The Various Roles of a Business Analyst in Any Organization

As the name suggests, a business analyst is a person who basically studies different businesses for various purposes. This could be to find weaknesses in the business model or to simply find out whether it is running optimally or not. The one thing that is always apparent is that the role of such an analyst in any business is critical. This is because in all cases, the analyst has to study the business and then suggest ways of making it more profitable or efficient. It can therefore be said that the health of any business heavily depends on the work that such an analyst does, as they determine which direction the business will take.

This means that in order to become a good analyst, one has to be willing to be very critical at what they do. Any mistakes made during analysis or policy formulation (a process in which the analyst is heavily involved in) could lead to massive losses. In extreme cases, it could even lead to complete shutdown of the company.

In addition to analysis of the current business structures, such an analyst is also very useful when it comes to the design of a business process. This is important skill is useful when starting a new company or when restructuring an already existing one. As with analysis, the cost of mistakes when doing the design can also be costly. For instance when starting a business, any major mistake that the analyst makes means that the company would start operations on the wrong foot. Once the organization has gained impetus, such mistakes can be difficult and expensive to correct.

The other important role of such an analyst in today’s business environment is integration of technologies with the current business models. For instance, before implementing a new technology in any business, it is often necessary to get an analyst to study the current business set up, and then try to figure out the effect that the technology would have on business. In the same vein, the business analysts can also suggest modifications of current operations so as to ensure that implementation of the new technology is smooth. If the technology has to be modified in order to fit into the current business, it would be the role of the analysts to suggest how this should be done for maximum effect. As one can see, the role of business analysts is very important and should not be taken for granted.

If you are not interested in business IT services , then you have already missed a lot.

How to Become a Business Analyst in Top Management

A business analyst is a person who analyzes the function and structure of an organization, to be able to come up with ways to fix the organization’s problems.

In the field of information technology, a business analyst is going to evaluate the organization’s business structure to determine how it integrates with modern technology. The idea is always to establish the organization’s business requirements or objectives, and subsequently improve the efficiency of IT in meeting those requirements / objectives.

Listed here are some of the necessary skills you could possibly find outlined as a business analyst:

Be Analytic
A business analyst needs to be extremely detail-oriented. You must have good analytical skills to be able to understand the different business attributes. You must understand what planning, documentation and assessment techniques or methodologies to utilize. Sharpen your investigative skills to be able to diagnose business system issues and come up with effective solutions.

Make sure that you have top interactive skills.
Different interactive skills like listening, facilitating, interviewing, and documentation skills are a necessity. You should be capable of explaining both technological and business designs to a wide audience (technical as well as non-technical).

You should be distinct, concise and tactful. You should possess great negotiation skills. In fact, part of your job would be to persuade both the leadership of the organization and the employees to accept your plans.

Be well competent in business skills.
Relating to the business side, a business analyst should become aware of strategic planning, business enhancement methodologies, case improvement and business writing.

Enhance your management skills.
A business analyst needs to be adept at decision-making, time supervision and organizational skills. You should have a working expertise in project management approaches and tools.

Stay current with technical skills.
On the technological side, you must have a working comprehension of computer hardware and software employed in the field. If you happen to be on the more technological side of the business, you might be required to be familiar with information technology principles and guidelines, engineering systems, modeling methods, technical writing as well as others.

Have high interpersonal skills.
To be in a position to get the cooperation of all of the levels of the organization, outstanding interpersonal skills are essential. You must be prepared to work with different people and bring them jointly towards a common purpose. Some are employed in multi-cultural environments which means, sensitivity and understanding of various work approaches is as well important.

Emerging Role of the Business Analyst

Software application development has only been around since the late 1970s. Compared to other industries and professions the software industry is still very young. Ever since organizations began to use computers to support their business tasks, the people who create and maintain those “systems” have become more and more sophisticated and specialized. This specialization is necessary because as computer systems become more and more complex, no one person can know how to do everything.

One of the “specialties” to arise is the Business Analyst. Although some organizations have used this title in non-IT areas of the business, it is an appropriate description for the role that functions as the bridge between people in business and IT. The use of the word “Business” is a constant reminder that any application software developed by an organization should further improve its business operations, either by increasing revenue, reducing costs, or increasing service level to the customers.

History of the Business Analyst Role

In the 1980s when the software development life cycle was well accepted as a necessary step, people doing this work typically came from a technical background and were working in the IT organization. They understood the software development process and often had programming experience. They used textual requirements along with ANSI flowcharts, dataflow diagrams, database diagrams, and prototypes. The biggest complaint about software development was the length of time required to develop a system that didn’t always meet the business needs. Business people had become accustomed to sophisticated software and wanted it better and faster.

In response to the demand for speed, a class of development tools referred to as CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) were invented. These tools were designed to capture requirements and use them to manage a software development project from beginning to end. They required a strict adherence to a methodology, involved a long learning curve, and often alienated the business community from the development process due to the unfamiliar symbols used in the diagrams.

