What is a Business Analyst and Why Does Every Company Need One

It’s a competitive market out there, and businesses that want to succeed need to take advantage of every tool and resource within their reach. Smart decisions help businesses thrive, and reliable information is the key to intelligent decisions.

Enter business analysis. You are about to get a primer on business analysts—learning what they are, why they are needed, what they do, and how to become one.  If you’re running a business, you may realize why you need one in your organization, while those of you who are looking for a good career may have just found one!

Let’s take our first steps into a business analyst’s world by first understanding what is business analysis.

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What is Business Analysis? What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Business analysis is a combination of gaining insight from data using specific techniques, and performing tasks to identify the needs of a business—then, recommending changes and providing solutions that produce value for the stakeholders. Many of the solutions potentially have the software and digital data-based components, but can also incorporate organizational changes, like improving processes, developing new policies, and engaging in strategic planning.

Business analysts are agents of change—professionals who analyze a business or organization, by documenting its systems and processes, assessing its business model, identifying vulnerabilities, and devising solutions.

Business analysts go by many other job titles, including:

  • Business Architect
  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Business Systems Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • Enterprise Analyst
  • Management Consultant
  • Process Analyst
  • Product Manager
  • Product Owner
  • Requirements Engineer
  • Systems Analyst

Bear in mind that some organizations also use the term “IT Business Analyst.” Although there seems to be no clear consensus regarding the differences between the two positions (and, in fact, many organizations use them interchangeably), some circles note that the IT Business Analyst works more with software methodologies.

Once the business analysis definition is locked down, the more curiosity-driven reader may follow up by asking, “In that case, what is business impact analysis?” Business impact analysis is a practice that’s of particular relevance in these days of pandemic-induced business shutdowns. Business impact analysis, or BIA, aims to predict and identify the financial and operational impacts of business disruption. You can be sure that before many businesses closed temporarily due to the coronavirus, they launched business impact analysis studies.

Now that we have gone through to understand what is business analysis, let us next look at the difference between business analysis and business analytics.

Is There a Difference Between Business Analysis and Business Analytics?

We should take a moment and clarify the distinction between these two concepts. Business analysis is more concerned with functions and processes, while business analytics covers data and reporting. Still, many organizations use the terms interchangeably.

As we have learned what a business analyst is, let us understand business analysis uses.

Why Use Business Analysis?

Thanks mostly to the breathtaking pace of today’s technological advancements, the 21st century’s business world is one of rapid, constant change. Innovations change the way we live and work, and businesses must be able to adapt to these changes or get left behind.

Business analysts are the ideal professionals to shepherd any organization through the tricky terrain of change. Once they navigate through those changes, businesses emerge more robust, more competitive, and better equipped to handle the ever-evolving world of digital-based business.

After having understood what is a business analyst, let us next look at the business analysis process.

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What is the Business Analysis Process?

These are the widely accepted steps in the business analysis process. Each company’s needs and situations are different, however, so there may be some variance.

  1. Get oriented Make sure to clarify the business analyst’s role, determine the stakeholders’ perspective, and get familiar with the project’s history.
  2. Name the primary business objectives. Identify the primary stakeholders’ expectations, reconcile conflicting expectations, and make sure the objectives are clear and actionable.
  3. Define the project’s scope. You need a clear and complete statement of the project’s scope—a rough roadmap of all the steps the project participants must follow.
  4. Create a business analysis plan. List timelines, steps, and deliverables.
  5. Define requirements. You need concise, clear, and actionable requirements, based on analyzing the information gathered so far.
  6. Support the technical implementation. Since many solutions require using software, the business analyst needs to work closely with IT teams.
  7. Help implement the solution. This step involves creating clear documentation and training end-users.
  8. Assess value. Did the project work? How much progress did the organization make? Are there any needed follow-ups?

While looking into the various aspects of business analysis, we have learned what is business analysis so let us next learn its various techniques.

What are the Different Techniques of Business Analysis?

Countless hurdles and obstacles face any company that wants to stay on top of the heap. Fortunately, there are also a handful of varying business analysis techniques—brace yourself for a flood of acronyms.

