to your application!