As IT teams struggled to learn to use CASE tools, PCs (personal computers) began to appear in large numbers on desktops around the organization. Suddenly anyone could be a computer programmer, designer and user. IT teams were still perfecting their management of a central mainframe computer and then suddenly had hundreds of independent computers to manage. Client-server technologies emerged as an advanced alternative to the traditional “green screen,” keyboard-based software.

The impact on the software development process was devastating. Methodologies and classic approaches to development had to be revised to support the new distributed systems technology and the increased sophistication of the computer user prompted the number of software requests to skyrocket.

Many business areas got tired of waiting for a large, slow moving IT department to rollout yet another cumbersome application. They began learning to do things for themselves, or hiring consultants, often called Business Analysts, who would report directly to them, to help with automation needs. This caused even more problems for IT which was suddenly asked to support software that they had not written or approved. Small independent databases were created everywhere with inconsistent, and often, unprotected data. During this time, the internal Business Analyst role was minimized and as a result many systems did not solve the right business problem causing an increase in maintenance expenses and rework.

New methodologies and approaches were developed to respond to the changes, RAD (rapid application development), JAD (joint application development), and OO (object oriented) tools and methods were developed.

As we began the new millennium, the Internet emerged as the new technology and IT was again faced with a tremendous change. Once again, more sophisticated users, anxious to take advantage of new technology, often looked outside of their own organizations for the automation they craved. The business side of the organization started driving the technology as never before and in a large percentage of organizations began staffing the Business Analyst role from within the operational units instead of from IT. We now have Marketing Directors, Accountants, Attorneys, and Payroll Clerks performing the role of the Business Analyst.

In addition, the quality movement that had started in the 70s with TQM, came into focus again as companies looked for ways to lower their cost of missed requirements as they expanded globally. The ISO (International Standards Organization) set quality standards that must be adhered to when doing international business. Carnegie Mellon created a software development quality standard CMM (Capability Maturity Model). Additionally, Six Sigma provided a disciplined, data-driven quality approach to process improvement aimed at the near elimination of defects from every product, process, and transaction. Each of these quality efforts required more facts and rigor during requirements gathering and analysis which highlighted the need for more skilled Business Analysts familiar with the business, IT, and quality best practices.

Future of the Business Analyst Role

Today we see Business Analysts coming from both the IT and business areas. In the best situations, the Business Analyst today has a combination of IT and business skills. Each organization has unique titles for these individuals and the structure of Business Analyst groups is as varied as the companies themselves. However, there is a core set of tasks that most Business Analysts are doing regardless of their background or their industry.

The Business Analyst role becomes more critical as project teams become more geographically dispersed.
Outsourcing and globalization of large corporations have been the driving factors for much of this change recently. When the IT development role no longer resides inside our organizations, it becomes necessary to accurately and completely define the requirements in more detail than ever before. A consistent structured approach, while nice to have in the past, is required to be successful in the new environment. Most organizations will maintain the Business Analyst role as an “inhouse” function. As a result, more IT staff are being trained as Business Analysts.

The Business Analyst role will continue to shift its focus from “Software” to “Business System.”
Most Business Analysts today are focused on software development and maintenance, but the skills of the Business Analyst can be utilized on a larger scale. An excellent Business Analyst can study a business area and make recommendations about procedural changes, personnel changes, and policy changes in addition to recommending software. The Business Analyst can help improve the business system not just the business software.

The Business Analyst role will continue to evolve as business dictates.
Future productivity increases will be achieved through re-usability of requirements. Requirements Management will become another key skill in the expanding role of the Business Analyst as organizations mature in their understanding of this critical expertise. The Business Analyst is often described as an “Agent of Change.” Having a detailed understanding of the organization’s key initiatives, a Business Analyst can lead the way to influence people to adapt to major changes that benefit the organization and its business goals. The role of a Business Analyst is an exciting and secure career choice as U.S. companies continue to drive the global economy.

Training for the Business Analyst

The skills set needed for a successful Business Analyst are diverse and can range from communication skills to data modeling. A Business Analyst’s educational and professional background may vary as well–some possess an IT background while others come from the business stakeholder area.

With backgrounds as diverse and broad as these it is difficult for a Business Analyst to possess all the skills necessary to perform successful business analysis. Companies are finding that individuals with a strong business analysis background are difficult to locate in the marketplace and are choosing to train their employees to become Business Analysts in consistent structured approaches. First, organizations seeking formal business analysis training should examine vendors who are considered “experts” on the field with a strong focus on business analysis approaches and methodologies. Second, you will want to examine the quality of the training vendor’s materials. This may be done by researching who wrote a vendor’s materials and how often they are updated to stay abreast of industry best practices. Third, matching the real-world experience of instructors to the needs and experience level of your organization is critical to successful training. Business analysis is an emerging profession and it is critical that the instructors that you choose have been practicing Business Analysts.