  • CATWOE (Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner, and Environmental Constraints). This technique identifies the main parties and processes potentially affected by any action the business undertakes. This technique helps business analysts to thoroughly evaluate how a proposed action will affect a collection of different parties and elements.
  • MoSCoW (Must or Should, Could or Would). This process prioritizes requirements by presenting a framework where every single demand is evaluated compared to other requirements. Is it a must-have or a should-have? Is it something that could improve the product or something that would be an ideal future element?
  • MOST (Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics). Business analysts use these elements to conduct a detailed and complete internal analysis of an organization’s goals and how to handle each one.
  • PESTLE (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal, and Environmental). Business analysts use the PESTLE model to evaluate the various external factors that can potentially affect their company and how best to address them.
  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). This technique identifies a corporate structure’s areas of strength and weakness, translating them into opportunities and threats. The knowledge gained helps determine proper resource allocation.
  • Six Thinking Hats. This analysis process directs a group’s line of thinking by brainstorming alternate perspectives and ideas. The ‘six hats’ in question are White (focus on your data, logic), Red (uses gut feelings, emotions, intuition), Black (potential negative results, what can go wrong), Yellow (focus on positives, optimistic), Green (creativity), and Blue (process control, the big-picture overview).
  • The 5 Whys. Commonly found in Six Sigma and business analysis techniques, this series of leading questions, all posed with “Why?”, helps business analysts identify a problem’s origin by asking why a situation exists, then raising another “why?” question to the answer, and so on.

We have understood so much about business analysis, beginning from what is business analysis, the process, uses, and more. Let us next look at the benefits.

How Does a Company Benefit from Business Analysis?

Business analysts bring a disciplined approach to creating and managing change within an organization. They identify vulnerabilities, define needs based on feedback and stakeholder communication, organize and implement solutions, and monitor the results.

In today’s competitive environment, businesses of all sizes need every possible advantage that they can get, and the business analyst is a valuable resource for identifying the best moves to make, on both a tactical and strategic scale. Furthermore, business analysts make ideal project managers.

By employing a business analyst, companies gain a better understanding of themselves and their needs, and how best to meet them. As we have learned what is a business analyst, the various techniques, the business analysis process, and more let us look into the benefits of getting certified.

The Benefits of Certification

The certification process yields advantages to the professional and organization alike. For the individual, certification imparts skills and training that any good business analyst needs to succeed. Business analysis is not a career where you can mostly learn as you go! Entering a new position with a complete and robust skillset is the only way you will succeed.

Certification also grants you a tangible milestone, an easily measured achievement that tells prospective employers, “I know what I’m doing.” When you sit down for that interview, your certification is a verification of your qualifications. Certification helps you open the door to a better, more lucrative career in business analytics.

For the organization, certification assures the business that they have the right choice for the position. The interview process can be tricky, fraught with uncertainty. It’s also time-consuming and costly, so the organization should strive to make the right choice the first time by ensuring a mutually beneficial fit. Certification assures the candidate’s competency in the subject matter.

We have learned what is business analysis, next, let us look at the skills and qualifications of a business analyst.

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What Skills and Qualifications Does a Business Analyst Need?

When we talk about what is business analysis and what makes a good business analyst, we must focus on the relevant necessary skills. Business analysts required a range of soft and hard skills, including experience in either IT or business-related backgrounds. For the IT side, that means knowing how to pull, analyze, and report on data trends, as well as sharing that information in a clear way. For the business side, you need to have at least a basic understanding of how systems, tools, and products work.

Business analysts should have a bachelor’s degree in Business or a related field, or alternately, an MBA. Furthermore, most businesses want the candidate to have some work-related experience in business analysis or a related field, usually about five years’ worth.

According to the Institute of Business Analysis, a good analyst needs the following skills and knowledge:

  • Analytical thinking and problem solving
  • Communication skills (oral and written)
  • Interpersonal and consultative skills
  • Costs benefit analysis
  • Facilitation skills
  • Detail-oriented and able to deliver at a high level of accuracy
  • Organizational skills
  • Processes modeling
  • Knowledge of business structures
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Requirements engineering
  • Understanding of how networks, databases and other technologies work

How Would You Like to Become a Business Analyst?

Business analysts are in high demand and fetch excellent compensation. Salary.com reports an annual average of USD 75,400. If this sounds like a smart career move to you, then check out Simplilearn’s new Post Graduate Program in Business Analysis in partnership with Purdue University.

The program is designed to hone your expertise in the latest business analytics tools and techniques, including planning and monitoring, data analysis and statistics, visualizations, Agile Scrum methodologies, and SQL databases. 

About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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