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You are intending to become a business analyst but cannot be sure if it fits your abilities and expectations. If you just want to acquire knowledge about the keys to be a successful business analyst, here is an article about the basics of business analysis.
Who is a business analyst?
A business analyst is the one who recommends solutions by identifying the needs of an organization and connecting them with information technology resources in order to increase efficiency.
Business analysts work as a bridge between information technologies (IT) and the business by forming and assessing data analytics, determining the needs, and coming up with recommendations and solutions to the executives.
Which skills are necessary to become a business analyst?
Business analysts’ work requires being qualified in a wide range of different areas. Thus, they are expected to have certain skills.
Business analysts have to interact with the attendants of different units of a company and the clients in every stage of their work. Thus, they need to have fluent language skills and written communication abilities. Most importantly, a business analyst should be a good listener who approaches everyone with a friendly manner and should be able to express him/herself by using concise sentences to communicate effectively with anyone around.
While some tasks of business analysts require only a basic understanding of information systems or do not require any, most of the time, a larger part of the solution still relies on software. That’s why, business analysts are not expected to be technology experts, but they need to have a general understanding of software systems and should be able to use the latest technology offerings so that they can choose the best option a certain situation requires and keep up with every step taken to get the best solution.
The most important aspect of business analysis is analyzing and interpreting various kinds of data, translating them, spotting problem areas, and making accurate choices between alternative ideas for solutions. So, every business analyst should have strong analytical skills to evaluate the data and make sure that the solution efficiently meets the goals.
Business analysts are expected to maintain communication between various types of people as they get in touch with clients, developers, users, management, and information technology personnel. While coming up with the best solutions for the customers, they should also be working for the profit of the organization. That’s why they should have strong persuasion and balancing skills in order to keep a healthy communication flow between the company and the clients.
Levels of business analysts
Business analysis jobs are divided into three groups according to skills, qualifications, and experience they require.
Entry-level business analysis jobs are generally software development and quality assurance. Software developers are required to have technical skills that are required for creating software and communication skills that are required for communicating with the stakeholders. The ones who work for quality assurance are expected to involve in software development in order to make sure that it is of high quality. So, they should be able to work efficiently in a team. As these are entry-level jobs, companies often expect a bachelor’s degree from finance, business administration, or software development programs and 0-3 years of experience.
Mid-level roles in business analysis are IT business analyst and senior/lead business analyst. IT business analysts need data analyzing skills and communication skills as they function as a channel between the IT team and the stakeholders. They should also be able to use the latest technology offerings and use their creativity to find solutions. Senior/lead business analysts are required to have a great knowledge of the business and financial processes an organization goes through. Companies expect 3-8 years of experience and a business-related bachelor’s degree. Also, having a master’s degree would definitely help you get the job.
Top-level jobs in the business analysis could be aligned as a business requirements analyst, process analyst, decision analyst, business systems analyst, functional analyst, and agile analyst. In order to take a top-level job, you should have a bachelor’s degree in IT or business, you must be aspiring to pursue a career in business analysis, and you should have experience and knowledge in all areas of business analysis processes.
Books every business analyst must read
- Babok (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge), IIBA
Babok is a guide that defines and explain 6 different tasks of business analysts which are; Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring, Elicitation and Collaboration, Requirements Life Cycle Management, Strategy Analysis, Requirements Analysis and Design Definition and Solution Evaluation. It is one of the fundamentals of business analyzing since it includes the basics of the most important tasks of business analysts. That’s why it is a book that every business analyst should keep in their library and take a look at it for a tip it anytime they have trouble about their jobs.
- The PMI Guide to Business Analysis, Project Management Institute
It is a book that every business analyst willing to improve their skills and get better positions should read since it guides you to grow your business analysis practices. The important thing is that the information it provides is applicable to any organization in any industry.
- Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide, Project Management Institute
Business Analysis for Practitioners is a guide that is made to give practical advice to overcome project-related issues associated with requirements related activities. It is a very useful material for the starters in the business analysis related jobs since it provides information about the possible problems they could face and the ways to fix them.
- CBAP / CCBA Certified Business Analysis Study Guide, 2nd Edition, Susan Wesse and Terri Wagner
CBAP / CCBA Certified Business Analysis Study Guide is a guide for The Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP) certification exam, which is an important certification that could get you way ahead of others. However, even if you are not willing to get such a certificate, it is a guide that is so extensive that it could teach you almost everything you need to know about business analysis.
- Agile and Business Analysis, Lynda Girvan and Debra Paul
Agile and Business Analysis is a book that introduces the readers to Agile methodologies which is a software development model. It is a very helpful guide for those willing to learn Agile practices in the business analysis field.
Education and Training
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in information technologies or business is required in order to be a business analyst. Most employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree in related programs. Participating in internship programs is one of the best ways to train for the job since having experience is very important for business analysis.
It is best to start working in an entry-level job in order to gain experience and insight into the sector. Time passed in an entry-level job will also help you gain new skills and decide which area you want to work in. Then you can climb the ladder of success and start working in mid-level and top-level jobs.
Certificates are not compulsory, but they can help you to be picked up amongst other candidates on a large scale. There are various certificate programs in the business analysis area provided by different organizations. While these certificate programs help you concentrate on specific topics and professionalize, most of them also include membership in the professional association which will help you get to know other business analysis specialists and get a network.