Barbara A. Carkenord, President, B2T Training
Barbara Carkenord possesses over 20 years’ business analysis and project management experience. She is the author of B2T Training’s business analysis course material and has spoken at many industry conferences.

How Do You Become a Systems Analyst or Administrator?

Computer systems are designed by people who have a broad set of information technology skills and knowledge. They have an understanding of hardware, software, networking and business operations. The designers of information systems apply all of their knowledge and combine hardware and software components in such a way that produces a system that is the most effective and efficient. The information technologists who create and integrate information systems for businesses and organizations are known as computer systems analysts and administrators.

Nearly every organization’s requirements are different. “Out-of-the-box” solutions generally fall short of meeting an organization’s needs because requirements vary from business to business. An analyst actually documents business requirements and specifies what is needed for a company to meet its information processing requirements. The computer systems analysts can document an existing system, design a new system or modify existing ones. New systems or components are brought together by analysts and put to use in a manner that produces the desired outcomes.

Computer systems analysts may use sophisticated modeling techniques to document how existing information systems function. Data flow diagrams and flowcharting are other techniques (such as observation) that may also be used by analysts.

Analysts look at source documents, transactions, raw data and how they operate together to get information to decision makers. The computer systems analyst is interested in getting the information to the person who needs it, when he or she needs it and in the form that it is needed. The systems that are ultimately designed by the analyst are supportive of documented organizational goals.

Systems analysts may also be referred to as system designers. They either work as system designers or may do both the analysis and design work. Some analysts may work with end users in testing a new system to make sure that the requirements have been met. Analysts and designers may also prepare documentation and teach employees how to use the new system. Analysts are frequently involved in acceptance testing which validates the new system or system’s ability to meet stated goals.

Computer systems analysts must be excellent communicators as the work they do cuts across organizational lines. They must be comfortable in asking questions and discerning answers. Analysts document “what is” and determine solutions to problems.

There are a number of other titles for analysts. Among them are quality assurance analyst and programmer analyst. Computer systems analysts must be logical and enjoy investigating programs in a step-by-step manner. They must be detail oriented and be able to exercise good judgment. Depending upon the specific requirements of the job, industry, and company, an analyst’s salary can exceed $100,000. Jobs for analysts are expected to grow by more than 20% between now and 2020. New demands for analysts will include knowledge of mobile and cloud-based information systems.

A four-year degree is usually required to become a computer systems analyst. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in computer or management information systems. Analysts need to have an understanding of the industry in which they desire to work. For example, to work as an analyst in an agriculture sector a person would likely want to have an active interest in agriculture or some work experience in the field.

Computer systems analysts study information system requirements, work flow and how organizations are attempting to use information technology to support decision- making. Analysts document what is happening and what is required for a system to be successful. Computer systems analysts have a broad base of skills and knowledge that is backed up with a four-year degree in information technology. Career opportunities for a computer systems analyst are extensive.

Business Analysts – How to Define Your Role to Keep Your Job in a Recession

While industry experts agree that business analysts are essential to IT organizations, few know specifically what they do. Underscoring this, a recent survey by the noted research firm Forrester entitled, The New Business Analyst, said:

Everyone agrees on the importance of the business analyst role, but few know exactly what it is that business analysts do … a new breed of business technology analyst will emerge to play a new role implementing changes to business policies directly within supporting software.

What does this means for today’s business analysts, particularly in this economy? In short, they must proactively define their roles to keep their jobs.

How to Decide What Type of Business Analyst You Are

The survey mentioned above said that there are basically two types of business analysts: those focused on business, and those focused on IT. But, it went on to say that the lines between the two were becoming ever more fuzzy. This presents two options to business analysts – they can broaden their job responsibilities and straddle the fence between two disciplines. Or, they can narrow it, focusing on a specific niche.

Which one should you choose – IT or business? That depends on the organization you work for and/or your long-term career objectives.

Food for Thought: In a depressed economy, one would think that broadening your skill set is the way to go; ie, become a jack-of-all-trades. However, this is not necessarily true. Becoming the go-to professional in a specific niche can be just as valuable in keeping your job and/or landing lucrative consulting assignments.

Clearly defining your short- and long-term career objectives will help you decide.

Kingsley Tagbo recommends the Business Analyst Boot Camp Training Program. The Business Analyst Boot Camp is an affordable, convenient and effective training program for business analysts who want to take their career to the next level.

The Business Analyst Boot Camp provides Live, Online, Video Based, Web Based, Instructor Led, Hands-On Beginner to Advanced Professional Training on Business Analysis Tools, Skills and Techniques including UML Training, Agile Training, SDLC Training, Requirements Engineering Training, Elicitation Techniques Training, Use Case Training, Business Modeling Training and More!