Key performance indicators (KPI’s)
In order to measure and maintain the effectiveness of their work, business analysts need a specific set of Key Performance Indicators. The most important KPI’s could be listed as follows;
Business Process Optimization KPI’s
Business Process Optimization is measured through consideration of a few factors.
- Business Process Productivity Increase- The increase in productivity that the new system provided.
- Cycle Time Reduction- The reduction in the cycle time that the new system provided.
- Decrease in Cost- Saving that the new system provided.
Project Management KPI’s
- Time- The time that the business analyst needed to understand the problem and to come up with a solution, and the time spent on rework.
- Deviation- Percentage of deviation from the business analyst’s plan on timing and organization of the working process.
Quality Effectiveness KPI’s
- Contribution- The worth of the contribution of the business analyst’s ideas to the solution.
- Efficiency- The efficiency the business analyst provided on the budget while working on a project.
Stakeholder Satisfaction KPI’s
- Stakeholders Satisfaction Index is used to measure their satisfaction with the solution business analysts came up with. The feedback from the stakeholders about the quality of the solution and the communication they had with the business analysts are considered.
The primary responsibility of a business analyst is to analyze and interpret the data and elicit the required changes to business processes, information systems, and policies in order to increase the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of the organization.
In addition, a business analyst is expected to generate new ideas and design programs and processes, develop, and implement them and regulate them to make sure they function well.
As business analysts work with several departments, they need to ensure the communication flow works between them. They are also expected to have an understanding of consumer behavior in order to assure their satisfaction. In the meantime, it is also important to look out for the profit of the company and report to management.
The main tasks of a business analyst are as follows;
- Creating detailed business analysis and identifying the needs of the organization.
- Souping up the qualifications of the IT unit in order to improve the efficiency of the business.
- Creating financial reports and forecasting.
- Outlining the problems and coming up with solutions.
- Interpreting data analytics and reporting to the stakeholders.
The salary you can get as a business analyst changes depending on your experience and position on a large scale.
Entry-level – Software developers get an average of £57,883 while quality assurance employees get £44,151 per year.
Mid-level – The salary of IT business analysts change between £46,458 and £85,000 while senior business analysts earn between £55,936 and 98,000 per year.
Top-level – Senior decision analysts earn between £37k – £117k while senior business system analysts earn between £34k – £88k and relationship managers earn £46,226 on average per year.
Business analysts need to use certain tools in order to track, manage, and describe requirements and collaborate with the team members and the stakeholders. The tools that you would need to use as a business analyst are as follows;
Modern Requirements is the leading business tool as it provides an easy way to elicit, define, and analyze the requirements both textually and visually. It supports diagramming, mockup, Smart Docs, use case, traces analysis, baselining, review management, and various elicitation tools.
Adobe Acrobat X
Adobe Acrobat X allows you to create, edit, and distribute PDF documents. It is a highly important tool when it comes to writing reports and project artifacts.
Blueprint is a software that every business analyst could need. It has easy-to-use dashboards and rich reporting tools that would be very helpful to build applications. It also reduces technological compliance risk since it standardizes the usage of certified compliance.
Axure is a tool that is used by business professionals all over the world. It generates any project to HTML and supplies a link that could be shared and accessed very easily. It also allows team members to work on the project at the same time.
Smart Draw is a business analytic tool that helps managing projects. It allows the users to draw various types of charts and diagrams which is one of the most important tasks of business analysts. You can integrate it with tools like Microsoft Office, Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive to extend its offerings.
Amongst other tools that you would need as a business analyst, Excel is the most fundamental one. You will need to deal with various types of jobs. So that Excel will help you with almost every aspect of them.
Here are some Excel functions that business analysts use the most;
- VLOOKUP: It helps you merge two data from two different data sets in combination with another function.
- Pivot Tables: A pivot table is a data summarization tool that is used for data processing. It allows you to summarize, reorganize, group, or count the data stored in a database.
- COUNTIFS: This function gives the count of cells that meet one or more criteria such as dates, numbers, text, or other conditions.
- INDIRECT: is the function used to return a reference to a range.
- MATCH: is a function used to locate the position of a lookup in an arrow.
- HLOOKUP: is the function used to look up and retrieve data from a specific row in the table.
Excel Formulas Training Kit
If you are aspiring to become qualified in Excel, here is a training kit that includes 30 of the most used formulas in Excel: Excel Formulas Training Kit
This is a training kit that will help you develop yourself with a great number of Excel Formulas and Functions while making hands-on practice.
Excel templates that business analysts use the most
- SWOT Analysis Template
A SWOT analysis examines a company in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in order to further understand its capabilities, power, risks, and faults caused by both internal and external reasons.
This SWOT Analysis Template is easy to fill and free template. It provides professional design for SWOT analysis and also print-ready, which means you can immediately get a hard copy.
- Competitive Analysis Template
Competitive Analysis Template is a tool you can use on Excel that will provide a visual illustration of the company properties with the right metrics which is going to help you take the necessary strategies to manage the competition.
The template has a simple framework that is easy to fill. It provides a quick analysis of all your competitors in order to help you measure the risk factors in competition.
- SMART Goals Template
SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Forming a SMART Goals Worksheet using this Excel template will help you enter your data in the easiest way and set a specific goal according to company properties and circumstances.
To sum up, a business analyst is expected to work in various lines of business, especially in the information technologies area. That’s why sufficiency in the related software and tools is very important to become a successful business analyst and the tools that are available on Excel are amongst the most important ones.